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Sciclone ALH 3000 Liquid Handler: Functional Characterization of the High Volume Head - Part 1: Plate-to-Plate Precision Testing

to the instrument settings that are required as a result of the physical properties of the sample. There is no current industry standard to encompass the parameters included in the discussion of this term; however, the volume and speed of aspiration and dispensing are two of the principle components of a liquid class. Additional components often included are calibration curves and air gaps.

Air gaps, in particular pre-sample air gaps, are one of the ways to address backlash. Backlash is the amount of distance, usually expressed in units of volume, which it takes a gear to change direction before a force is applied in the opposite direction. The result of this is that if a gear driven piston is used to aspirate a sample, when it comes time to dispense that sample, if the same number of gear turns (or motor steps) are used in the opposite direction, a small amount will be left in the tip. Similarly, if a dispense action is taken, and then an aspiration is done, at the beginning of the aspiration, no liquid will be drawn. A pre-sample air gap can be used to compensate for the backlash by setting the volume of the air gap to be larger than the backlash of the device. It is also possible to eliminate backlash entirely by aspirating more sample than is required, dispensing an aliquot of this sample back into the source, which is larger than the backlash, and then proceeding with dispensing the sample to the destination. This work employs the latter method and maintains the same aspirating and dispensing speeds for all of the samples tested.

Another variable to consider with automated systems is the travel speed. Fast vertical and horizontal movements may have an effect on precision and accuracy of sample delivery. It is particularly important to retract slowly from the sample when the tips are below the surface, to avoid leaving droplets on the outside of the pipetting device. Typically a setting of 10% of the maximum travel speed (Fig. 1) wa
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