Tag Archives: pipette

Gilson Pipetman M : Review

Apologies on the long overdue review, but I’ve been a bit distracted with science and life over the last few weeks.

I was loaned a P200 from the Gilson Pipetman M range by my Fisher Scientific rep a few weeks back. If you’re used to the manual Gilsons (they were all I had during my undergraduate years), the Pipetman M will look very familiar. The form of the pipette is essentially the same, with the plunger replaced by a big button. The display is also different, instead of being numbers like on a car speedo, there’s a sharp digital display on the top of the pipette. Apart from the big button, there’s a smaller button for changing modes, and that’s about it. The tip ejector is the same, and the pipette feels as light as the manual Gilsons dotted around the lab.
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VWR e-pipette: Review

So today I got to try an electronic pipette, specifically this model. The local rep very kindly arranged a loan of a 0.5-10uL and a 10-200uL set of them (serious kudos to the rep though, he’s the only person to find me samples to actually trial).

The instruction manual I was loaned was pretty basic, covered everything you need to know, these are the buttons and this is how to set the functions. I couldn’t figure out how to set the reverse-mode for standard pipetting, but I imagine there’s more if I had gone poking through the settings.

The pipettes don’t need a fancy charging stand, you can just plug them in and bung em in a drawer. However, you can’t use them while they’re charging, which is a potential drawback.

Now for the moment of truth: are they any use at pipetting and how are they for arthritic hands…

As they were a loan of someone’s working set, I just trialed them with water and a balance (can’t be contaminating someone else’s stuff!). They pipette grand, they’re easy to programme and the various mixing/multidispense/normal modes work grand.

And for my hands? Not much use unfortunately, after about five minutes of playing with them, my wrist started to hurt and I found it difficult to get a comfortable grip on the pipette itself. The aspirate/dispense button is around the back of the main barrel of the pipette and the tip-ejector button is directly on the front. In order to operate the aspirate/dispense button with my finger, I had to hold my hand away from the pipette, which was not comfortable, essentially I could press the button OR hold the pipette comfortably. I had no problems with the tip ejector, which is good as that can be a problem for regular pipette usage (for those times when you REALLY JAM ON THE TIP).

All in all, it’s not comfortable for my hands but it seems like an ok pipette otherwise. At €380 (.ie list price) for a single pipette, it’s not overly expensive for an electronic one but you’d still want to be happy with what you’re buying. Sadly, I’m going to have to continue looking….

Window Shopping for e-pipettes

One of the most important parts of any good experiment is to have high quality equipment, stands to reason. It’s important to have the best quality equipment you can get (afford).  The big instruments that do the heavy duty analysis go out to tender and have maintenance contracts on them, so you can generally rest easy that they’ll be doing the right thing.  The smaller bits and pieces can have a bigger impact on results than you might expect.

One of the key pieces of preparatory equipment in the biology laboratory is the micro-pipette.  It’s a straightforward enough concept, you jam a disposable tip onto one end and the pipette can suck some of the volume out of the tip and thus suck up liquid.  The pipettes are callibrated so you can suck up and dispense very specific and tiny amounts of liquid.

Manual pipettes such as this on the right:

gilson pipette

A gilson manual pipette. Great pipette but terrible on arthritic thumbs.

rely on a spring to move the piston in the pipette to a “sucked up” position. So to empty the tip of air or liquid, you have to press against this spring. Then to suck up the air, you slowly release the pressure to prevent liquid getting sucked up too fast (this is a particular problem with viscous fluids like glycerol).

Working against this spring can be hell on your hands if you have arthritis (or RSI for that matter, which you’ll get from doing too much pipetting).  Electronic pipettes remove this spring problem and use something like a stepper motor instead to move the piston.


I’m currently on the hunt for a set of Good electronic pipettes, that cover the same range of volume dispensing as the manual ones but with a similar or better accuracy/precision.  Despite there being no electronic single channel (multichannel can take many tips and are dead handy) in any of the nearby laboratories, there are a plethora available online, so now the fun part is deciding which ones balance accuracy and precision with cost and ease of use.