Recently, we introduced our apricot range of user-friendly liquid handling instruments to the SPT Labtech business. The apricot S3 pipettor is one of the core products in the range, offering automated high-performance 96 and 384 channel pipetting for either low or high-throughput use.
In this case study Q&A, we spoke with Anita Pearson, an Applications Development Scientist scientist at SPT Labtech, about her experience working with the S3 instrument and her insights about the advantages it offers to users. In her role, Anita acts as an internal user of SPT Labtech products, helping customers to get the information they need, designing and running experiments and working closely with the R&D team to provide an application-based, user-orientated perspective for any development project. This role makes Anita ideally placed to comment on the profile of the S3 from a user's point of view.
I would describe the S3 as a compact, semi-automated liquid handler compatible with both 96 and 384 well plates. It has a simple, streamlined design with a fixed position pipetting core and a three-position deck that can move in X, Y and Z directions. It is semi-automated in the sense that most aspects of the liquid handler are controllable through the touch screen user interface – its deck movements, aspirations and dispensing of fluids. However, tip exchange is a manual process that simplifies the operation of the instrument to a degree.
You can see a full video demonstration of the apricot S range here. In the video, our Product Manager provides an overview of the apricot S1 and S3 and demonstrates some of the key features of the instruments.
We have been working extensively with the instrument over the last few weeks to understand the best pipetting technique and how to dispense fluids using this instrument with precision. We have been getting to know the instrument's strengths, learning how best to handle liquids with it, and then we will progress to applying those techniques to applications such as Next Generation Sequencing protocols and bead clean-ups. We now have an excellent handle on how different liquid types behave with the S3 and the different dispense settings required – and, in turn, will be able to pass these insights on to customers.
I have been impressed with how straightforward and intuitive it is to get the S3 to perform the tasks you want. Users of all experience levels will be able to very swiftly get up to speed with learning how to write protocols and start using the instrument.
I have also been impressed by the precision of the dispensing. I have measured the precision of a 1uL dispense of buffer, from a 384-tip array, to have a %CV of less than 3%.
Like all the apricot range, the S3 uses EZ-Load tip technology to replace tips quickly and simply at the push of a button. More broadly, the S3 user interface is through a convenient touchscreen Windows 10 tablet. The touchscreen offers various accessible functions allowing users to easily control the instrument either by writing a protocol or by executing discrete pipetting steps one after the other - using the manual operation settings. I am confident that I could train someone to use the S3 in under an hour.
Once you get the initial set up right with the S3, the possibilities are endless. Despite its deceptively simple design, it is a highly versatile instrument making automated liquid handling accessible to every lab user, irrespective of training or experience levels.