Top tips when choosing the right automated liquid handler for your lab

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06 May, 2014

Top tips when choosing the right automated liquid handler for your lab

Gone are the days when the domain of automated liquid handling was only inhabited by large drug discovery labs using big liquid handling robotics to screen thousands of compounds per day. With developments in both the technology and the associated software used for automated liquid handling, any researcher from any lab can now benefit from the improved accuracy, higher throughput and lower reagent costs that automated liquid handling can provide.

Points to consider

With so many options to choose from, and so many different sample dispensing technologies available, such as acoustic, piezoelectric, positive displacement and air displacement dispensing, picking an automated liquid handler that suits your lab and your needs can be difficult.  Over the last 10 years at TTP Labtech, our team of passionate automation engineers, scientists and product designers have been developing both large and small scale automation solutions for use in academia and industry. This blog highlights what we feel are the 5 most important points to consider before purchasing an automated liquid handling solution:

1.    Application/ assay flexibility

Make sure the automated liquid handler that you choose is flexible and adaptable. Depending on what your throughput requirements are, you will need to consider whether it can switch between different plate formats. In addition, you should think about how easy it will be to integrate your liquid handler into any existing automated processes or instruments within your lab.

2.    Volume range

It is worthwhile choosing the right liquid handling systems according to the volume range that will be handled. The volume range capabilities of liquid handling systems vary and depend on the type of dispensing technology, i.e. contact or non-contact based, and the type of tips (fixed or disposable) being used. Integration with more than one liquid handler may be an option to cover a wide range of volumes.

3.    Viscosity

Carefully consider the composition and viscosity of the samples that you will be working with. For example, highly viscous solutions will be difficult to pipette efficiently and effectively with air displacement pipettes, especially at low volumes, rendering some liquid handling systems prone to blockages and breakdowns. If you require to run a selection of samples of differing viscosities and surface tensions, then look for a technology that can accommodate this without compromising precision and operational efficiency, e.g. like positive displacement pipetting.

4.    Contamination control

Working with sub-microliter volumes, cross-contamination may be your major worry. The most efficient way to do this is to use disposable pipette tips rather than systems that employ tip washing. Not only will this reduce the likelihood of cross contamination but it will also enhance the accuracy and reproducibility of your results.

5.    Foaming

High protein content solutions easily froth up like a milkshake. This can heavily impact on pipetting accuracy and lead to protein precipitation and aggregation. In order to minimize frothing it is advisable to use positive displacement systems rather than air displacement dispensing.

Of course there are many other factors that you should consider before committing to automating your liquid handling processes that will be dependent on the specific assays that you are looking to run. If you would like to discuss your automated liquid handling requirements in detail and discover how TTP Labtech might be able to help you get the most out of your assays, then why not get in touch?

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