Washing microplates may seem a simple task, but depending on the application, plate type, throughput and other factors, the requirements of the plate washer needed can be dramatically different. You will find more information below about types and characteristics of microplate washers, including:
- Type of wash head
- Type of stacker
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Microplate washers can be classified in several ways. The following classifications may be useful to decide what microplate washer to purchase:
Microplate washers by function
Most microplate washers can automate a single function: washing. Of course, they dispense wash buffer, but the dispenser of the wash head has a relatively low precision, and even worse, needs large priming volumes. This makes them a poor choice to dispense expensive reagents, such as antibodies.
Some microplate washers are, in fact,combinations. This kind of plate washers have a dedicated, high-precision dispenser channel, that does not need large volumes of reagent to be primed, and that is suitable to dispense critical reagents. All Zoom washers can be equipped with an optional Dispense Module to become high-performance washer-dispenser combinations.
Some assays, such as, involve more steps than just washing and dispensing. In many cases this means that the user has to perform all other steps manually. In order to automate the full assay, we have developed and other assays; because in some cases, a simple ELISA washer is not enough. This kind of systems can fully automate an ELISA or similar assay involving washing, dispensing, shaking, incubation and reading, from start to end.
Microplate washers by type of washing head
Strip washers normally use an 8-way manifold (less often a 12-way one) as wash head, so they wash columns (or strips) one by one. This makes washing relatively slow. Strip washers are affordable instruments and often lack the functions of full-plate washers. This type of washers is often used as ELISA washers for laboratories handling only one or a few plates per day.
High-performance microplate washers use a full-plate washing head instead of a manifold. Washing 96 wells at a time is much faster than washing strips one by one, and this makes full-plate microplate washers the instrument of choice for time-critical assays and high-throughput applications. Full-plate microplate washers are more expensive than strip washers but have better performance and options; for example, many of them have angled dispensing tips for gentle washing of cells, and are thus the instrument of choice for demanding applications. Theis a good example of full-plate washer: thanks to its 96-channel wash head, it needs only 17 seconds to wash a 96-well plate 3 times with 300 µL.
Microplate washers by stacker type
Depending on the number of plates to be processed per day, it may be useful to use a stacker to stock the plates to be washed and supply the microplate washer.
For laboratories that only wash a few plates per day, the plates can be loaded manually. In this case it is not necessary to use a stacker. Strip washers normally cannot use stackers, and many microplate washers are normally not connected to a stacker.
For high throughput laboratories it is necessary to use stackers so that batches of several plates can be washed unattended. Most manufacturers use external stackers that can be connected to a variety of washers or readers. Although this type of stacker is versatile, it is slow because the plate has to be moved from the stacker to the washer or reader and positioned correctly. This requires high-precision movement and must be performed carefully.
Stackers integrated in the main body of the washer are the fastest option. Theis the only plate washer in the market with integrated stacker. Thanks to its single-rail design, it can wash up to 150 plates per hour (3 times with 300 µL) and is the instrument of choice of high-throughput laboratories, ELISA kit manufacturers and other users needing high performance washing of hundreds of microplates per day.
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