Automation in laboratories improves output and productivity, and automated handling of liquid saves time, improves accuracy and contributes to overall quality control. These tools and devices also minimize the risks of injuries by automating repetitive processes.
Many manufacturers today offer an array of automated liquid handlers. These devices range from simple, standalone systems that deliver samples to plates and tubes to more complex work systems designed for specific processes like sample preparation for chromatographic analysis. These systems are programmable to complete and complement a lab automation system.
If you are considering buying an automated liquid handling system for your laboratory, here are a few important points to keep in mind:
Sources of Variability
One of the critical issues that laboratories encounter with careful manual handling of small volumes of specimens is that the specimens get even smaller as they are dispensed, and the requirements for manual handling become greater.
Moreover, the variations from the errors of manual pipetting mean that you have to deal with researchers’ errors and experiment errors. Add in the use of high-density plates, which requires more complexity in the process, and the risk for error with manual handling becomes greater. Lastly, small fluctuations in the lab humidity and temperature can greatly affect the accuracy of the results of small-volume specimens.
Automating the dispensing process improves the result’s accuracy as the automation eliminates most of the aforementioned variables.
Liquid Handling Technology
Automated handling devices come in positive displacement or air displacement pipette technology. Air displacement is suitable for most lab liquids, while positive displacement is suitable for viscous or volatile liquids.
Also, consider the possibility of cross-contamination, especially when working on biological samples. Look for systems that operate with disposable tips to reduce risks of cross-contamination, and make sure to note how the system changes its disposable pipet tips as each system has different techniques of doing this.
Benefits of Automated Systems to Your Current Process
With the countless variables that can affect output, choosing the right automated liquid handling device for your laboratory is extremely important. This is why laboratories nowadays have turned into automated solutions for better results, consistency and efficiency of laboratory processes.
One of the many notable benefits of automated handling is that it gets rid of person-to-person variability, and they accomplish this with less training required. Automated handling also provides an opportunity for the integration of other instruments. You can optimize the automated handling device to develop better results and calibrate it according to certain requirements and factors like the liquid type.
With all its benefits, how do you know if an automated liquid handler is the right one for you? Here are some questions you would want to ask yourself before getting one.
- “Am I looking to increase my throughput and reduce the risk of errors when working with smaller volumes?”
- “Do I need better tracing and would need a use log?” (If so, look for a device that can generate logs every use.)
- “Do I want to increase the pace of work in the laboratory and free up some technician time from doing repetitive tasks like manual pipetting?”
- “Am I usually working with high-density plates and/or expensive substances in small quantities?”
Answering these questions will help you check whether you need an automated liquid handling system and which one you should get for your laboratory.
Automated liquid handling systems are useful in many ways. Finding the ideal one for your laboratory and purposes is simply a matter of keeping the key criteria and matching them to your specific requirements.