Liquid Handling Buying Guide

Liquid Handling Buying Guide image

Liquid handling options span the range from simple or automated pipettes to room-sized multifunctional workstations. Consequently, choosing the right equipment for your requirements can be challenging.

In this Buying Guide, learn about the key technologies, important considerations, different applications and the future of liquid handling.


Introduction

Precise and accurate delivery of samples and reagents is fundamental for many sensitive techniques employed in today’s laboratories. Liquid handling devices draw in (aspirate) a given volume of liquid from a source container and deliver (dispense) this liquid to the destination container once it has been appropriately repositioned. The fluid being transferred, often referred to as the sample fluid, is frequently held in tips. These tips can either be permanent features of the liquid handler or disposable pieces.

Advancements in technology have resulted in the evolution of liquid transfer solutions, from the dispensing of sample fluid from an individual tip to large-scale automated liquid handling involving many tips, channels, robots and large workstations. Aspiration and dispensing of sample fluid is typically carried out in the microliter, milliliter and nanoliter range. However, it is now also possible to dispense volumes in the picoliter range, and femtoliter dispensing may be possible for microarray applications in the future.

Automated liquid handling has evolved rapidly since its first use in the late 1980s and 1990s, with the need for very high throughput drug screening by the pharmaceutical industry and genomic sequencing studies.

Today, automated liquid handling systems are used within a variety of key industries, including forensics, pharmaceutical drug discovery and development, molecular biology, food and beverage, agriculture, materials science, and clinical diagnostics. Recent optimizations of liquid handling technology, often with add-on features, allow a number of different techniques to be performed in these industries, as shown in Table 1. Some of these are discussed further in the section ‘Application Specific Technologies and Considerations’.

Table 1: Technique Optimizations of Liquid Handling Technology

Industry

Techniques

Pharmaceutical – Discovery & Development

PCR

Next Generation Sequencing

Cell Based Assays

High Throughput Screening

Protein Purification / Crystallization

High Content Screening

ADME Screening

Solid-Phase Extraction

Chromatography

Mass Spectrometry

Bioprocessing

Imaging- Fluorescence / Microscopy

Clinical Diagnostics / Forensics

Next Generation Sequencing

Mass Spectrometry

Blood Analysis

Immunoassays

PCR

Molecular Biology / Basic Research

PCR

Cell Based Assays

Nucleic Acid Preparation

Protein Purification / Crystallization

Chromatography

Analytical Chemistry (Forensics, Food & Beverage, Environmental, Material Science, Pharmaceutical)

PCR

Chromatography

Mass Spectrometry

Titration

Next Generation Sequencing

Processing

Solid-Phase Extraction


Automation has revolutionized the speed of scientific development, providing greater reproducibility and a saving of time and laboratory resources. While every automated liquid handling experiment is unique, for example in terms of throughput, reagents, volumes, order of addition and readout, there are several features that are central to all liquid handling technologies.

KEY PIPETTE TECHNOLOGY & CONSIDERATIONS

Pipettes have long been used for the accurate handling of liquids in scientific research and development. The introduction of automatic pipetting devices has revolutionized liquid handling procedures in the laboratory, and they offer many advantages over traditional glass pipettes including improved reproducibility, speed, safety and ease of use. A considerable variety of pipettes are currently on the market, ranging from the fixed-volume, single-channel, manually operated pipettes to the latest electronic multi-channel instruments with fixed- or variable-volume settings. The majority of pipettes function according to one of two dispensing principles:

In air-displacement pipettes, which are used for standard applications, a ‘piston’ (see section on ‘fluid drive technology’ below) creates the suction necessary to draw the sample fluid into a disposable tip. The influences of temperature, air pressure and humidity must be minimized with an air-displacement pipette through design measures to ensure the dispensing accuracy is not impaired.

Air-displacement pipettes are commonly found in standard laboratories and are designed for general laboratory procedures.

In positive displacement pipettes, which are often used for applications requiring greater accuracy, sample fluid is delivered by means of a Teflon-tipped plunger that fits inside the capillary, which can be glass or plastic. As the plunger tip and sample are in contact, such pipettes produce a high level of accuracy and reproducibility, and show minimal carryover of sample, allowing the capillary to be reused.

