1. Home
  2. Solutions
  3. Laboratory
  4. Liquid Handling
Liquid Handling

Smooth and precise motion control is essential for reasonable liquid handling. With Trinamic's s-shaped ramps, samples can be processed at extremely high rates without spillages.

Robotic Liquid Handling: Lab Automation with Micro-Stepping Motors

liquid handling

Medical testing, analytical chemistry and biological experimentation are three critical life science applications that require daily, high-volume pipetting and liquid handling. Pipetting is the process of suctioning (or aspirating) a small amount of liquid into a syringe, moving the sample to another receptacle, and then dispensing the sample in precise quantities into the second receptacle.

Scientists, lab and medical technicians can spend hours every day performing this simple, yet tedious task that is prone to errors. With the advent of low-cost stepper motors, pipetting robots are now cost effective and compact enough to be found in even the smallest laboratory or medical office.

Recently a lab automation developer turned to Trinamic for assistance with the design of their new pipetting robot targeted at small labs, remote field locations and individual medical offices. The system was designed for low-cost and minimal footprint, while satisfying the same precision requirements of more expensive pipetting robots used in large laboratories.

By reducing both cost and footprint, this system now delivers pipetting robotics for qPCR applications in multiple de-centralized settings. Precisely apportioning liquid DNA samples into multiple pipette beakers, qPCR is a technique widely used for detecting and isolating infectious disease strains (influenza-typing, for instance), bacteria contamination in food or the presence of genetically modified organisms.

Working closely with its customers' engineers, Trinamic developed a custom motion control board that incorporates Trinamic’s triple-axis TMC429 motion controller, a TMC424 feedback resolution encoder, and four TMC262 microstepping motor drivers. The easily fabricated board design enables the system to deliver precise, vibration-free, three-dimensional pipette arm motion with an office-friendly noise level below 50dB. The use of power-efficient ICs enables the system to operate without a cooling fan, reducing maintenance costs, while eliminating a source of sound and vibration.

Trinamic assisted its customer by porting the board design to a mid-volume contract manufacturing partner, reducing system time-to-market. By automating the pipetting function, liquid handing robots significantly increase staff safety, experimental repeatability, error minimization and operational throughput. Stepper motors have proven well suited for managing precise 3D robotic arm movement, as well as the even more demanding precision required for pipette syringe pump liquid aspiration and dispensing.