Pipette History 2

History of Pipetting (2)

The main tools in use these days are hand held, air displacement, adjustable pipettes, often called variable volume or digital depending on the unit. There many other types of pipette; fixed volumes, positive displacement, pipetting aids etc, but the major markets are for adjustable pipettes and the ones we are mainly focussed on. If you use a pipette today, then you will almost certainly be using one of 9 or 10 brands, the most popular of which are: Gilson, Eppendorf, Biohit and Finnpipette.  Others include Rainin, Brand, Socorex, HTL, Capp, Oxford, Nichyrio, Hamilton, Vistalab, Starlab, Matrix, MLA and many Chinese and Indian copies. These also come in many different private label brands (Fisher, VWR for example both brand other manufacturers units). Some of these other pipettes are very popular in individual countries, such as Rainin in the USA for example, but globally are not as well recognised. The reason for this targeted success often lies in the power of distribution and not necessarily product design or quality.

Mouth Pipetting HistoryProbably 70% of the world’s pipettes are sold by the top 4 companies and the reasons for this are complex, as the best product isn’t always the best seller. These four pipette brands and many of their clones or smaller competitors have polarised their design into two distinctive types based on early inventions and marketing successes.
The Gilson Pipetman (which was arguably the world’s leading pipette in sales volume) early designs were patented by Warren Gilson (Pat No: 3827305) and are recognised as being one of the first individuals and companies to introduce a variable volume adjustment device. This early pipette does however seem to be very similar to an even earlier patent from Rodrigues in 1961 (Pat No: 3013435), a little known individual in the pipetting world. It was possibly that this Patent was entitled a “Buret” and he has not his fair share of accolades. In an excerpt from the Patent Application he states:

Pipette History
“To provide a novel ad improved buret of the precision type adjustable which is compact and readily adjustable for the dispensing of minute quantities of liquid!”
A quick look at this design will certainly cast doubt on current beliefs…….
These pipettes have changed little over the years and have only been modified slightly as the years have progressed.  As any pipette comparison chart will show, these particular units are recognised as being amongst the heaviest pipettes, often requiring the greatest thumb pressure to operate and are not fully autoclavable, a necessity on many laboratory practises these days. Changing little over the years it could be considered the crocodile of the pipetting industry, surviving the evolutionary trail whilst other dinosaurs have died out! Despite this the product was well marketed and supported with good penetration of early educational segments, generating loyalty and embedding the “scientist’s choice” image.
Gilson was a French company at the time, but had competition from two fronts. The first was from Scandinavia, Finland to be exact.  Prof. Suovaniemi, who founded Labsystems Oy, filed a patent application for a variable volume adjustment pipette 6 months before Warren Gilson (Pat No: 3810391). Although this unit used a completely different concept of adjustment, it did become widely used as the famous “Red & Black”, later to be superseded by the Finn Digital and a raft of other designs. Prof. Suovaniemi also introduced and patented the incredibly successful Finn Multichannel and Titertek labelled version sold by Flow Laboratories Inc.
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