In my new position, I am starting to design our automation platform from scratch and have the option to go with either a Tecan or Hamilton liquid handler. I am fairly familiar with capabilities of Hamilton Vantages and STARs having developed multiple workflows in Venus over the past few years, but my knowledge of Tecans software and hardware is limited. I am however motivated and have support to learn a new system if the juice is worth the squeeze.
We will be doing basic combinatorial pipetting to set up small volume fermentation reactions, normalizations, colony picking, and enzyme assays to start off but anticipate additional workflows in the future so flexibility is a plus. I am told that colony picking is not available on the Vantage platform yet, so it looks like I will need to choose between a Hamilton STAR and a Tecan Fluent.
If anyone with experience regarding these liquid handlers could share their insight about relative cost, post sale support, ease of programming, software capabilities, ease of peripheral integration, or any additional info that may be helpful in making a call between a Hamilton STAR and a Tecan Fluent, I would love to hear it!
SciRobotics Scirobotics Pickolo can be used for picking on Tecan instruments (never used so I can’t vouch for the hardware, but @Shaik can probably answer some questions for you!)
Hamilton also offers the EasyPick, which @NickHealy_Hamilton wrote a great summary about!
If you’re doing colony picking on a liquid handler, just be aware that the consumable burn can get pretty crazy pretty fast. This might make Tecan a slightly more attractive option due to cheaper 3rd party tips, but an additional dedicated picking instrument might make more sense once you sit down and do the math (check out this thread for some great responses I got when I asked this question.)
As far as support, I’ve had great experience with the Hamilton folks (many of whom are very active here!) and so so experience with Tecan folks, but this will probably depend a lot on your region.
If you’ve already got Hamilton experience and like what you’ve seen, my personal opinion is that you’d probably be best served sticking with that since you’ve already conquered the learning curve. You can achieve similar results and get way under the hood with both, but the strategies are different and not necessarily transferrable. As far as Tecans, I’ve only worked with EVOs, but I know there’s a wealth of Fluent knowledge here, I’ve seen posts from @luisvillaautomata @MikeMueller and @smohler, so they might be able to chime in!
First off, I totally vouch for SciRobotics which makes the colony picking solution in the Tecan Fluent and Evo platforms (along with other image-based technologies like blood layer separation, also Petri plating). They are a small group of extremely capable software guys and also provide really top notch customer support. Shai Kaplan is phenomenal!
The Fluent platform is outstanding. Generally, in my experience, the Fluent software will require significantly fewer lines of script to accomplish a task than programming a similar workflow in Venus. But it sounds like you’ve already overcome the Venus learning curve which is typically a significant part of the calculus.
Cost wise typically a STAR will cost less for the instrument than a Fluent but tip cost on Hamilton may be higher. But it’s important keep in mind the STAR and Evo are more in the same class, whereas the Fluent and Vantage are in similar classes, so comparing Fluent to STAR is not exactly an apples to apples comparison.
Thanks for the ping @LukeWitt
Just wanted to quickly add during lunch @PhilAuto that I love the way you’re thinking about this decision. You’re looking for the best tool for your challenges and sometimes the best tool isn’t necessarily what you’re the best at or most familiar with. Furthermore, oftentimes people try to bend those familiar tools to their whim in ways that don’t make sense and it ends up causing a whole new set of issues. This is where sometimes dedicated equipment is the way to go.
If and when you reach out to vendors, be upfront about what you’re trying to do. The more honest and the more you share, the better equipped they will be to give you feedback about what they can offer out of the box. They may even reveal a bit about things in the pipeline/roadmap that can help you out in 6 months -1 year.
Also want to quickly add that SciRobotics tools are incredible, I’m always looking forward to what @Shaik and the team will build in the future!
@evwolfson Any thoughts on this subject? I know that you’ve used both. I’ve also used both but I’ll need some time to write up my thoughts tbh.
Having worked with both platforms in small workcells to big integration projects there is really not much to separate the two. I was in the same position ten years ago having only worked on Hamiltons and then switched to mainly using Tecan’s. Disclaimer I currently work for Tecan.
I have often favoured the Tecan’s as I have built up more knowledge on making the system do exactly what I need them to do, in terms of movement and speed. Plus it feels more like an open programming platform for integration so I have never felt limited in application or completely reworking a machine for something completely different.
I find the Tecan’s easier to pass on to others to refine and validate protocols. In the past I have been stuck in companies as the only person to do validation work on Hamiltons and the UI put people off from even trying to learn.
On that note the EVO and Fluent software is licensed free for offline use so you should be able to get hold of an early version to freely play around and learn with a simulated instrument. This is how I learn to program Tecans when I was making the switch from Hamiltons.
Note it takes a bit of setup to simulate but I am pretty sure anyone in the Tecan service groups would happily help you out remotely. For me it was the best way to learn, build universal worktable and test out process for optimisation.
TL:DR I’d likely go with Hamilton unless you have an insider on the Tecan side of things, such as an FAE colleague or open source of communication with one of the Tecan scripting legends who can solve anything and everything.
I’d echo everything @HarenArul said - also with the caveat that I think it’s way easier to learn Hamilton then Tecan rather than the other way around. Those sequences are hard to conceptualize after using direct source->destination scheme like what’s on EVOware/FluentControl
Tecan is great. Their UI is fantastic; a lot of overengineered swiss-german genius is forefront when you start working on their systems. I also tend to gravitate towards Tecan since that forms the larger part of my personal experience. However, I think there’s such an insurmountable gap in Tecan knowledge that is hidden away in the Te-Wiki and it’s completely inaccessible to actual customers. The information in that wiki is so absolutely crucial to high-level functionality and understanding that it just feels like anyone who wasn’t previously an FAE is fighting an uphill battle. Hamilton, on the other hand, is fairly free with their knowledge sharing (e.g., this forum) with the understood caveat that “you need to be careful with advanced commands” whereas Tecan takes the “You can’t break it if you don’t know how” approach. Point Hamilton.
If you end up talking to either vendor, try to find an applications specialist or engineer and have a candid chat about capabilities. Maybe ask them directly about how they would strategize implementing a solution to your particular problem or lab process. If you ask if something is possible or easy, sales people will generally say “yes” to just about everything; It’s different when you talk to the folks that actually have to turn “yes” into a tangible solution.
Also +1 for @Shaik - I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with him several times in my career. The products are phenomenal and the support is equally amazing. True undisputed professionals at work.
What is the Te-Wiki? I’ve never heard of this arcane knowledge
Tecan’s internal knowledge base. It’s amazing, but completely off-limits to outsiders - not without good reason as there’s likely proprietary knowledge and/or really reliable ways to break things.
Do outsiders include customers?
I’m also interested in this Te-Wiki…
Te-Wiki an internal knowledge base and is a way FAS and FSE can update on in field fixes or report on novel fixes or best practices. It is internal use as it has confidential information but from my experience if you ask the Helpdesk, FAS or FSE they are happy to share focused information to resolve an issue.
Like any database search you just need it ask the right question or log a service ticket for someone to seek this out. You just cannot be published technical assessment to the public as they can be misinterpreted or misused to invalid a warranty.
Tecan have recently built a more public version where some of the most up voted TeWiki content is being posted as documents or webinars: Tecan Knowledge Portal
However, it needs some customer driven feedback to help direct content like any platform. So please feel free to feedback.
As a side I would also sign up for free to the recent release Tecan Academy Global Teach where more webinars and online training is being centralised for customer and employees. This is all an effort based on customer feedback to provide more information about systems and access to training videos. I will try and also put links in the Automation Wiki as it seem not to be common knowledge these resources exist.