Positive displacement pipettes are commonly used for liquids with too high a vapor pressure, viscosity or density to be displaced accurately by air, as well as volatile, radioactive or corrosive samples. These devices are also suitable for applications such as PCR, which calls for an absence of aerosols to prevent cross contamination.

BUYING GUIDE TIP: What type of liquid are you trying to dispense? What accuracy is required? Consider contamination - do you need to switch between applications, liquid types etc?

Manual or Electronic Pipettes?

Consider whether a manual or electronic pipette is more appropriate for your needs.

Generally, manual pipettes are more robust and are therefore well suited to everyday use. They are often very easy to calibrate and most suited to research labs that do not require high throughput processing. The flexibility of the pipette should be considered, such as in the Eppendorf Research® Plus Pipette; see Figure 1 below. This pipette is easy to switch between different applications/solutions, is fully autoclavable for reduced contamination risk, and is available as single channel, multi channel and fixed volume research pipettes in different sizes.

Manual_Pipetting

Figure 1: Manual pipetting in the research lab - Eppendorf Research® Plus Pipette

Electronic pipettes require less force and fewer hand movements, which reduces the risk of repetitive strain injuries. Accuracy and precision is often enhanced as there is less chance of human error. The PIPETMAN M from Gilson, see Figure 2 below, is a fully motorized pipette that requires virtually zero pipetting forces to aspirate and dispense samples. Bridging the gap between a handheld electronic pipette and a fully automated system is the VIAFLO range of dispensers from INTEGRA. These systems give labs the flexibility to automate certain processes without the need for purchasing a huge fully integrated multi-modular system.

motorized_Pipette

Figure 2: Motorized pipette PIPETMAN M from Gilson

BUYING GUIDE TIP: Consider ergonomic design and the frequency of use.

Adjustable or Fixed Volume Pipette

Another factor you will need to consider is whether you require an adjustable or fixed volume pipette. This consideration will very much depend upon the accuracy required. The most common type of pipettes can be set to a specific volume within their operational range and are known as adjustable pipettes. These limits must be adhered to, as these pipettes are prone to damage if they are adjusted too far above or below the volume range. The volume of a fixed volume pipette, as its name suggests, cannot be changed. Because the mechanisms within fixed volume pipettes are less complex, they often result in more accurate volume measurements. Fixed volume pipettes can be manual or electronic, for example the Transferpette® S is manual and the Eppendorf Xplorer Plus Electronic Pipette is electronic.

fixed_volume_pipette

Figure 3: Electronic, fixed volume pipettes

Single / Multi-Channel Pipettes

The decision of whether to purchase a single-channel pipette or multi-channel pipette is dependent upon the volume to be dispensed and the number of repeats. For manual high-throughput applications, such as preparing a 96-well microtiter plate, most researchers prefer a multi-channel pipette. Instead of handling well by well, a row of 8 wells can be handled in parallel as this type of pipette has 8 pistons (see section on ‘fluid drive technology’ below) in parallel. There are also specialized repeater pipettes that are optimized for repeating working steps. For example, a repeater pipette can dispense a specific volume, such as 20 µL, several times from a single aspiration of a larger volume. In general, they have specific tips that do not fit on normal pipettes, although some electronic pipettes are able to perform this function using standard tips. Figure 3, above, shows the variations in single-channel and multi-channel pipettes.

BUYING GUIDE TIP: Consider how easily the pipette can be calibrated, a method usually achieved through gravimetric analysis. When buying a pipette, you should discuss calibration protocols with the manufacturer.

AUTOMATED LIQUID HANDLER TECHNOLOGY & CONSIDERATIONS

In order for liquid handling solutions to meet the demands of today’s laboratories, automation of pipettes has led to the development of large workstations using a number of core technologies. Fundamentally, liquid handling systems can be categorized as automated dispensers, robotic workstations or fully integrated workstations. The technologies and considerations underlying each of these instrument types are outlined below.

