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It's clear that automated pipetting is faster than doing it manually, but how common is it for a lab to have an automated pipetting system, and what usually are the circumstances that a lab have before they purchase such a system?

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    $\begingroup$ Are you asking about something different than what I think is an automatic pipette. Google seems to agree with me. The single channel versions of these devices run between 100 and 300 USD, which is hardly a big expenditure for most labs. We use the single channel devices in my general chemistry courses - every pair of students gets one. Even the multichannel pipettes are not that expensive. $\endgroup$ – Ben Norris May 19 '15 at 10:27
  • $\begingroup$ @BenNorris en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automated_pipetting_system $\endgroup$ – Alice Ryhl May 19 '15 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ Ah! I have never seen such a thing, just the pipettes. I edited your question to put in a link to the device into it so that others like me who think that "auto pipetting" only refers to a hand-held device. $\endgroup$ – Ben Norris May 19 '15 at 10:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン: I see you welcome a lot of people here - that's nice :) Just so you know, the English expression is "consider accepting one", not "*consider to accept one" which sounds wrong to a native speaker. Hope you don't mind me giving you this feedback! $\endgroup$ – psmears May 19 '15 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ @psmears I don't mind at all, thank you for pointing that out. As a non native speaker I am always happy, when someone points out the mistakes I make. I have now edited my template, thanks again. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン May 20 '15 at 2:36
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The circumstances in a lab that would make automated liquid handling appropriate would be a need to prepare large numbers of samples by a routine method, so that it becomes more cost and time effective to install and program a machine to do the job than to do it with handheld equipment.

This is clearly the case in high throughput drug discovery work and also in analytical labs that perform identical tests on large numbers of samples; it's less common outside these fields although high throughput techniques can also be used in the development and testing of formulations, for example for personal care products or paints and coatings.

Standard automated liquid handlers are designed to deal with volumes in the microlitre to millilitre range and liquids that are not too volatile or viscous. Requirements outside this range, or extra constraints such as moisture or air sensitive reagents, will demand more complex and expensive equipment which may make automation less viable, although companies such as Zinsser and Chemspeed make devices for handling a wide range of liquid and solid substances.

To get a more specific answer than this you're probably going to have to narrow your question down to the particular industry and type of lab you're thinking of. If you're on LinkedIn you might get some useful responses from the Laboratory Robotics Interest Group discussion board.

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Speed isn't everything. Reproducibility might be much more important!

Imagine that you have to transfer different volumes from five different stock solutions to a 1536 well plate and adjust the total volume by adding water or the common solvent of your choice. A programmable pipetting automat might be a blessing here.

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  • $\begingroup$ Makes sense, how common is such a system? Does almost every lab have one? Or most labs? Or one third? I'm trying to get a rough estimate. $\endgroup$ – Alice Ryhl May 19 '15 at 8:56
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that reproducibility is important, and I would think that of this reason they should be pretty common. My question is not only about why they're important or useful, but also how common they are in labs around the world. $\endgroup$ – Alice Ryhl May 19 '15 at 9:05
  • $\begingroup$ @KristofferRyhl As usual, it depends. These machines, which are often used to transfer volumes in the sub-milliliter range, are definitely not standard equipment in the average organic synthesis lab. Typically, you'd rather find them with the microbiologists, or when high-throughput screening is the primary goal. $\endgroup$ – Klaus-Dieter Warzecha May 19 '15 at 9:18
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    $\begingroup$ @KristofferRyhl - If you are worried about speed when filling well plates, you might be better off with a good multichannel pipette. The multi-pipette, while handheld, will probably be faster than a robot that can only fill one well at a time. The other benefit of a robot is that you can do something else while it is working. $\endgroup$ – Ben Norris May 19 '15 at 10:36
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    $\begingroup$ There is also something in between manual pipettes and a fully automated system. We use these guys for a lot of stuff. They can be programmed for a series of different volumes in one go for doing concentration series in well-plates and the like. They're still handheld, but much faster than normal pipettes. $\endgroup$ – Michael DM Dryden May 19 '15 at 19:12

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