Liquid handling is one of the most important processes in modern diagnostics and life sciences. The ability to handle liquids and to move them around the laboratory is a key skill that many scientists, including chemists and molecular biologists have to learn, practice, and perfect because it is a critical component of research.
However, handling and dispensing small amounts liquids can pose a serious challenge for researchers, who are often faced with the problem of being stuck with the laborious task of pipetting and dispensing large batches of such materials.
Because manual liquid handling can be both repetitive and time-consuming, it can turn into an unreliable process. Errors tend to become more frequent as lab workers get exhausted. There is also the problem of diminishing throughput as individuals tend to handle less and less material as they become fatigued.
If you’ve ever met someone who has spent many years of their lives finishing their education and training, you’d appreciate why they wouldn’t want to be manually processing liquids for hours on end. These are people who want to work with their minds, and they typically would like more time on their hands for other projects, be it analyzing the results of the experiments, authoring their studies for a scientific journal, or preparing for important lectures.
Automating your way to more efficient laboratory processes
Thankfully, modern engineering proffers a dependable solution to this challenge in the form automated liquid handling robots or machines. While many laboratories continue to rely on manual liquid handling, an increasing number of them are now using automation not only to improve their throughput but also to enhance the reliability of their lab processes.
The basic operations involved in automated liquid handling are as follows:
- Aspiration – The process of drawing liquid by suction from a vessel and into a pipette
- Motion – The process of moving the drawn liquid to another location
- Dispensing – The process of expelling the liquid into a new container
The benefits of automated liquid handling
There are many procedures in diagnostics and life science that can benefit from automated liquid handling. Applications include immunoassays, aliquoting, genomic sample preparations, and polymerase chain reaction amplification.
As previously mentioned, manual liquid handling can result in unavoidable errors, especially if the individuals doing them are processing a huge number of small-volume liquids. The complexity of the procedures and other variables like temperature and atmospheric moisture can also affect the quality of the samples being prepared.
The importance of maintaining consistency and accuracy across all samples cannot be overstated, especially if one is dealing with minute volumes of liquids. With automation, these person-to-person and experiment-to-experiment variability is reduced significantly.
Automation also improves the efficiency of laboratory processes. By allowing researchers to handle larger batches of liquids, throughput is increased. Moreover, as it will be the machines that will be doing the processing, automation also frees laboratory personnel from the laborious and tedious tasks of pipetting and dispensing, permitting them to accomplish other important projects or to attend to other engagements.
To ensure that your organization or laboratory is getting its money’s worth, find out if the automated liquid handling solution you are considering satisfies important requirements. These include the following:
- High speed to improve your lab’s output
- Accuracy to ensure precise delivery of liquids to target microtiter wells
- Proper motion control to prevent liquid droplets from going where you don’t want them to go
- Noise control to minimize unwanted sounds
There are many off-the-shelf automated handling robots available from reputable manufacturers, but many diagnostic and life science systems often require custom solutions. In such cases, one needs to consult a supplier that can design and engineer economical machines that deliver superior performance.