Bench-Top Semi-Automatic Pipettors

There are a number of bench-top semi-automated pipettors available. These systems aim to bridge the gap between pipettes and a fully automated system, and are designed to provide fast and precise processing of 96- and 384-well microplates, without the requirement of a computer. They also have the open flexibility of linking to external devices such as shakers, heating adapters, etc. See more information in the SelectScience semi-automatic pipette directory.

Automated Dispensers

The simplest types of liquid handlers are automated pipettes or dispensers. Automated dispensers are designed to deliver precise and measured quantities of liquid to a receptor vessel, such as a microplate. These instruments range from single-channel devices, which dispense one volume at a time, to multi-channel devices, capable of dispensing up to 1536 aliquots simultaneously, such as the CyBi®-Well Vario in Figure 4. Single-channel instruments were the original automated liquid handling systems and are still commercially available today. The main advantage of single-channel instruments is flexibility, but as a result of only having one channel, they do have throughput limitations. Currently, multi-channel systems make up the majority of automated liquid handlers produced.

1536_multi_channel

Figure 4: 1536 Multi-Channel Dispensing

BUYING GUIDE TIP: Consider the volume range you require in a liquid handler. Many modern liquid handlers are capable of delivering a wide range of volumes, making them suitable for several applications.

Multi-channel systems with a small number of channels (4, 8, 12 or 16) are generally more flexible than systems with a larger number of channels. This is because the spacing between the channels can usually be adjusted, making them suitable for more applications. These channels are built into a structure known as a ‘head’, with permanent spacing matching the spacing of the wells in the microplate. In drug discovery, automated liquid dispensers are routinely used for high throughput content and compound screening.

high_through_put

Figure 5: Throughput content / compound screening using an automated dispensing system

The majority of automated dispensers employ a piston or syringe pump for operation, but other types of fluid drive technology (see section below) can be used. Liquid level detection is an important component of all of today’s liquid handlers. Traditional capacitive liquid level detection is still most commonly used to determine when the tip is submerged in liquid. Data software can determine the height of the liquid surface and take appropriate action. An alternative to capacitive liquid sensing is pressure based liquid level detection. The data from this sensor changes as the tip approaches the liquid surface, touches the surface and drives below. This data can be used to control pipetting in real-time. Pressure level sensing is the only way to determine the level of non-ionic liquids.

Robotic Workstations

More complex systems with built-in robotic functionality have been developed to manipulate the position of the dispensers and/or containers of liquid handling systems. It is the ability to move and carry out additional functions that differentiates these systems from automated dispensers. Robotic workstations allow for more automation than can be achieved with a static liquid handler.

Systems that can move slides, tubes or microplates for example, tend to be more mechanically complex and consequently can be quite sizeable. While large, complex liquid handlers still dominate large industrial and academic projects, the industry is moving towards more compact, modular automated liquid handling systems. Larger systems with more complex functionality often create issues around movement and vibration. Vibration can have a detrimental effect on reliability and accuracy.

BUYING GUIDE TIP: Most manufacturers will have undertaken stringent procedures to ensure vibration is kept to a minimum, but it is worth discussing this with the supplier before purchasing an instrument.

Fully Integrated Workstations

Fully integrated workstations may enable the integration of additional laboratory devices, such as centrifuges, microplate readers, PCR instruments, colony pickers, heat sealers, shaking modules, bar code readers, spectrophotometric devices, storage devices and incubators. More complex liquid handling workstations can perform multiple laboratory unit operations such as sample transport, sample mixing, manipulation and incubation, as well as transporting vessels to/from other workstations.

When purchasing an automated liquid handling system, it is important to establish just how flexible you need the system to be. Most researchers seek a system that can grow with the laboratory’s needs, for example, with regard to changes in throughput and application. In order for a system to grow with your changing requirements, you will need to investigate the potential for upgradability.

The most common functions of integrated liquid handling workstations include nucleic acid preparation, PCR, next generation sequencing, ELISA, time resolved fluorescence, high-throughput screening, assay automation, protein crystallography, solid-phase extraction and liquid-liquid extraction. For example, the PIPETMAX automated liquid handling system from Gilson, shown in Figure 6, can be used with the qPCR Assistant to aid qPCR set-up. Multi-functional (modular) workstations allow a number of different applications to be performed and provide even greater flexibility.

