Last Updated on
November 27, 2023
The relentless pursuit of precision, efficiency, and reliability has led to the widespread adoption of automation in the life sciences. This technological advancement is particularly evident in environments where meticulous operations are the backbone of groundbreaking discoveries and scalability. Liquid handling is an indispensable component among the various developments of lab automation.
As research paradigms grow increasingly complex, the onus falls on technologies that can handle liquid samples with unwavering accuracy. Enter liquid handlers—sophisticated instruments designed to transform the traditional lab landscape.
Liquid handlers play an instrumental role in buttressing the pillars of reproducibility and accuracy. These are not mere machines; they are the vanguards of consistency, ensuring that every droplet dispensed or aspirated adheres to the exact parameters set by researchers. Their impact doesn’t stop there.
With the capability to handle multiple samples simultaneously, they champion the cause of high-throughput experiments, enabling labs to expedite workflows and accomplish tasks that would be time-consuming or nearly impossible manually.
In the following sections, we will review the basics of liquid handling, the cost implications of these systems and instruments, and the strategic considerations labs must weigh when deciding to buy or lease a liquid handler or liquid handling system.
At its core, liquid handling refers to transferring specific volumes of liquids, typically in the form of samples or reagents, within a laboratory setting.
This seemingly simple task is paramount to countless laboratory procedures, from routine assays to intricate genomic studies. However, as scientific endeavors grow in sophistication, the need for precision and scalability in liquid handling has become non-negotiable. This necessity birthed automated liquid handling systems.
Automated liquid handling systems are advanced equipment that mechanizes the process of transferring liquids. Unlike manual pipetting, which relies heavily on human precision and can be susceptible to errors, these systems offer higher accuracy, repeatability, and throughput.
Their primary role in lab automation is to enhance efficiency, minimize human intervention (and thus potential errors), and allow for scalability in experimental procedures, especially in applications requiring high throughput or the simultaneous handling of numerous samples.
There are several components that work together to provide liquid handling automation. Let's look at what makes one of these devices tick:
Together, these components create a cohesive unit that has dramatically improved upon the process of liquid handling, providing researchers with an invaluable tool in their scientific toolkit.
In contemporary research environments, the trajectory of scientific exploration is expanding at an unprecedented rate. Central to this acceleration is molecular biology, where fields such as genomics, sequencing, diagnostics, and PCR have witnessed transformative advancements. At the heart of these disciplines lies the foundational process of liquid handling.
Genomics, the study of the complete set of genes within an organism, necessitates high-throughput technologies to manage and analyze vast quantities of DNA samples. Liquid handlers play a pivotal role here, ensuring consistent sample preparation, precise reagent addition, and meticulous handling, which are all fundamental for successful genomic analysis.
Sequencing, particularly next-generation sequencing, requires the preparation of libraries from minute amounts of DNA or RNA. This involves various stages of pipetting, diluting, and mixing, tasks that become exponentially accurate and efficient with the aid of liquid handlers. Such precision is paramount in ensuring the fidelity of sequencing data.
In the world of diagnostics, timely and accurate results can mean the difference between life and death. Liquid handlers streamline the diagnostic workflow by automating sample preparation, ensuring that tests like ELISAs, immunoassays, and nucleic acid tests are performed with unparalleled precision, consistency, and speed.
PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), a technique used to amplify and quantify DNA, is another domain where liquid handling shines. With PCR's sensitivity to contamination and its need for precise thermocycling conditions, the consistent and accurate delivery of reagents and samples by liquid handlers is indispensable.
Beyond these specific applications, the overarching themes of sample preparation, dilution, and assays further emphasize the value of liquid handlers. A slight discrepancy in sample preparation can cascade into significant errors in experimental outcomes. Ensuring that samples are diluted to their precise concentrations is vital for assays' accuracy. Here, again, liquid handlers provide an extra layer of assurance, automating tasks that, if done manually, might introduce variability and error.
In essence, with its intricate procedures and demanding precision, the modern laboratory leans heavily on liquid handling systems. These systems bolster accuracy and catalyze the pace of discovery in these ever-evolving fields.
Understanding the cost of a liquid handler requires an analysis of several variables that come into play, each contributing to the final price. Whether a laboratory is considering acquiring its first automated liquid handling system or looking to upgrade its existing infrastructure, understanding these cost drivers is crucial. Let’s break down the factors that affect the price:
When evaluating the cost of a liquid handler, it’s essential to look beyond the initial price. A comprehensive assessment should consider the system’s capabilities, the recurring costs of consumables, and the potential return on investment in terms of efficiency, precision, and scalability.
The price range for liquid handling systems can vary widely depending on the specifications and the manufacturer. For instance, Hamilton’s liquid handling systems range from approximately $100,000 to $2 million. We recommend contacting manufacturers or suppliers directly or requesting quotes from platforms like LabX or SelectScience for a more detailed cost breakdown and updated pricing.
As mentioned, the cost of liquid handlers can vary significantly and will ultimately depend on your laboratory's specific needs and preferences. While the initial investment in a top-tier system is typically quite significant, the efficiency, accuracy, and scalability liquid handling systems offer can lead to long-term savings and enhanced research capabilities.
Seeing how expensive liquid handlers and systems can get, acquiring one presents a significant financial decision for you to make. The choice between buying and leasing is not merely a matter of immediate expense but requires a holistic assessment of long-term needs, financial flexibility, and strategic direction. Let’s consider the pros and cons of both options.
Buying or leasing a liquid handler hinges on a lab’s financial health, projected research trajectory, and appetite for flexibility versus ownership. Both options come with their sets of advantages and considerations. Labs should perform a cost-benefit analysis tailored to their unique circumstances before deciding.
That said, leasing provides financial flexibility and adaptability that outright purchasing might not offer. With the pace at which technology advances, leasing ensures labs always have access to the latest equipment without being burdened by obsolescence. Furthermore, the financial fluidity of leasing can be a boon, especially for labs in phases of transition, expansion, or those operating under tight budget constraints.
By forgoing significant upfront costs, labs can redistribute their funds to other crucial areas, such as research, staffing, or other equipment. Coupled with the opportunity to upgrade equipment as needed, leasing becomes an attractive option that aligns with the dynamic nature of scientific research, allowing labs to remain at the cutting edge of innovation.
Automation stands central to advancements in the life sciences sector. Labs that focus on genomics, nucleic acid research, NGS, and other cutting-edge assays understand the indispensable nature of the precision and efficiency that liquid handlers offer. As science continues pushing the boundaries and innovating, labs need equipment that meets their potential.
When acquiring liquid handling systems, labs should actively assess their present and anticipated future needs. While the idea of buying offers a sense of permanence, leasing introduces a pathway to flexibility, allowing labs to continuously align with the latest technological advancements.
Through Excedr, labs can access state-of-the-art equipment without hefty upfront costs by leasing liquid handlers and automated liquid handling systems. This approach ensures you remain at the forefront of technological relevance, enjoy financial adaptability, and can swiftly pivot to meet evolving research demands.
In the dynamic landscape of scientific research, the right equipment should serve as an enabler, not a constraint. Thus, labs should evaluate their needs and consider the benefits of leasing with Excedr to keep pace with relentless innovation.
Interested in learning more about our leasing program? Get in touch, and a team member will be happy to assist.