So, it’s time to buy a new pipette and the options are overwhelming. Where do you start?
In this two-part series, we are going to examine single channel and multi-channel pipettes and help you navigate through the options and come out triumphant over this purchasing challenge.
We are going to start our series by examining single channel pipettes and discuss how you can find the best ones for your lab. A pipette purchase may seem small, but the reality is that it is a huge investment for your data quality and for your users. So, finding the right one is critical.
A single channel pipette may be the right choice if your source and destination containers are small, such as twist-top, flip-cap, or conical tubes. However, because single channel pipettes are typically compact in size, they are versatile and can also be used with troughs, or 96-/384-well plates. One drawback is that single channel pipettes can only perform one transfer at a time, therefore they can introduce some ergonomic constraints. There are electronic versions of single channel pipettes available and those will be discussed in more detail below. Multi-channel pipettes are another solution to ergonomic concerns, and those will be discussed in more detail in the next article in this series.
We are not going to focus on any specific brands in this piece as that will be up to you to decide. We will go over pipette types, considerations, and budgeting. Let’s get started!
This is more important than you think as it relates to your users and to the accuracy of the transfer.
Figures 1 & 2 help with selecting adjustable volume vs. fixed volume, and positive displacement vs. air displacement pipette types.
As stated above, single channel pipettes have some ergonomic constraints. If you are going to be using the pipette to complete repeated sequential transfers, an electronic pipette may be more ideal than a manual pipette. An example of a repeated sequential transfer would be transferring master mix from a flip-cap tube to a 96-well plate. Using a manual pipette to do this can add some significant ergonomic strain as it would take 96 individual transfers, whereas with an electronic pipette you could cut this down by one-third or more, depending on the volumes and tip sizes you are working with. Cost will also be a consideration as electronic pipettes can be on the pricey side when compared to manual pipettes.
Table 1. Cost Comparisons
(Manual or Electronic)
(Manual or Electronic)
You may want to research the specifications of the pipette or ask the vendor (see below) about tip recommendations. If the pipette tip does not seat correctly, you can cause damage to the pipette by using excessive force to seat and eject the pipette tip. This topic will be explored more in the next article in this miniseries.
Here are some questions you can pose to the vendor to help you get better acquainted with the recommended care for the pipette. Make sure you take regulatory standards into account as well, and if there are any specific internal requirements (SOPs, training) you need to follow, those would also be good questions to ask the vendor.
Once you have these questions answered, you will need to determine if you are equipped to complete the recommended maintenance on the pipette and how you will handle calibration.
If you have your decision narrowed down to a few options, getting user feedback may be beneficial. Your users can evaluate the specifications and ensure it will meet their safety and application needs. They may have also had previous experience with certain types and can help you make the best decision for your lab.
While the world of pipette purchasing seems overwhelming, you can narrow down your needs by going through a few simple questions, just as we laid out above. The next time you need to buy a pipette…….no problem, you got this!
If you are thinking that you would benefit from a multi-channel pipette, stay tuned for the next article in this series.
Breeann Bryan is a dedicated laboratory professional with a LEAN Six Sigma Black Belt. Her background ranges from the bench to operations management. She is proud to share the knowledge she has gained from her experience and empower others to tackle their process improvement challenges. Whether it’s troubleshooting data quality issues or finding out how to maximize efficiency in the lab, she firmly believes that everyone deserves to have the right tools needed for the job.