These precise platforms are designed to move liquids precisely from one vessel to another in applications ranging from DNA/RNA purification and DNA sequencing to high-throughput screening of pharmaceutical compounds. As a technology, it has become a powerful and popular tool in labs throughout the life science industry.
The development and optimization of automated liquid handlers have allowed countless essential techniques to be performed much more quickly and accurately in research and therapeutic applications. For example, manual sample preparation has always been an overwhelming and time-consuming task that creates bottlenecks in your routine lab.
However, scientists and technicians can free up time and achieve consistent and reproducible upstream sample prep by introducing automated liquid handlers into the lab. This has made liquid handlers a cornerstone instrument in any automated laboratory.
For example, research labs where scientists create and use monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to label and track a wide range of targets require precise liquid handling, something that’s accomplished accurately and repeatably using automated liquid handling platforms.
Additionally, liquid handler lab ware, such as tube racks, tube rack inserts, micro-centrifuge tubes, and cap mats, make your job even easier.
Robotic automation has revolutionized the speed of scientific development and saved countless laboratories time and resources, providing greater reproducibility and eliminating technician-to-technician variability. While every automated liquid handling experiment is unique in terms of throughput, reagents, volumes, order of addition, and readout, several features are central to all liquid handling technologies. We cover those features below.
The life sciences and pharmaceuticals industries have greatly benefited from liquid handlers. And although there are a variety of liquid handling robots available, they all serve a similar purpose: provide automated solutions to workflow bottlenecks and increase efficiencies. Below, we cover some of the types available, their benefits, and the workflow integrations used.
There are many semi-automated benchtop pipettors available; these offer a more efficient method to manual pipetting that can also reduce the risk of repetitive strain disorder.
Many benchtop pipettors offer precise, semi-automated pipetting, and come equipped with 96 pipetting channels for easy and fast filling of 96- and 384-well microplate well plates, without the use of a computer.
Applications like replication and reformatting, medium exchange, as well as serial dilution, can be executed reproducibly and conveniently using pipettors and 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 microplate well plates.
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.
Full automation is most valuable in high-throughput applications that benefit from completely removing human movements. These fully automated liquid handling platforms process hundreds of samples at a time and follow highly complex methods without deviation.
More complex systems with built-in robotic functionality have been developed to manipulate the position of the dispensers and containers of automated liquid handling systems. Each system can dispense and sample liquids in tubes or wells accurately, quickly, and repeatably.
By design, these workstations often include automated pipetting systems as well as microplate washers. It is the ability to move and carry out additional functions that differentiate these systems from automated dispensers.
Robotic workstations allow for more automation than can be achieved with a static liquid handler. Furthermore, automated liquid handling robots are often integrated as automated injection modules as the front end of liquid chromatographic systems.
These devices, which save significant amounts of time while reducing error, offer precise sample preparation for high throughput screening/sequencing (HTC), liquid or powder weighing, sample preparation, and bio-assays of many kinds.
Lab automation has allowed high-throughput sample preparation, assay preparation, and more by integrating workstations. Fully integrated workstations, much like liquid handling robotics, enable the integration of additional laboratory devices, such as centrifuges, microplate readers, PCR instruments, colony pickers, heat sealers, shaking modules, barcode readers, spectrophotometric devices, storage devices, and incubators.
More complex liquid handling automated workstations can perform multiple laboratory unit operations such as sample transport, sample mixing, manipulation, incubation, and transporting vessels to/from other workstations.
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.
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