Acoustic Dispensers

Hi all! What have your experiences been with I.DOT, Echo, or other low volume acoustic dispensers? I am wondering if there are some cheaper options than the I.DOT DW that perform well enough.

From some googling, it seems like an Echo 525 is cheaper than the I.DOT DW. The Echo 525 can’t dispense as low volumes (only down to 25 nL while I.DOT DW goes down to 8 nL). And that Echo model isn’t great with 1536 wellplates. Is that accurate for why it might be cheaper?

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The Echo 550 goes down to 2.5nl. I am surprised to hear though that the Echo would be cheaper than the IDOT, as it is quite expensive.
Do you have experience with the IDOT? And have you integrated it?

I used both the i-Dot and Echo before. At that time, the i-Dot was way more cheaper than the Echo. Pros and Cons of each device:
-More expensive
-Larger footprint
-Larger dead volume requirements
-Samples could be saved in plates
-More start volume options
-More maintenance (filters, water requirements, etc)
-Limit on destination well volume (at some point gravity will win)

-Limited source plate options
-Rubber gasket (reliability issue)
-Cannot store samples in plates long term (holes on the bottom of well)
-Faster than the Echo (8 well dispensing at a time vs 1)
-Contamination if volumes too high depending on consumables (splashing between wells)


We have 2 integrated in a GBG system. Each type is very different so you need to look at the type of machine to meet what you need done.
Echo550 - shoots 2.5nl drops does DMSO and the water/glycerol solutions
Echo 525 - shoot 25nl drops and does not do DMSO
The Echo 600 range can also use these nice tube plates from Azenta - but I have no personal experience with them.

Both the 550 and the 525 use special source plates (which the lead time on delivery has been LONG) - the standard 384 well, called PP plate. Dead volume is reported as 14µl, we used 15µl just to be sure on the robot runs. The top vol on a PP is 60µl. The low dead volume plates (LDV plates) the bottom is maybe 5µl, we use 6µl as the dead with a top of 16µl I think it was. They are also a 384 BUT the layout of the wells is NOT standard, so if you are using a robot to pipette into them, tricky as shit. Even as a person, not the most fun. They have a “Pipetting Guide” you can put under the plate, but that works only in settings where you can look directly from above the plate - so not in a hood - it is the most ridiculous layout you will ever see for a plate - there are wells and there are holes that look like wells, but are not wells.
If you using a 384 well destination they recommend a volume there of not more than 35µl so things do not come out. It is hanging upside down so yes, depending on the type of fluid using there is a top volume you can make the destination before things get very messy.

The Echo’s do need a staff person who ‘waters’ them around once a week and might clean a filter or the vacuum line. The damn things are robust as shit, so we do not have a service contract and only get something done if we cannot fix it ourselves - meaning maybe once in 5 years. For us the cost of one PM was actually cheaper to pay for that directly than to get the service contract. But of course this is a ‘your milage may vary’ situation. It would be good to get a service contract for the first year or so just so you can get help with little things that can pop up with first time users.


I know its not entirely relevant to the I.DOT vs Echo discussion, but want to note that only the Echo 600 series models that end in T can use the Azenta AcoustiX tubes. The Echo 650 and 655 cannot utilize tubes, but the 655T can. I assume there is a 650T as well, but I have never asked to quote that, so tube compatibility may be restricted to the faster instrument.

Perhaps more relevant here, we have noticed that the 600 series Echos require less water maintenance than the 500 series. The 600s do not use vacuum to return the water to the reservoir bottle - there is a second, variable speed peristaltic pump - and we find that this newer design reduces evaporation dramatically.

Labcyte used to offer a custom liquid class optimization if there is a solution that does not dispense well with the standard DMSO/Aqueous classes that come pre-installed. It used to run around $10k and required that the Echo physically go back to them, so it is better to do this when it is originally purchased before they ship it out. I expect that Beckman still offers this.

I have experience with the D300 from HP/Tecan as well. It was easy to use and produced great results for direct dilution dose response curves, but the consumables were pricey, and not at all automation compatible. It was perfect for the manual dose response assays we were using it for.

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Hi All, No experience with the I.DOT but I have worked on the several generations of the Echo up to the 600 series - it’s no means perfect and has its limitations re source plate volume requirements and needing specific qualified source plates; but it is a robust high throughput platform that will produce reliable results for years with minimal intervention. In all honestly, I don’t think the water changes are an issue - it only takes a few minutes to complete each week.

The 550 and 555 have been earmarked for EoL, so that is a concern. Not sure of the availability of custom calibrations since the acquisition by BecLS.

Not quite acoustic but there are cheaper printing based technologies like the D300 that go down to pL. However it depends on your workflow as I have seen these for expensive reagent dispensing then other instruments like the ECHO as used for plate re-formating larger assay volumes.

hopefully new competitors come along

Hello! I am Lucas from Opalia. My company is developing a technology to make milk with mammary cells. We’re interested in purchasing a low volume dispenser (either the Echo or the I.DOT) to do high-throughput drug screening to optimize milk production in our cells. If money wasn’t a problem, which of the two instruments (the Echo or the I.DOT) would you purchase and why? Also, do you know if the ECHO can accommodate deep 2mL 96 well destination plates (I know the i.DOT can)?

Hi Opalia,
It’s difficult to answer without knowing the volumes, sample types (cells?), and the viscosity of the liquid that you are transferring. Also, is it from a single source liquid or will there be more than 1 liquid type? Are you planning on saving your source plates?
I don’t remember if the Echo can take 2 mL deepwell plates, but maybe other can chime in.

Echo destination plates are limited to 16mm in height. A 2ml deep well plate is going to be too tall to fit.

The Echo 500 series instruments definitely could not take a DW plate. Also remember that the destination plate is turned up-side-down over the source plate. Anything in a DW 96-well plate would fall out of the plate when it gets turned up side down.

Subject: Using Echo for Assay Preparation

Hi Lucas,

The Echo is highly effective for preparing plates with dilution curves. At our company, we use it to prepare assay-ready plates in either 384 or 1536-well formats from DMSO stock solutions of small molecules. After preparation, these plates are handed over to the biology department, where cells are added, followed by incubation and analysis. We also store the source plates to ensure that we can replate if necessary, for instance, if a plate is accidentally dropped.

I would be surprised if an was more expensive than an echo 525. Significantly so.

I don’t think either have a problem with 1536 places. Main issue with 525 is it doesnt dispense DMSO and with FlexdropIQ that you cant reuse tubes. Although dispensix have an app note that shows you can do if you store plates in a dry environment.