BUYING GUIDE TIP: When choosing an automated liquid handling system it is important to consider both your current and future application requirements. If you intend to customize your liquid handler and integrate other modules such as microplate readers and PCR instruments, you will need to discuss its compatibility with the manufacturer.

Pipetmax

Figure 6: PIPETMAX - an example of a multi-functional liquid handling system

Other General Considerations for Automated Liquid Handlers

In recent years, assay miniaturization, which provides a number of cost and time-saving benefits for the research and drug discovery industry, has been a real driving force in the evolution of liquid handling systems. Such benefits include a reduction in the amount of valuable compounds and reagents per assay, which enables an increase in the assay range and size to be achieved, providing a greater amount of information per screen. Microliter-size assays are now routine, with PCR often employing nanoliter or picoliter reaction volumes, and microarraying striving for femtoliter dispensing. Reduced volumes increase an assay’s volumetric complexity and inaccuracies that occur when dispensing low volumes can become proportionally magnified. These inaccuracies have, however, been solved with the development of acoustic liquid handling. These automated systems use acoustic energy, through sound waves, to eject precisely sized droplets from a source on to a microplate, slide or other surface suspended above the source. Download and read this application note for an example of a miniaturization study using an acoustic system, the Echo 500 Series from LabCyte, for CYP450 compound toxicity screening.

Liquid handling quality assurance is an extremely important factor to consider for most applications, and is particularly important for critical drug discovery processes. Due to the minute volumes typically handled during high throughput screening and other drug discovery phases, inaccuracies of just one microliter can affect the integrity of the process by producing false positive and false negative results. Identifying and correcting any liquid handling error can save scientists in any field time, money and resources. New technologies are now available for rapid and reproducible assessment of the accuracy and precision of volumes dispensed from automatic instrumentation.

BUYING GUIDE TIP: Ensure you have stringent quality assurance procedures in place. In addition, you should ask the manufacturer what assay validation data is available for a specific liquid handler. This will provide you with proof that the instrument performs as indicated.

Another important consideration that should be investigated when choosing a liquid handler is its flow rate spectrum. Most liquid handlers will have adjustable flow rates that cover a relatively large range. It is important to ensure that this range covers the flow rate you require for your applications. Higher flow rates are likely to be required for applications such as sensitive cell based assays, while slower flow rates may be necessary for viscous fluids or chromatographic assays.

BUYING GUIDE TIP: How sensitive is your application and operation to downtime? If you need constant operation, you may want to consider purchasing more than one liquid handler.

Robust software that does not crash is essential for walk-away liquid handling. Most robotic software has a consistent and intuitive graphical user interface to control all movement and pipetting procedures of your workstation.

BUYING GUIDE TIP: You should look for software that is user friendly and versatile, but does not require any extensive programming skills. Start-up screens or wizards to guide users through their daily routines can be extremely helpful. Free software upgrades are also essential.

BUYING GUIDE TIP: Also consider the location of the manufacturer. Adequate support for your liquid handler in your country is an essential requirement.

Software that enables scheduling of the workflow may be beneficial for very high throughput procedures and walk-away liquid handling. Some applications may benefit from features such as tip touch, multi-target dispensing, timing procedures and complete control over accessories. The software should be able to be integrated with other software and allow interaction with peripheral devices such as barcode readers, shakers and incubators. Some software packages support FDA regulation requirements for multilevel user management, full audit trail, electronic records and electronic signatures. Being able to ‘walk-away’ and leave your instrument to do its required handling job, and trust that it is not contaminating samples, losing tips and is dispensing accurately, is essential.

Specialized consumables, such as microplates and pipette tips, are used within liquid handling equipment. Consider which consumables are required for your applications and ensure these can be used with your instrument.

