Curious if anyone has any experience with these systems. Often the unspoken horrors of our industry is the amount of single-use plastic waste we generate, so finding a solution to wash and reuse our tips is extremely compelling. Now that COVID has shined a light on how fragile our supply chains are and with inflation pushing up prices of literally everything, the adoption of these systems starts to make sense on a business standpoint even without the reduction of our carbon footprint.
I was wondering if anyone here has looked into or adopted them into their labs. Any quirks? Anything that’ll make this a non-starter? I know they are incompatible with filter tips, but there are ways around that. How quickly did you guys see savings?
No experience myself, but in a previous job we did look into the IonField System: Plasma Cleaning - IonField Systems and PureTIP LHC - IonField Systems. Seemed pretty robust fron the sounds on a different automation forum, but from a business case perspective, you needed a lot of tip consumption to defend the investment in this tip cleaning tech.
It’s amazing to me that there are the only two games in town when it comes to automated recycling. The Grenova system is a lot more complete than the IonField system - you buy a green box, plug it in and go. It uses chemistry to clean, and from everything I’ve heard it works well. I’ve been told that there here are hundreds of systems out there working today. Honestly, I don’t understand why they aren’t more common, but maybe cost - I don’t know anyone that has crunched the numbers.
I worked with IonField during the Great Covid Tip Shortage. Their system is much more aggressive, using plasma to clean the tips. It takes a degree of fine tuning to get it set up to work with a particular consumable but then it’s fast, thorough, and uses no special chemistry. But you can’t just buy one and use it out of the box.
AFAIK, Ionfield has some success with filter tips, and Grenova doesn’t currently offer a solution. But I know Grenova was working on a filter tip solution so it would pay to give them a call if you need that.
It is amazing that this hasn’t caught on as much as I thought. I am doing some number crunching and at 90% reduced plastic consumption, the ROI is easily under 2 years. It’s hard to find an instrument with that kind of ROI. Carbon footprint reduction aside, the amount of money saved on lab supplies and the reduced stress on supply chain make it almost a no-brainer. I thought I’d ask around here to see if there’s some sort of caveat to those numbers. I guess the caveat is no filter tips. I also don’t consider our group here that high in tip consumption. You can imagine a diagnostics company that blows through tons of tip boxes daily can save millions within a year.
I’ve never heard of the IonField. Maybe I should take a look at that too. Seems more like an instrument used per liquid handling station though, and not a whole lab washing system.
I don’t have any experience using the Grenova tip washer, but I have talked with them in the past about their offerings.
This is my main takeaways:
I think the two main quirks is that when you use the tips in a method on an automated liquid handler you have to drop them back into the tip rack or have someone dedicated to putting the tips back into a tip rack for you to wash them. This was the biggest hassle for us, since we have validated methods that throw out the tips into a waste bin and reprograming the methods and revalidation was a blocker.
The other quirk is tracking how many times you can use the tip. You’ll need to create a system to track the amount of times the tips were used and barcode the tip racks if they are not barcoded already. I don’t recall if they are introducing a software to do this automatically for you.
I think the other thing that’s not talked about is when you buy a tip washer, you also need a storage solution until you are ready to use the tips. So you probably will have to buy their storage solution and their tip carriers.
Also FYI there was an SLAS Technology Idea Exchange webinar on the “Challenges to Consumable Reuse” which I thought was pretty interesting. They talked about both products and other areas of concern… like the psychological concerns labs will undoubtedly having about reusing tips.
Regarding the incompatibility with filter tips, I think there is a strong tendency to use filter tips for applications where it’s non necessary. With good liquid class optimization, you can get away with unfiltered tips for loads of work (at least in air displacement systems, not sure i’d trust a Tecan LiHa to not leak system liquid…), which circumvents this issue. The biggest hurdle is getting over the “psychological concerns” as Luis put it.
One thing I rarely see talked about for reducing consumable waste is tip consolidation. I think it’s pretty common for partially used racks to get tossed rather than consolidated to make new full racks. Hamilton offers a (slightly quirky) library to accomplish some basic tip consolidation, but it would be great to see this emphasized more.
More complex but in a similar vein would be tracking well usage on labware that is only partially filled. For example, I’ve toyed around with the idea of tracking used wells in quant plates, which are often 384 well but only filled with 96 samples. Ideally the used wells of a plate could be tracked so that the plate could be used completely before being tossed. Haven’t had the time to tackle this one yet though.
That’s a great point about the 384 plates. In addition, often labs will use an intermediate plates as a transfer point from single channel tubes to 8 channel plates and I imagine that the vast majority of those aren’t being optimized for maximum usage.
Also anyone throwing away partial tip racks in 2022 is insane.
We tested them in our lab and did a very detail study about cleaning and cross contamination and it turn out they work really well. We are re-using them all the time.
I will be happy to answers any particular questions, if anyone has questions
I have seen labs use these tip washers during COVID and they dodged the supply chain mess that a lot of us went through.
They save $
They add an additional set of equipment(costs, PMs, space, cleaning reagents?, training and so on)
They potentially add additional steps to validation
They help save the whales by reducing the worlds plastic
Overall a good and unique solution from a very good company.
I am an advocate of what they are doing and where they are going.
I would add that both the Grenova and IonField Systems can be integrated into larger automation systems. Grenova is an OEM partner of Biosero and they offer a complete solution Automated TipNovus (ATN). Biosero has also integrated the IonField into a larger automation platform. These solutions can implement these in line with automated processes.
I’ll add that another quirk I hadn’t thought about but is a no-brainer with the Grenova system is that you’re pretty much limited to washing hanging tips. We are using a Bravo and integrating them into larger systems as well and if you want to wash Bravo tips you have reformat your tips into a hanging tip format. You can’t take a closed box and wash it in a Grenova system. Which once I saw how it worked was stupid for me to think that you ever could have washed tips in closed boxes.
So now if I want to wash Bravo tips I have to transfer them from the normal tip box to a specially designed open tip box that can be supplied by Grenova. Same thing would be needed for Beckman tips and possibly Tecan MCA tips as well.
As others have brought up there’s also the concern about tracking reuse. This only becomes more complex when you have to reformat the tip boxes to begin with. I’d reuse the special open boxes indefinitely, but would want to reuse the tips themselves only X number of times. Good luck tracking that efficiently.
Yeah I’ve thought about the logistics of implementation as well. Implementing a tip tracking system/barcoding shouldn’t be difficult, but it is an extra added logistical issue. These whole-lab solutions needs everyone in the lab to row in the same direction to successfully be implemented. Having scientists reconfigure their brain to huck tips into a used tip-box rather than the trash can be difficult on a compliance standpoint. But barring that, the systems seem pretty ingenious. For me, I’m worried about validating a good cleaning protocol that would encompass all liquid types across the whole lab. I know people use things like bleach and alcohol for cleaning and maybe caustic for sanitization. But I’m wondering how people tackle stuff like goopy protein and cell/cell debris solutions, particularly ones that have sat out and dried a bit. Anyone tried using common cleaning solutions like Tergazyme or any of the Alconox branded cleaning solutions?