April 12, 2013 by Kevin Keras
Who’s Minding The Store?
It has been said that the French love Jerry Lewis. Books have even been written about it (well, at least one book). I would not presume to question French culture…however even Jerry’s old partner Dean Martin sang “Everbody loves somebody sometime…”
Still, when French scientists need to automate ‘cell culture‘ and other time or temperature sensitive assays, they (and researchers from many nations) require automated storage devices (…all that for a ‘store’ reference?)
One of the more common instruments that enable extended walkaway time (the ability to automate multiple plate runs of any given assay) is the automated incubator. Actually, the term incubator is a bit on a misnomer as these “plate hotels” can have a variety of temperature and/or humidity ranges that enable their use in a wide variety of assays. To further complicate that definition, said plate hotels can also be used to store plate lids, tip boxes and tube racks.
Ambient – Perhaps the most common of all plate storage devices, ambient hotels can be as simple the removable storage racks found on plate mover robots such as theCaliper/PE Twister II or the PAA KiNEDx or even dedicated plate stackers like the Thermo FisherRapidStak. Many plate reader companies (Molecular Devices, BioTek, BMG Labtech…etc) also offer dedicated ambient stacker options. Additionally, Liconic, , Agilent,Hi-Res Bio and Thermo Fisher(Kendro/Hereaus) also offer stacker hotels with built-in elevators/plate presenters that are also used in their temp/humidity controlled devices. Hi-Res Bio also offers the PicoServe for robot arm access. For the most part, users only need to consider if their assays require random access of individual plates or stacked storage (one plate on top on another). Stacking plate racks follow what is known as a LIFO or Last In, First Out paradigm. This is great for empty plates that will be fed into a system for simple tasks such as plate replication or reformatting. Some folks even use this as a means of eliminating lids, as the plate above acts as the lid for the plate below – top plate is a blank). Random access racks (individual plate holders) are great for assays where you need to treat each plate uniquely such as hit picking or ELISA. Plate racks come in portrait or landscape orientation and some devices allow for bar code verification or delidding options.
Heated/Cooling – Options start to become more limited when you need environmental control. Small batch options include self-contained single plate devices from InHeco, which can be stacked on top of each other as well as recirculating fluid locators fromMéCour. MéCour also offers a recirculating fluid jacket for Twister II racks. For more than a handful of plates, there are three well established providers;
- Liconic – For well over a decade, this little juggernaut from Lichtenstein has created a formidable offering of products, all designed for liquid handler or robot manipulator access. They also offer ambient hotels that utilize many of the core components used in their environmental models. The range of products covers just about any application you can come up with! Just a word of caution, depending upon the age of the instrument, you may find that there are design variations that can make post sales support challenging.
- Thermo Fisher -Thermo acquired Kendro in 2005 and carried on the Cytomat/Heraeus (and Sorvall) product lines. Originally, the Heraeus products were co-developed with Liconic and shared many common components and needs, but more recent products are of a completely new design.
- Hi-Res Biosolutions – a relative newcomer to storage, but a very impressive line of products ranging from the 8 position Plate Chill cooled racks to high-capacity plate or tube storage.
End users, OEM’s and system integrators have a wide variety of choices when it comes to extending assay walk-away time. The French may indeed love Jerry Lewis but researchers love having time to perform higher value tasks due to the reliability of plate storage devices.