Pipetting, a standard laboratory procedure to transfer fluids, is routinely performed in life science experiments as well as in research and development labs in the chemicals, foods, materials, and paints industries.
There are different types of pipettes such as fixed volume and variable volume pipettors, and single channel and multichannel pipettes. While single-channel pipettes use one tip at a time, the variable volume model is extremely versatile and can be used for many applications as the tip type can be changed from standard to wide bore for more accurate dispensing of viscous liquids. The multichannel instruments are widely used in ELISA, PCR, cell culture and other microplate applications. In electronic multichannel pipettes, a contoured plunger electronically activates pipetting activity. These electronic devices provide significant ergonomic benefit in operations that require repetitive pipetting.
Surveys to identify trends and developments in pipette usage reveal interesting facts on the frequency of use of the instrument, common errors, and factors driving next purchase. The following are some of the key findings of a survey conducted recently by Scientist magazine which involved more than 530 life-science researchers:
- Up to 34% of the respondents – the largest number – said they use a pipette for 1 to 2 hours per day; 28% spent more than 3 hours/day, 20% spent 2-3 hours/day , 28% spent more than 3 hours/day, and 18% less than 1 hour/day on pipetting
- 55% of the respondents cite human error as the major source of pipetting errors, followed by liquids sticking to the tips (50%), and loss of accuracy when working with viscous liquids (44%). Other factors identified as responsible for errors include: immersed tips carry over liquid, surface tension, pipettes take up more liquid, liquids evaporate, and liquid temperature
- Reliability and accuracy and the availability of tips and accessories were the most important factors influencing purchase decisions. Other factors impacting the purchase decision are durability, low maintenance/easy to clean, ergonomic operation, price service and support, and warranties
- New purchase is mainly driven by the need to replace an old model
Such surveys provide useful information for pipette manufacturers who strive to improve the user experience with effective design and ergonomics best practices.