Pipette Service Providers – Are They All the Same?

Maintaining the performance of your piston pipettes and related measurement equipment is a key ingredient in the quality of your science. However, pipette services vary greatly from one to the next, leading to confusion about which service provider to select. While some providers offer calibration, others will validate (wait…what is the difference?) Some providers include a preventative maintenance, while others provide a quick measurement check and replace o-rings and seals. An obvious difference with providers is that while onsite pipette services work from your lab or conference room, other providers perform pipette calibration services in a controlled laboratory environment. Which is best, and why?
A good first step in identifying which service types are right for your lab is to first list the objective of your need for service, perhaps to ensure measurements are accurate(in tolerance) and the risks if they are not. Compliance-oriented labs are likely to put their trust in pipette service providers that are first, accredited to an ISO or similar standard. Their process has been validated and will include a calibration method. However, even accredited providers vary in their approach.  Pipette calibration in an uncontrolled environment may result in high measurement uncertainty, while calibration in a controlled laboratory is most likely to provide accurate, more reliable measurement data. This is important because it is this data from which adjustments are made to your pipettes.
Today’s pipettes are capable of measurement accuracies down below 1%. However, to achieve this, only the highest measurement assurance is required. In other words, the method to verifying pipette accuracy (calibration) must have lower uncertainties. But, without the proper test environment, equipment or controls, measurement uncertainties by providers can skyrocket. Subsequently, pipettes are at risk for measurement errors and inappropriate calibration adjustments.
Equally as interesting, the largest sources of pipette performance failure occur from contamination and wear. Even with regular use, pipettes are routinely contaminated with residues from micro aerosols. Proper cleaning and preventative maintenance services are the only way to eliminate these concerns. Without it, you have little protection against performance break-down between pipette services.
Before the next pipette service provider knocks on your door, consider the best choice. Is it measurement assurance, quick return or lowest price? The choice you make may affect the quality of your science.

Watch our helpful video on how to calibrate pipettes: