Used Equipment: working with Hamilton / 3rd parties

Hi All,
I’m curious about experiences folks in this forum have had with purchasing / using used Hamilton liquid handlers. I recently found a listing for a still crated / never installed Vantage + accessories setup but was pretty disappointed with Hamilton’s response about what support they’d offer (at any price):

  • They’re willing to do installation IQ/OQ at an hourly labor rate
  • they will not support migrating from instinct V to VoV or Venus 6
  • they will not provide apps support period: no trac gripper setup nor integrated instruments setup help

Has anybody gone down this road successfully? Are there third parties you’d recommend engaging to help get up and running if one was determined to make such a system onboarding work? This particular case where a swap from instinct to Venus would be required seems uniquely unworkable but I’m curious if anybody has successfully made a similar situation work well?

Where are you looking to get the system installed ? US, EU ?

We work various manufacturers and often come up against these situations - we have expertise to provide the support you would expect vs what the OEM is willing to offer

please DM me


We acquired a STAR second hand and it was a struggle convincing them to support it. We were able to get them to install in and ensure it was working properly, we then had to have a separate visit to determine whether it was eligible for a service contract. Only after that were we able to get it under a contract which included Venus 6 and CORE II migration.

Not sure if this was standard practice by them or if there are any differences between Vantage vs. STAR support but that was our experience. We also are running all custom integration so we didn’t ask about adding anything to the machine.

Hi @sclarkson,

We have got a couple of second hand liquid handlers from Hamilton and what you are experiencing appears to be the norm, and I know at least 3 other labs who’ve had the same experience (i.e. chasing Hamilton for the privilege of paying them a lot of money for a service contract and then being told no).

Just as you experienced we also found that we can always pay for an engineer to come in for a couple of hours or pay by day to perform a service or installation which is of course very expensive.

I don’t get how this makes business sense but we’ve had similar experiences with other manufacturers.

If you get the second hand Vantage then you really only got one sensible choice based on the support offered by Hamilton for second hand machines: use it with PyLabRobot (PLR) :slight_smile:

PLR is an open-source Python library, you can’t void your warranty using it because you can’t actually purchase a warranty anyway and there is an active community developing it further.
Plus you can switch between a Tecan and a Hamilton machine back and forth without having to learn and battle each software’s idiosyncrasies, i.e. there is a massive reduction in technical debt. You can also use standard coding practices to link all your machines together, in the future ask AI assistant to write scripts for you and so much more. I’m obviously a big fan and have seen the open software approach achieve amazing things at Opentrons.

Hope this helps your decision making process and happy to answer more questions.


@STomp and @CamilloMoschner : thank you both for the feedback!

Instinct seems to be what’s different in this case: it was a hard no on migrating the instrument to Venus from instinct. It sounded to me like it’d be a fishing expedition for an apps specialist that they just won’t commit the time to :frowning:

Instinct also seems to be a blocker to using PLR if I understand how it works correctly (fairly sure it requires Venus?)

IF one had a Vantage running Venus… (VoV is another interesting wrinkle if not running Venus 6) I’m curious whether PLR would play nicely with Vantage-specific features like the Trac gripper and EE modules?

I think @rickwierenga can give a more detailed answer, specifically towards Vantage-specific features, but to my understanding, no, PLR does not require VENUS.

PLR directly communicates with the Vantage and should be good to go with the machine you have in mind.

Though in full transparency, PLR is still very young and there are almost always features that one has to add… but now you can, because PLR is open source.

I don’t know what industry you are in. E.g. in a regulated industry you might be required to showcase certifications of all instruments and chemicals in your production process. But since you are already looking at a second hand machine I doubt this would be a problem for you?


Exactly as Camillo said, PLR does not require VENUS/Instinct at all - it’ll just work with your laptop (all OSs). (PyHamilton does require windows+venus, but the pyhamilton paper does mention it works on Vantage, probably through VoV.) (I am pretty sure Instinct is deprecated in favor of VoV/Venus6.) That said, it is useful to have VoV for debugging sometimes, but getting an installer is not an insolvable problem.

The basic Vantage features (pip liquid handling, resource movement, 96 head) are supported in PLR. I am not familiar with the ‘Trac gripper’ (different from iswap/ipg?) or ‘EE modules’ so those are probably not supported.

And yes, PLR is young and not a product you simply buy. It’s likely you need to build features or fix bugs yourself. The benefit is that you get to decide what the optimal API should be and then build it. Everything in PLR is open source.

@ben has been very succesful using second-hand STARs with PLR.


thanks for the extra info Rick! I was confused about PLR <> pyhamilton as far as Venus dependency :+1:

The TRAC gripper is an optional add-on to the Vantage that runs on a rail installed behind the system and allows you to move things on / off the deck and into / out of the logistics cabinet beneath (where you usually integrate a few devices like washers, centrifuges, etc. etc.)

The EE (entry/exit) module is a set of 4 stackers in the logistics cabinet that feed plates / tips etc. up from beneath the deck.

Yes, Instinct is deprecated and there’s now a catch-22 with Hamilton where they won’t support migrating away from it…but you’d need their apps support to access the proper firmware updates and venus-specific drivers to properly make the change… but they steadfastly will not commit any apps support to systems purchased used…

It’s good to know you can probably at least use a Vantage like a STAR with PLR as-is despite lack of Venus : good info!


That sounds super useful. Our Vantage just has the IPG.

Ah, we have this too but I haven’t added it to PLR yet.

Are you interested in contributing these?



If you are scooping up old STARs and need help with them, we are happy to throw our hat in the ring. Let us know how we can help. I am sure there are some folks on this board who can vouch for us. :cowboy_hat_face:



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