Both hand pipetting and automation can be used effectively in a lab that is managing liquid samples. The method to choose depends on the application. This page, as part of our Automated Liquid Handling Guide, has some key factors to help you decide which method is best for your application.

Manual PipettingSemi-AutomationAutomation
Samples Involved Few Dozens Hundreds/Thousands
Throughput Needed Low (5–10 samples per hour) Moderate (11–100 samples per hour) High (100+ samples per hour)
Dead Volume Allowed? Small amount Small to none High Amount
High Reproducibility Needed? No Yes Yes
Are Labor Costs a Concern? No Moderately Yes
Chance of Repetitive Stress Injuries? Yes Some No
Protection from Hazardous/Infectious Samples? No No Yes
Lab scientist manual pippetting

When to Use Manual Pipetting

Hand pipetting using fixed-volume or adjustable-volume pipettes is fast in small applications and only requires the hand of a practiced lab tech instead of extra hardware. While manual pipetting is straightforward, it does introduce risks of technician-to-technician variability.

semi-automation liquid handling with a Hamilton Microlab 600

When to Use Semi-Automation

Semi-automation offers a way for labs to incrementally scale up production and increase reproducibility through liquid handlers that automate certain aspects of sample preparation. Instead of a technician manually setting volumes on a pipette or keeping track of steps in a method, semi-automated liquid handlers automate those aspects of the work, only requiring the technician to move a hand probe from vessel to vessel.

automatic pipette

When to Use Automation

Full automation is particularly useful for high-throughput applications that require the complete elimination of human movements. Liquid handling platforms, which are capable of processing hundreds of samples simultaneously, are especially valuable in these situations. By automating highly complex methods, liquid handling platforms ensure that samples are processed consistently and without deviation. This improves the accuracy and reproducibility of results and saves time and resources for researchers and laboratories. Additionally, the high throughput capabilities of fully automated systems make them ideal for large-scale screening and analysis projects that require processing a significant number of samples.

Download this information and much more with the Liquid Handling Reference Guide.

A 36-page PDF about everything you need to know about Liquid Handling.

Additional Resources for Automated Liquid Handling

Learn about all of Hamilton Company's Automated Liquid Handling solutions
Check out the homepage of our Automated Liquid Handling Guide
Read our recommendations for Step by Step Automated Liquid Handler Setup
Get our input on the process used to Measure Transferred Liquid Volume
Want to "own" the guide? Click for a PDF Downloadable Liquid Handling Guide
Hamilton Robotics highlights 10 Important Considerations for Accurate Automated Pipetting
Check this out to The Importance of Z-axis Control for Accurate Pipetting
Learn about Automatic XYZ Calibration
Read our advice on Addressing Challenges of Automated Pipetting