How To Choose The Best Automated Liquid Handlers
There was a time when automated liquid handling was monopolized by large drug discovery labs - the only people who needed, or could afford robotics. Things have come far in technology, and now, any researcher or organization that handles liquids can benefit from the improved accuracy and costs benefits robotics can provide.
Large-scale liquid handling brings with it the need to be precise; a need that intensifies when handling small volumes like in the pharmaceutical industry.
But regardless of industry, here are some things to think about as you consider whether robotics is for you.
What benefits can you hope to realize from automation?
One of the biggest benefits automated liquid handling can bring to your everyday processes is improved consistency and efficiency. It takes out the variability associated with different people doing the same job, or even the same person doing it on different days. It cuts the need for training hours, downtimes and errors associated with fatigue. Today's robotics also allow you to integrate several processes, making for more complete automation.
What kind of automated liquid handler is right for you?
Choosing the right automated liquid handler for your needs is half the job! There are multiple options available, and you need to start by thinking about what your processes involve. Will you be dispensing large volumes? Do you want a fully automated system or one that allows some hands-on time? What kind of calibration and cleaning ease does the machine offer? How large is it? Is it portable? Start by asking for a demo of the system you are considering to bring it into the context of your needs.
Can it integrate into your current operations?
Once you have your needs analysis done, think about how the automated liquid handler can fit in with your current processes. Can it switch between different liquids? What are the setup needs? Is there a high risk of contamination? Can it seamlessly integrate with other procedures? If you are using robotics for filling and have a capping machine for instance, how can the two work together to cut your packaging time?
Consider volume, viscosity, and other properties.
Choosing your liquid handling systems with your volume range
in mind is a good idea. If you need extreme accuracy down to
the sub-microliter level, then you'd do well to factor that
in and focus on it over other benefits a machine may come with
that don't suit you. Consider the viscosity of the liquids to
be handled. This would have an impact on the wear and tear of
the equipment, and highly viscous liquids might need specialized
equipment that is less prone to blockages and easy to switch
from one to another if you are handling several viscosities.
Look for disposable parts where you need to be extra mindful
of things like contamination. Think about other properties of
the composition of your liquid; for example, some solutions
froth, which can impact the accuracy of measurements; this requires
specialized handling equipment that dispenses differently.