A Beginner’s Guide to Automated Liquid Handling


As the buzz around AI increases, you might be wondering: should I automate some of my lab processes?

We’ve put together a little beginner’s guide to help you on your way.

Please read on and see how you can utilize the power of modern technology with instruments like flowbot® ONE.

What is automated liquid handling?

Automated liquid handling is the process of transferring liquid from one place to another with a pipetting robot as opposed to performing pipetting manually.

While manual pipetting might seem like a simple task, it is time-consuming, strenuous, and it can be difficult to reach a high accuracy when working with very low volumes.

On top of that, there is an increased risk of contamination when handling samples manually.

Those are some of the main reasons why labs of all sizes are beginning to automate.

Who needs automated liquid handling?

Traditionally, automation has been used mainly in large high-throughput labs.

But in this day and age, lab automation is inclusive and encompasses labs of all sizes in the pursuit of scientific excellence.

As the fast-paced scientific advancements of today’s society drive labs to become more efficient and more agile, they will turn to automation to advance their performance.

Smaller and mid-sized labs can especially benefit from increased efficiency, enhanced accuracy, cost- and time savings. The ability to be highly scalable cannot be underestimated, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In that way, automation is not about replacing people but rather about giving people the tools that they need to perform at their highest level.

What you can automate

Liquid handling robots are used in a wide range of applications. Some easily automated applications are:

  • PCR and qPCR
  • Next Generation Sequencing
  • Biobanking
  • ELISA prep.
  • Compound management (normalization, dilution, sample aliquoting etc.)

We generally recommend looking into automation if you have more than one time-consuming pipetting task per week.

The flowbot® ONE is by far the easiest robot I’ve ever programmed.

Florian Werner, Lab Automation Specialist, AniCon

Book a meeting

Book a meeting with our experts to discuss your pipetting needs.

It is not just easier and faster for us. It is also better for the NGS projects and guarantees less contamination and better reproducibility, which we really appreciate as scientists.

Rasmus Riemer Jakobsen, PhD student, Copenhagen University of Food Science

How should you automate?

There are different stages of automation. Most labs start with a single instrument and scale up along the way.

Simple automation could be a standalone liquid handler that can handle your pipetting for you. While it requires you to place the components on the deck yourself, the liquid transfer is otherwise completely automated. There will also often be the option of integrating a robot arm to move the plates on and off the liquid handler.

This is a popular choice in small to mid-sized labs as they are much more flexible and user-friendly than the fully automated workstations.

On the other side of the fence, you’ll find the fully automated workstation. They can perform end-to-end automation by moving components to and from the different instruments with grippers and robot arms.

This will give you much less hands-on time and is a great solution in large labs that handle a huge number of samples in a protocol that never changes. However, as opposed to stand-alone instruments, they are complex, expensive, and often not adjustable by the user.

How do you get started?

Begin by thoroughly understanding the principles of automated liquid handling and identifying the liquid handling needs in your lab.

Once you have an idea of how automation can fit into your workflow, you can start looking at the types of liquid handlers that meet those needs.

This is where demos come into play. Most companies, like us, will offer free demos so you can get clear on the best solution for your specific lab.

In our experience, opting for a simpler solution before advancing to more complex processes are a surefire way to get a smooth take-off and leave no one behind.

The next step will most likely be to create your protocol and implement it in the lab. This might seem like a big fish to fry, but companies like Flow Robotics are here to help you with all of that. This goes for training your staff as well.

All in all, implementing automation can be a simple shift and you do not need to be the expert. While robots might seem like a big change, they will ultimately make your life super easy.

Our solution

Our liquid handler, flowbot® ONE, is designed to help you not just here and now but also in the future.

What does that mean?

It means that it is so easy to use that it can be programmed by anyone. It also means that it is so flexible that it can be adjusted to fit several different protocols so your lab can stay agile.

Flowbot® ONE was developed with the user in mind.

We designed the market’s most intuitive user interface that is fully adjustable by the user and built our high quality hardware up around that. Then we added a dash of Danish design.

The result is an effective instrument that can be the pride and joy of any modern lab.

We offer local support around the world to make your automation journey as simple as possible.

Would you like to see flowbot® ONE in action?