Pipette History 3

History of Pipetting (3)
The third was the German company Eppendorf, widely recognised as being the first to introduce a patented fixed volume pipette. Eppendorf also devised their own variable volume adjustment unit in the 70’s and like Gilson and Finn was quite different in approach. The first USA patent application record we could find was in 1976 by “Eppendorf Geratebau Netheler & Hinz GmbH”. This shape will be familiar to anyone using a current Eppendorf unit. These developments polarised pipette product development and competitors attitudes. US companies emulated Gilson and developed solid polymer handles with metal adjustment mechanisms and metal tip ejectors.
Few have ever come close to the Gilson or Rainin successes as marketing and distribution is equally important in the pipette business. The Nordic companies however developed the product in line with manufacturing advances in precision injection moulding and the desire to increase productivity, accuracy and reduce laboratory risk through RSI. These early advances in technology have been emulated to some extent through creative marketing by competitors, but the evolutionary genes are surely flawed, as litigation, safety and the need to be eco-friendly apply their pressures to all manufacturers and users, with a need to reduce risk to both user and sample.

Pipete HistoryThe German quarter have continued in the same vein, producing similar style units as the years have progressed to market alongside their large range of equipment. These pipettes see success in their domestic market and the USA amongst others. These pipettes and their complex design have limited the competition in terms of copying and have allowed the company to maintain high market prices. However accuracy, precision, thumb and tip ejector forces, style and design are very similar to other European pipettes.
All these pipettes have seen global penetration and continued successes. There have been other manufacturers who were successful but have fallen by the wayside.  Oxford Pipettes of the USA, John Poulten of the UK and the MLA slim fixed volume metal units (Patent applied 1971) are three good examples.  
The fact remains however that if you are using a pipette in your lab and you purchased it within the last 10 years then it will almost certainly be a Gilson, an Eppendorf, a Finnpipette or a Biohit unit or a very similar brand from these evolutionary branches. This statement is based on global sales and these vary widely from country to country in brand success, so in the USA you may well be using an HTL from Poland unit and in China an exact copy of a Biohit Proline from Finland!!
Many of the other brands follow a different branch of the evolutionary tree, but nearly all have the same commonality of design in that the pipette is linear with a plunger at the top activated by a thumb movement.  In fact many of these have been closely matched to Gilson or Finnpipette.  HTL for example (now an Axygen/Corning brand) over the years has closely aligned itself to this early design. In fact we are aware that in the early 1980’s a license fee was paid to Gilson due to patent infringements.
Another example and a “New Kid on the block”, Starlab (owned by Eppendorf) after several incarnations has launched its Star-One Pipette, which is directly marketed as a Pipetman alternative.
Some companies have tried to modify the essential design of a pipette such as Vista Labs with their "Ovation" unit and the German company Brand with their “Transferpette”. Although these design changes are based on ergonomic evaluation of pipette use, the very nature of such radical changes in a well known form is hard to implement and success is limited.
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