Cross contamination can occur when the sample fluid is not sufficiently emptied from the tip. Some automated liquid handlers use fixed tips, which significantly reduce consumable costs. However, if you choose to use fixed tip transfer devices, you will need to investigate what washing procedures are recommended for the instrument. An alternative to fixed tips is the use of disposable tips, which removes the need for time consuming washing steps. Many manufacturers claim that disposable tips completely eliminate cross-contamination, but this should be read with caution. During tip ejection, disposable tips can produce aerosols, which potentially lead to cross contamination. Aerosol production results from displacement of residual liquid in the tip by the high force loads typically required for tip injection.

Liquid handling equipment ranges in size, from small instruments that can fit inside a fume hood to large room-sized systems; although many manufacturers are trending towards smaller, more compact systems.

BUYING GUIDE TIP: Consider how much of your laboratory space can be dedicated to your new instrument and whether you will need space for additional modules.

FLUID DRIVE TECHNOLOGY & CONSIDERATIONS

Pumping liquid in accurate measures is fundamental to all liquid handling systems. There are a few types of pump that might be used. The different types of pumps and the system they are used in are shown in Table 2.

Pumping liquid in accurate measures is fundamental to all automated liquid handling systems. There are a few types of pump that might be used, thus you should consider the dispenser type that best suits your requirements. The most common type of pump used in liquid handling systems is a piston pump, also known as a syringe pump. In automated liquid handling systems, piston pumps can take many forms. Table 2 below provides details of the different types of pumps and their features and considerations.

BUYING GUIDE TIP: When purchasing a liquid handling system, you should ask the manufacturer which types of dispensing technology or pumps are employed.

Table 2: The different types of pumps used in liquid handling instrumentation and their features

Pump Types

Displacement System

Features / Considerations

Piston (Syringe) Pumps

Air-displacement System

Inherent gap of air that functions as the working fluid (see air displacement pipettes)

Liquid or Hydraulic Displacement System

Connected via tubing

Pre-loading liquid acts as the working fluid

Continuous Flow (Check Valve) System

Two plus pistons are arranged so that some pistons are dispensing, others are drawing in fluid. Uses check valves to limit flow to one direction and provide continuous flow

Diaphragm Pumps

Single directional pumping

Check valves are used to maintain fluid flow in one net direction

Simple spinning motor can be used to generate the reciprocating motion

Bi-directional pumping (two diaphragm pumps)

Two diaphragm pumps

Peristaltic Pumps

Roller squeezes a liquid-containing flexible tube

Minimal cross contamination

Lack of accuracy

Liquid is delivered in ‘packets’

Pulsed flow – use control loops that can handle such variable loading dynamics

Fluid output is not as constant as piston pumps

Pressure Driven Pump Systems

Small, inexpensive air pumps or pressurized reservoirs create the vacuum for suction or pressure for dispense

Pumps are typically mounted just above the tips

Active valve and pressure sensing technology with advanced feedback-control algorithms that utilize the data collected from the pressure sensors to control the valves and pumps

Next Generation Sequencing


Piston based pumps are used in the majority of modern automated liquid handling systems.

APPLICATION SPECIFIC TECHNOLOGIES & CONSIDERATIONS

Many of the general considerations highlighted in the previous section of the guide, including required volume range, flow rate and throughput, will be largely dependent on your application. Although these considerations will be influenced by your application, they are applicable for all scientists looking to purchase liquid handling equipment. This section of the guide takes a more in-depth look at specific applications performed by liquid handling equipment and discusses some of the factors that should be considered when implementing technology for a specific application.

Biological Samples

The need to handle biological samples in small or large quantities is an increasing requirement for liquid handling instrumentation. Miniaturization, as described above, of samples for specific screening, PCR, assays, chemical analyses and mass spectrometry is now used in many different labs.

The main requirement for handling biological samples is avoidance of cross-contamination. Most research-based labs are moving towards using automation in their sample preparation, and there are many labs that have migrated towards the semi-automated pipettor systems which are helping to bridge the gap between handheld dispensers and fully automated systems. The use of acoustic liquid handling reduces the cross-contamination issues of moving between samples and also ensures precise dispensing of the liquids involved.

