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Principles of computer-controlled linear motion applied to an open-source affordable liquid handler for automated micropipetting


Florian DCDavid C , Odziomek MMateusz , Ock CLCerie L , Chen HHannah , Guelcher SAScott A . Scientific reports. 2020 8 12; 10(1). 13663


OTTO is an open-source automated liquid handler that can be fabricated at a cost of $1,500 using off-the-shelf and 3D-printable parts as an alternative to commercial devices. Open-source approaches have been applied to build syringe pumps, centrifuges, and other laboratory equipment. These devices are affordable but generally rely on a single motor to perform simple operations and thus do not fully utilize the potential of the Maker Movement. Open-source linear actuators and microcontrollers enable the fabrication of more complex laboratory instruments that rely on 3D positioning and accurate dispensing of fluids, such as automated liquid handlers. These instruments can be built rapidly and affordably, thereby providing access to highly reproducible sample preparation for common biological assays such as qPCR. We applied the design principles of speed and accuracy, unattended automation, and open-source components to build an automated liquid handler that controls micropipetting of liquids in 3D space at speeds and positional resolutions required for qPCR. In benchmarking studies, OTTO showed accuracy and sample preparation times comparable to manual qPCR. The ability to control linear motion and liquid dispensing using affordable off-the-shelf and 3D-printable parts can facilitate the adoption of open-source automated liquid handlers for qPCR, bioplotting, and other bioinstrumentation applications.