What’s New in Compact Lab Equipment

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In the Lab eNewsletter, Pharmaceutical Technology's In the Lab eNewsletter 03-03-2021, Volume 16, Issue 3

The latest advances in compact lab equipment include a benchtop CE instrument, a cryo transmission electron microscope, a Vapor Pro XL Autosampler, a portable microplate reader, and a compact linear actuator.

As labs continue to advance and expand, many are choosing to divert from the many valves and pumps that come with traditional lab equipment and are instead opting for more compact, space-saving lab equipment and systems. The following are a sampling of these devices.

Benchtop CE instrument

The Spectrum Compact CE System from Promega is a benchtop capillary electrophoresis (CE) instrument that allows users to perform sequencing and fragment analysis at the bench in laboratories of all sizes (1). It features run scheduling, an easy-to-use interface, convenient benchtop size, separate plug-and-play consumables, and on-site installation and operational training.

Additionally, the system supports microsatellite instability analysis, mixed sample analysis, forensic short tandem repeat analysis, and cell line authentication while processing up to 32 samples in a single run. Users can access the instrument via an integrated touchscreen or through added software that provides access to any computer on the same network. Guided software can also enable capillary electrophoresis capabilities to users regardless of skill level.

“The Spectrum Compact CE is personal and that’s one of the huge advantages that scientists will see with this instrument,” said Promega’s head of research, Doug Storts in a company press release. “An individual can walk into the laboratory and with minimal training, be able to change all the consumables, select which chemistries they want to use for both DNA sequencing as well as for fragment analysis, and perform the experiment. Literally everybody has access. It democratizes the use of the instrument in the laboratory.”

Cryo transmission electron microscope

Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Tundra Cryo Transmission Electron Microscope (Cryo-TEM) uses artificial intelligence (AI), guided automation, and loader technology to simplify the overall usage of the microscope for researchers of any experience level (2).


The compact device features a cryo-loading station for sample loading and transfer to the microscope for assessment and structure determination, resolutions of 3.5 angstrom, and throughput within 24 to 72 hours.

"Cryo-EM is speeding the path to disease understanding and treatment. However, many institutions find these instruments to be out of reach because of cost and because they are too complex for new researchers," said Trisha Rice, vice-president and general manager of life sciences at Thermo Fisher Scientific, in a press release. "We worked with cryo-EM luminaries to develop an instrument that not only delivers results, but, more importantly, brings cryo-EM to more users."

Vapor pro XL autosampler

Computrac Vapor Pro XL Autosampler from AMETEK Brookfield, part of AMETEK's Instrumentation and Specialty Controls Division, aims to increase the efficiency of the Vapor Pro’s moisture-specific analysis technology by analyzing up to 16 samples automatically with individual test profiles (3).

The compact device is suited for applications that require test automation and increased throughput and provides a chemical-free substitute for Karl Fischer titration. Additionally, it provides testing for applications in the pharmaceuticals industry as well as in other industries (food, lubricants, paints and coatings, plastics, and batteries).

"Busy quality managers will enjoy peace-of-mind and boosted productivity with an automated moisture analysis of up to 16 product samples," said Kai Johnstad, AMETEK Brookfield's global product manager, in a company press release. "Product stakeholders will also benefit from time and cost savings by ensuring the perfect moisture content without using Karl Fischer titration."

Portable microplate reader

Enzo Biochem launched a portable microplate reader for users looking to perform simplified lab work outside of traditional research facilities (4). The instrument, which is one-tenth the size of the average benchtop plate reader, can be used in conjunction with Enzo’s enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and assay kits to deliver results regarding metabolites, hormones, proteins, and protein characterization.

Compact linear actuator

The MiniSlide MSA series is a compact linear actuator that is highly configurable and easy to integrate (5). Available in a 2-mm, size 8 and a 20-mm, size? [as in “size 19000”?] 19000 with nine different lead screw options ranging from ~0.3 mm to 8 mm, the series is best suited for sample handling, spectrometers and chromatographers, molecular analyzers, optical microscopes, and other inspection equipment. Additionally, the series provides resolution down to 0.001524 mm (0.00006 inches) per step, axial forces up to 45 N, stroke lengths of up to 150 mm, and four different lubrication options, a rotary encoder feedback option, and English- or metric-mounting hardware standards.


1. Promega, “Personal Capillary Electrophoresis System Performs Sanger Sequencing and Fragment Analysis,” Press Release, Sept. 1, 2020.
2. Thermo Fisher Scientific, “Thermo Scientific Tundra Cryo-TEM Democratizes Cryo-Electron Microscopy, Extends to Users of Any Experience Level,” Press Release, Nov. 18, 2020.
3. AMETEK Brookfield, “AMETEK Brookfield Launches the Vapor Pro XL Autosampler, Offering Chemical-Free Moisture Analysis,” Press Release, Nov. 25, 2020.
4. Enzo Biochem, “Enzo Launches Portable Microplate Reader for Use With its Elisa and Assay Kits to Simplify Laboratory Workflow,” Press Release, Nov. 5, 2020.
5. AMETEK, “Haydon Kerk Pittman Launches the MiniSlide MSA Series of Linear Actuators,” Press Release, Oct. 7, 2020.