Cell Based Assays

Cell based assays refer to any of a number of different experiments based on the use of live cells; they are a versatile and powerful tool in many research laboratories. In drug discovery, for example, cell based assays can be used to measure various parameters, including cell proliferation, toxicity, motility, formation of a measurable product and morphology. Although still widely used, in traditional cell based assays, the cells are cultured in a two-dimensional format. Three dimensional (3D) cell culture is currently gaining popularity, as it enables cells to be studied in a more physiologically relevant environment. In this article, the VIAFLO series of electronic pipettes from INTEGRA Biosciences is shown to be very effective for 3D cell culture protocols.

BUYING GUIDE TIP: If you intend to automate 3D cell culture you will need to check that your system is capable of handling the specialized plates and consumables required for this application.

In cell based assays, automated liquid handlers can be used for applications such as cell plating, compound addition and reagent addition. While automation does provide consistency for cell based assays, speed is an important factor that needs careful consideration. In cell based assays timing is everything; completing the protocol before resident cells have the opportunity to change through growth, senescence, or death is critical for obtaining reliable and accurate results. Sample preparation is essential; advances in acoustic liquid handling, as described by Peter Simpson from AstraZeneca, in his article ‘Cell Assays – Present & Future’, are helpful in this regard with high throughput and high sensitivity for assay screeners.

Just as there is no one way to accomplish a cell based assay, there is no one way to automate a cell based assay. Depending on the structure of the experiment, as well as the available time, space and budget, it might be best to automate a single small portion, automate several portions and link them together manually, or automate an entire assay.

Next Generation Sequencing

Sample preparation for next generation sequencing (NGS) involves many steps that can be tedious and prone to error. Most steps involved are highly amenable to automation, which standardizes the process and provides greater consistency in results. Consequently, several manufacturers have developed liquid handlers that provide a walk-away solution for NGS sample preparation applications. For example, the Hamilton Microlab STAR has been verified as a suitable workstation for TruSeq Stranded mRNA sample preparation.

Hamilton_Microlab

Figure 7: Hamilton Microlab STAR, with its versatile solutions for many applications, including NGS.

BUYING GUIDE TIP: When purchasing an NGS liquid handling system, check for reagent compatibility, plus consider the space in your lab and the potential for expansion and upgrades of the machine.

Polymerase Chain Reaction

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a cornerstone technology for genetic research and many molecular diagnostic-based tests. As projects become larger and more laboratories and clinics adopt PCR, consistency, speed and performance become increasingly important. If your lab is routinely processing several PCR plates, you may wish to consider automating the procedure. If your PCR applications are few and far between you may find a multi-channel, electronic pipette is sufficient for improving you experiments. Automating PCR can reduce human error, costs, the risk of repetitive strain injuries and enable better reproducibility. Products such the qPCR Assistant software from Gilson are designed to eliminate error and cross-contamination.

In large liquid handling systems, consider the deck layout and ensure that the system is versatile in terms of accepting a variety of PCR plate formats.

qPCR Assistant

Figure 8: qPCR Assistant software from Gilson

BUYING GUIDE TIP: Consider what sections of your PCR workflow you are interested in automating. You may wish to automate DNA extraction, isolation and quantitation, in addition to automating PCR set up. You should also determine what level of operator intervention you require and the timeline for your projects.

BUYING GUIDE TIP: Consider compatibility, upgradability, speed and accuracy. Determine if the system contains a thermal-regulatory module that will ensure temperature regulation in the heating blocks, and consider including modules for plate sealing and centrifugation.

Protein Crystallization

The protein crystallization process involves long wait periods of weeks or months, during which the actual protein crystals are formed under controlled conditions. Robotic dispensing instrumentation can be used to rapidly set up large numbers of protein crystallization conditions. In general, automation improves throughput, decreases error within and between experiments, and organizes the data by generating reports of the steps performed.

There are several liquid handling systems available that are dedicated to protein crystallization, such as the Freedom EVO® Protein Crystallography from Tecan. It is recommended to choose a workstation that is capable of dispensing small sample fluid volumes, probably in the nanoliter range. This will enable you to use smaller volumes of your precious protein samples and test more crystallization conditions. Most liquid handlers for protein crystallization will be capable of automating the most popular protein crystallization techniques including hanging drop, sitting drop and microbatch.

