Benefits and challenges of automated sample preparation

Stefan Gafner introduces the latest technology for the automated sample preparation of solids

Sample in: answer out – it should be that simple. Although this is possible for some analytical methods such as routine titration, it is not yet possible for separating analytical methods such as high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

Sample preparation is still the biggest bottleneck and is also considered as one of the biggest challenges. Laboratory technicians spend more than 60% of their time on sample preparation and documentation. This is only because a huge part of the sample preparation is done manually. Imagine the potential time savings if sample preparation is automated.

Apart from improved efficiency, there are other at least equally important aspects that highlight the importance of automated sample preparation. These are the increasing demands for traceability and thus for documentation. In addition, unavoidable human errors can be excluded.

The current situation with Covid-19 clearly shows that further automation is the right strategy. The good news is that there are several automation solutions for laboratories already available. Liquid handling or pipetting robots are widely used and accepted today because their advantages are well known. But why have none of the currently available automated sample preparation technologies and systems become well-established in the market?

There are various reasons for this lack of wide adoption. First is that the gain in efficiency is small, as samples are processed sequentially. Additionally, cleaning between samples consumes large amounts of solvent and requires additional time. And finally, automated cleaning of different modules is challenging and the likelihood of carry-over and cross-contamination is high.

The lack of simple standard solutions has led to the development of various machines specially designed for individual applications. Such systems are only sustainable if a large quantity of identical or similar samples is available. Otherwise the costs of such an investment bear no relation to the benefits.

accroma labtec has taken up the challenge and with its new technology is introducing a simple standard sample preparation robot to the market. The specially developed sample preparation vessels allow parallel working – several samples can be processed at the same time. Each of the samples to be prepared could even have different preparation methods. A user has nearly unlimited possibilities to combine the different steps: weighing, shaking (milling, extracting, mixing), dispensing, pipetting, filter, HPLC analysis, and centrifugation.

With accrotubes, there is no need to clean the mill or the extraction vessel. As a result, carry-over and cross-contamination are avoided and enormous time-saving is achieved.

Various applications have already shown that the use of HPLC or UHPLC instruments can be increased. Results are available on the same day, as samples are prepared in parallel to the analysis.

Highly qualified employees no longer have to spent most of their time on routine work. And working hours are no longer a limiting factor. Automation helps to increase the productive time of lab instruments.

Improve traceability with automated sample preparation

The ultimate benefit is to science itself. Automated sample preparation automatically leads to more detailed and accurate documentation that proves the correctness of the results.
Stefan Gafner is CEO of accroma labtec

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