Human progress and advancement are deeply intertwined with technology, and in today’s world, robotics and automation have permeated nearly every aspect of our lives. In scientific laboratories, robotic liquid handling systems have revolutionized tasks such as DNA sequencing, automated drug discovery, and high-throughput screening.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the variety of robotic liquid handling systems available for labs. Market analysis predicts that the automated liquid handling solutions market will experience a growth of over 7% in the coming years, reaching a value of $4.65 billion by 2025.
The rising popularity of these systems can be attributed to the advantages they offer over manual liquid workflows. Automated liquid handling systems provide increased accuracy, speed, and throughput, making them highly desirable for tasks such as screening, sequencing, bioassays, sample preparation, and liquid weighing. When choosing the right liquid handling robot for a particular application, careful evaluation of each automated solution based on precise needs is essential.
What are Robotic Liquid Handling Systems?
Robotic liquid handling systems are advanced laboratory instruments that automate the precise and accurate transfer of liquids in a controlled and efficient manner. These systems utilize robotic arms, liquid handling modules, and associated software to perform tasks such as sample preparation, recent dispensing, plate replication, serial dilutions, and other liquid handling operations in laboratories.
It is used in various fields of life sciences, including genomics, proteomics, drug discovery, clinical diagnostics, and biotechnology research. They are designed to handle a wide range of liquid volumes, from microliters to milliliters, and offer high throughput capabilities, reducing human error and increasing the reproducibility and precision of experiments.
These systems typically consist of robotic arms that can move in multiple axes, liquid handling modules such as pipetting and dispensing units, plate handlers for transferring labware, and intuitive software for programming and controlling the system. They may also be integrated with additional devices such as plate readers, centrifuges, and incubators to create fully automated workflows.
There are several benefits, including increased productivity, improved accuracy, reduced sample contamination, and enhanced reproducibility. Modern laboratories rely on these highly adaptable tools that can be programmed to perform complex protocols with high precision, making them invaluable for handling liquids in a reliable and efficient manner.
A typical architecture for a robotic liquid handling system includes several key components:
This is the physical arm of the robot that is responsible for moving and manipulating various tools such as pipettes, syringes, and plates. The robotic arm is usually controlled by motors and is capable of precise and accurate movements.
Liquid Handling Tools
These are the tools that the robotic arm uses to perform liquid handling tasks. These tools are designed to aspirate, dispense, and transfer precise volumes of liquid with high accuracy and repeatability.
Deck or Workstation
This platform performs liquid handling tasks. It typically includes a flat surface with designated locations for different types of labware, such as microplates, tubes, and reservoirs. The deck or workstation may also include additional components, such as a barcode scanner, a temperature control module, or a shaker, depending on the specific application requirements.
The software controls the system and offers a user interface to program liquid handling tasks, manage labware, and control the robotic arm. The software may also include features for data management, protocol customization, and integration with other lab instruments or systems.
In this system, we use sensors to provide feedback and information about the status of the system. For example, the sensors detect the presence or absence of labware, verify liquid level, or monitor temperature and humidity. We use this information for process control, error detection, and system monitoring.
Robotic liquid handling systems may have communication interfaces, such as Ethernet or USB, to enable connectivity with other lab instruments, devices, or systems. This allows for data exchange, integration with other lab workflows, and remote control and monitoring.
A robotic liquid handling system requires a power supply to provide power to the robotic arm, liquid handling tools, and other components. The system may integrate the power supply or an external provider can provide it.
Safety features are important in a robotic liquid handling system to ensure safe operation in the laboratory environment. These may include features such as collision detection, emergency stop buttons, and user authentication to prevent unauthorized access.
There are countless benefits including:
Precision & Accuracy
Robotic Liquid Handling Systems are designed for dispensing liquids with high precision and accuracy, ensuring consistent results, and reducing human error. They can handle small volumes of liquids, typically in the microliter or nanoliter range, with high reproducibility, making tem ideal for applications such as drug discovery, genomics, proteomics, and other life science research.
Robotic liquid handling systems can automate repetitive tasks, allowing for high throughput processing. They handle multiple samples at once, allowing faster processing of large sets than manual methods. This can significantly increase the productivity of laboratories and improve overall workflow efficiency.
Flexibility & Customization
Robotic liquid handling systems are versatile and programmable for various tasks like pipetting, dilution, dispensing, and mixing. Customization is possible to suit specific applications, enabling versatility and adaptability in various laboratory workflows. This makes them ideal for a wide range of applications in different fields of research.
Robotic liquid handling systems reduce the risk of human exposure to hazardous liquids, minimizing accidents and injuries in the lab. They also help to maintain the integrity of samples by minimizing cross-contamination, ensuring accurate and reliable results.
Cost & Time Savings
Robotic liquid handling systems save time and money in the long term despite higher initial costs. They automate liquid handling tasks, reducing labor costs, increasing sample throughput, and minimizing reagent waste for faster results.
Data Tracking & Documentation
Robotic liquid handling systems often come with integrated software that allows for easy data tracking and documentation. It enables accurate and traceable record-keeping of experimental details and sample information for regulatory compliance or research purposes.
Standardization & Reproducibility
Robotic liquid handling systems enable standardization of liquid handling protocols, ensuring consistent results across different experiments and reducing variability. This can improve the reproducibility of experiments and enhance the reliability of research outcomes.