A modular system, which can be configured to a wide range of requirements, is the usually the best option for protein crystallographers.

BUYING GUIDE TIP: Check what, if any, setup changes are required for each of these different techniques involved in crystallization. Also consider modules for plate storage, imaging and sample tracking.

THE FUTURE OF LIQUID HANDLING

Given the cost, complexity and reliability of early systems, very few people would have predicted a bright future for automated liquid handling or for laboratory automation in general. However, the demands of certain applications, including high-throughput screening, medical diagnostics and genomic sequencing, created a necessity that made automation commonplace. Automation has enabled laboratories to perform routine tasks in a much faster time and with much better results. The future of automated liquid handling now looks extremely bright, with manufacturers continuing to invest in the development of new systems to better meet the needs of today’s scientists. The recent expansion beyond traditional reagent and solvent dispensing emphasizes how automated liquid handling is maturing as an industry.

In the future, scientists will continue to demand more walk-away time, higher throughput, smaller volume ranges, increased speed, more flexibility, more compact systems, improved software and greater accuracy. Automated liquid handling will be become routine in more scientific industries in the future and will be applied to even more scientific procedures. Automation companies will continue to work with reagent manufacturers to develop larger numbers of validated protocols. These collaborations will offer greater diversity and more choice. Furthermore, such walk-away protocols will add value and flexibility to the workstation.

There may be an increase in the demand for miniaturization and the need to handle ever smaller volumes more efficiently and more accurately, with systems handling microfluidic and nano-sample preparation, and single cell analysis, pushing the boundaries of sample handling. The need to analyze large volumes of blood in the areas of diagnostics, clinical trials and forensics labs is also becoming increasingly important.

In the future, straightforward laboratory tasks will become more automated, simplifying everyday procedures. Liquid handling systems will become more customizable, with external devices being interfaced with systems and automation will become globalized and standardized, offering limitless choices for the modern lab.

SUMMARY

There are many different types of liquid handling system on the market and choosing the correct one for your applications may be challenging. By understanding the technology and applying a few simple considerations, selecting the right instrument can be a much easier task.

Visit the SelectScience product directory to find out about the latest liquid handling technology from leading manufacturers and read user reviews. Watch the latest videos and use the SelectScience application note library to keep up-to-date with the latest liquid handling methods.

Editor's Picks

Michelle Maxwell

Associate Editor

PIPETMAX (Gilson)

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5 out of 5

“This is very comfortable and easy to use. It is a good product.”
Jianming Xu, German Cancer Research Center

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MICROLAB NIMBUS Liquid Handling Workstation (Hamilton)

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4 out of 5

“The Nimbus is very easy to use. Once you are familiar with the Venus software, it is straightforward to program. The liquid handling is exactly the same as the STAR instruments, ensuring good accuracy and precision.”
Jeffrey McDermott, Janssen

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CyBi®-Well Vario (CyBio)

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4 out of 5

“This is a great instrument, easy to program and very reliable. It is easy to service, which is important in an environment using isotopes. It has a good range of volumes.”
Daniela Brodbeck, Exquiron Biotech AG

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Eppendorf Research® Plus Pipette (Eppendorf)

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5 out of 5

“These pipettes are improved to make the pipetting process faster and easier. They are the best micropipettes out there, and are a great value for their cost.”
Joanna Vassiliou, St. John Fisher College

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VIAFLO 16-Channel Electronic Pipette (Integra)

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5 out of 5

“A versatile multichannel pipette with good flexibility for assay execution. It is great value for the price and has excellent precision. I highly recommend for assay development and execution.”
Marlene Jacobson, Temple University


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Tecan Freedom EVO® (Tecan)

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4 out of 5

“In all the years I've worked with TECAN instruments, I've never had the misfortune of the instrument breaking down. I would be happy to recommend the EVO line to any of my colleagues.”
Matt Goering, Dart Neuroscience

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