An Economical Arduino-based Automated Pipetting Solution

An Economical Arduino-based Automated Pipetting Solution

The aim of this work is to offer a reliably functioning automated pipetting system at a cost as low as that of a 3D-printer assembly kit.

In many labs, pipetting is a time consuming and laborious work, inevitably subjected to a range of human factors. Although automatic pipetting equipment can intrinsically overcome a variety of manual pipetting limitations while producing more accurate and consistent results, its lack of affordability can become a constrain for this beneficial technology from being used in various laboratory operations.

To mitigate economic burden associated with current robotic liquid handling systems, an Arduino-controlled pipetting head, accommodating conventional handheld pipettes, has been developed as illustrated in Figure 1 and 2.

|500x332 Figure 1: Pipetting head (detailed view)

|500x332 Figure 2: Pipetting head (total view)

The pipetting head is capable of performing aspiration, dispensing, and tip disposal. Tip loading is accomplished by attaching the pipetting head to a linear Z-axis. The Z-axis is installed on an XY-carriage (Figure 3), representing a Cartesian coordinate robot.

|500x332 Figure 3: Cartesian coordinate robotic system

Various pipettes can be mounted on the pipetting head. As a result, the here presented pipetting system does not require vendor-specific consumables, tips, racks or plates.

The pipetting workstation is controlled by the Xtraduino benchtop Arduino-based microcontroller platform (Figure 4).

|500x332 Figure 4: Xtraduino benchtop Arduino-based microcontroller platform (in timer mode), SD card slot and USB connectivity on the left side

Pipetting instructions are stored on an SD card in a text-editable file format, allowing pipetting procedures to be designed and carried out according to numerous, freely programmable protocols.

Combining economical and readily commercially available parts with laser cut acrylic components enables the design of automated pipetting solutions that require low funding, similar to the investment needed for 3D-printer kits. Therefore, the benefits of pipetting workstations may be utilized in a wider range of lab applications, leading to more reproducible, less error-prone data while freeing labor forces and increasing lab productivity.

Supporters and collaborators wanted

The Xtraduino pipetting project is actively searching for collaborators who see a potential in the development of such low-cost automated pipetting solutions, wish to reduce human error, minimize intra- and inter-operator variances, and increase lab efficiency of high throughput reoccurring pipetting tasks while maintaining accurate and consistent results.

The project is welcoming collaborators who have interest in establishing case studies of implementation as well as studies on the impact of this technology on workforce well-being, data quality, and lab economy.

For your inputs and comments, please kindly contact:

Sounds like a good project!

2 questions pop up (in fact many more but these are on top)

1) Will this be a commercial product or an open source one? 2) How do you cover (legal) liability?

Dear Rob,

Thank you for your good questions.

At this stage, the project is emphasizing on engineering and application.

After further progress, the focus will shift toward addressing liability. Currently, there is an ongoing discussion on which liability options are in the best interest of the project.


and Q1 ?

Whether the Xtraduino pipetting solution leads to a commercial or an open source outcome will depend on which of these concepts contributes in the most suitable way to the intended benefits of the project.

Engineering and application challenges are currently prioritized.

I can do a code review as I have some experience with Arduino ...

Thank you. Your offer is appreciated.

The project is looking for supporters who see promise in economical automated pipetting solutions and wish to engage in the further development of this technology by identifying application opportunities (e.g. alleviating repetitive strain injury), carrying out preliminary field tests, and trial implementations.

van Tulder M, Malmivaara A, Koes B. Repetitive strain injury. Lancet 2007; 369 (9575): 1815-22

Xtraduino: This sounds like a good idea to bring lower cost automation to labs that can't afford the existing off the shelf solutions.

I have many years of experience writing software to control pipetting in automated medical instruments. As I'm sure you're aware, controlling the pipette aspirate and dispense action is only part of the problem. In order to achieve high rates of precision, the Z-action of the pipette also should be controlled (doing a fluid touch off, or dispense in air, or against the side of the vessel or tray). Without controlling these variables, there may be unacceptable CV (coefficient of variation) over a number of dispenses.

Does your design address this, or is the Z-axis motion only for disposable tip attachment or removal? Or is it not a concern in this application? I can see that if the primary motivation is to reduce RSI, then improving precision may not be very important.

Dear cedarlakeinstruments,

You make a very good point.

  1. Yes, accuracy, reproducibility and coefficient of variation are paramount.

Aforementioned parameters must be monitored and adequately controlled during lab procedures. The Xtraduino pipetting system is no exception and capable of addressing such challenges.

  1. While beneficial applications of affordable automated pipetting solutions include mitigation of repetitive strain injury, they are not limited to it.