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Comparison Guide: Lab Incubators, Orbital, and Refrigerated Shakers

Comparison Guide: Lab Incubators, Orbital, and Refrigerated Shakers

Jan 8th 2023

Overview: Laboratory Shakers Defined

What is a Lab Shaker?

Laboratory shakers rotate in an orbital, or reciprocating, motion to ensure thorough mixing of liquid samples and reagents.

What Are Lab Shakers Used For?

Lab shakers, or mixers, are commonly used in a wide variety of applications, including DNA extraction and isolation, gel staining, Western and Southern Blots, reagent preparation, sample agitation, and cell culture.

Lab Shaker Design & Features

Typical lab shakers include a platform designed to oscillate on a horizontal plane, clamps to hold flasks, beakers, tube racks, basins, gel trays and microplates, and a digital or analog controller. The dimensions of the platform and the quantity of compatible clamps determine the number of samples processed during a single run.

Thermo Fisher Lab Shaker Systems

Thermo Fisher’s MaxQ 6000 high-volume shakers include platforms that stack vertically to allow more samples to be mixed during a single operation. Simple analog controllers include a timer, on/off switch, and speed dial. In contrast, sophisticated digital controllers include password protection, user-programmable protocols, excess speed alarms, and e-signature systems for 21 CFR Part 11 compliance.

Lab Shaker Movement and Motion

Lab shakers and mixers are designed to oscillate in a variety of different motions: orbital, reciprocating, rocking, and vortex. Conventional orbital shakers move in a 2-dimensional motion, along the horizontal plane, across the x- and z-axes. This gentle mixing motion is ideal for applications such as bacterial cell culture, reagent prep, and dissolution studies.

What is a Reciprocating Shaker?

Reciprocating shakers move in a 3-dimensions motion, both horizontally and vertically, along the x-, y- and z-axes. The reciprocating motion is optimal for thorough, homogenous mixing of low-volume samples, like PCR and DNA sequencing.

What is a Lab Rocker?

Lab rockers, or tube rollers, maintain an orbital motion, but the platform is tilted to a fixed, or adjustable, angle. Given the angle of the platform, rockers must maintain low mixing speeds (under 50 rpm) to prevent the spillage of samples or reagents. Common applications for rockers, or tube rollers, include gel staining, Western Blotting, tissue culture, and reagent thawing in a water bath.

What is a Vortex Mixer?

Vortex mixers maintain a circular, rather than an orbital motion, for mixing single samples. Unlike orbital shakers or rockers, vortex mixers include a pad, rather than a platform. As the sample tube contacts the pad, the circular motion is transferred to the liquid, forming a visible vortex. Vortex mixers are optimal for applications such as cell suspension and sample thawing.

What are Lab Shakers and Mixers Used For?

Lab shakers and mixers are commonly used in many industries, including genomics, proteomics, medical microbiology, clinical diagnostics, molecular biology, mammalian and bacterial cell culture, blood banking, and medical outpatient clinics.

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