Automation frees up human resources for more complex tasks
Utilising automation and equipment for repetitive work in the laboratory will have many benefits. Above all, automation frees up human resources for other tasks. You can leave a machine to conduct mechanical, repetitive work accurately and without ever tiring, while humans can focus their time on planning, interpreting results, writing, and other tasks that require intellectual effort. Some great examples of automation are pipetting robots and automated dispensers, microplate washers and microplate readers
Fluid handling equipment speeds up research
Different fluid handling equipment can pipette or wash microplates many times faster than humans. Machines can carry out tasks in minutes that would take humans hours. Getting from analysis to results is quicker, or alternatively, you can process a larger number of samples in the same amount of time.
With automation, peak performance is obtained by ‘daisy-chaining’ several devices (e.g., a pipetting robot, incubator, washer, and reader). Users do not even need to move microplates between the devices, but rather the entire process can be automated to happen inside the workstation.
Automating the laboratory protects people
Monotonous and repetitive work tasks – in laboratories, typically pipetting large sample sets – cause stress for the people carrying out the work and subject their hands and elbows to injuries from repetitive strain. You can avoid this by leaving machines to handle extended periods of mechanical work. Fluid handling equipment also protects people from dangerous chemicals and infectious sample materials by decreasing the amounts needed and shortening periods of exposure.
Some fluid handling machines utilise technology similar to inkjet printers in pipetting fluids, shooting small quantities of liquids quickly and precisely into the desired location on a microplate. This technology makes it possible to pipette extremely small quantities, even picolitres, which is impossible for humans. This results in a substantial reduction in the quantities of reagents needed for the reaction.
A machine can work tirelessly for hours. Pipetting, measuring, and washing processes are repeated identically and uniformly, hour after hour. The reliability of the results improves, when human error and variation is reduced.
Combination equipment is less expensive and more carefree than separate analysers
Analysers that contain several reading technologies within the same device are known as combination equipment. An example is an imaging flow cytometer, which combines the quantitative results from flow cytometry with detailed images and microscopic analysis. Combination equipment is often less expensive than purchasing many different instruments, and maintaining it is more economical and takes less effort. Combination equipment also takes up less space in the laboratory.
Multimode readers enable lengthy research
Some research is difficult or even impossible to carry out manually; a human cannot carry out continuous research spanning several days, but a machine has no problem at all with this. Multimode readers can carry out lengthy kinetic research, for example, by following the state of a particular reference sample on a microplate and performing a pre-programmed operation (e.g. adding reagent) when the reference cells have reached a certain stage of growth. The device measures the response to the reagent after a time of your choosing.
Using a multimode reader also allows for a nearly simultaneous injection and measurement of wells, which is almost impossible to do manually. When carried out by people, there is unavoidable variation in the timing of the injection and measurement between individual wells.
Laboratory automation streamlines research
Automating laboratory functions and combining equipment brings huge benefits, especially when working with large sample volumes:
- Saves on purchases
- Saves on maintenance
- Saves space
- Frees up human resources
- Speeds up analysis
- Reduces human error
- Reduces human variation
- Improves workplace ergonomics
- Improves workplace safety
- Reduces reagent costs
- Enables lengthy research
- Enables simultaneous operations