FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide

FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
FlexStation_manual.book Page 1 Tuesday, June 25, 2013 10:22 AM
FlexStation® 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode
Microplate Reader
User Guide
0112-0127 B
June 2013
www.moleculardevices.com
FlexStation_manual.book Page 2 Tuesday, June 25, 2013 10:22 AM
This document is provided to customers who have purchased Molecular Devices
equipment, software, reagents, and consumables to use in the operation of such
Molecular Devices equipment, software, reagents, and consumables. This document
is copyright protected and any reproduction of this document, in whole or any part,
is strictly prohibited, except as Molecular Devices may authorize in writing.
Software that may be described in this document is furnished under a nontransferrable license. It is against the law to copy, modify, or distribute the software
on any medium, except as specifically allowed in the license agreement.
Furthermore, the license agreement may prohibit the software from being
disassembled, reverse engineered, or decompiled for any purpose.
Portions of this document may make reference to other manufacturers and/or their
products, which may contain parts whose names are registered as trademarks and/or
function as trademarks of their respective owners. Any such usage is intended only to
designate those manufacturers’ products as supplied by Molecular Devices for
incorporation into its equipment and does not imply any right and/or license to use
or permit others to use such manufacturers’ and/or their product names as
trademarks.
Each product is shipped with documentation stating specifications and other
technical information. Molecular Devices products are warranted to meet the stated
specifications. Molecular Devices makes no other warranties or representations
express or implied, including but not limited to, the fitness of this product for any
particular purpose and assumes no responsibility or contingent liability, including
indirect or consequential damages, for any use to which the purchaser may put the
equipment described herein, or for any adverse circumstances arising therefrom. The
sole obligation of Molecular Devices and the customer's sole remedy are limited to
repair or replacement of the product in the event that the product fails to perform as
warranted.
For research use only. Not for use in diagnostic procedures.
The trademarks mentioned herein are the property of Molecular Devices, LLC or their respective owners. These
trademarks may not be used in any type of promotion or advertising without the prior written permission of
Molecular Devices, LLC.
Patents: http://www.moleculardevices.com/productpatents
Product manufactured by Molecular Devices, LLC.
1311 Orleans Drive, Sunnyvale, California, United States of America 94089.
Molecular Devices, LLC is ISO 9001 registered.
© 2013 Molecular Devices, LLC.
All rights reserved.
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Contents
Chapter 1: Description . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
How To Use This User Guide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
User Guide Organization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Safety Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Conventions Used for Precautionary Information. . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Electrical Safety . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Service-Trained Users . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Avoiding Mechanical Problems During Fluid Transfer . . . . . . . . . 11
Safety Messages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
System Overview. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
System Components . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Covers and Instrument Panels. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Drawers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Fluidics Module. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Detection Module . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Computer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Accessories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Consumables. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Overview of Operation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Choosing an Experiment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Preparing the Instrument . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Preparing the Software . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Running the Experiment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Analyzing the Data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Theory of Operation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Instrument Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Assay Read Types . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
SoftMax Pro Software. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Set Up the Reader and Software Parameters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
Acquire Data from the Reader . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Perform Complex Data Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
User Interface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Chapter 2: Installation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
General Precautionary Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Unpacking the System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
Unpacking the Fluidics Module and Accessories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
Unpacking the Detection Module . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
Removing the Shipping Screws . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Installing the Fluidics Module . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
Installing the Pipettor Head . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Setting Up the Computer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Connecting the Cables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Installing the Drawer Adapters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
Microplate Adapter Installation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
Compound Baseplate Installation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
Installing SoftMax Pro . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
Chapter 3: Operating Procedures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Overview. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
Starting Up the System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
Using the Control Panel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
Setting the Temperature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
Displaying the Temperature. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
Setting the Temperature with the Control Panel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
Setting the Temperature with SoftMax Pro Software . . . . . . . . . . 74
Setting Up the Software . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
SoftMax Pro Software Parameters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
Read Types. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
Read Modes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
Wavelengths . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
Sensitivity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
Timing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
Assay Plate Type . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
Wells to Read. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
Automix . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84
AutoCalibrate. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
Settling Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
AutoRead . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
SoftMax Pro Software Parameters for Fluid Transfer. . . . . . . . . . . . 86
Compound Source. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
4
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Contents
Compound Transfer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88
Triturate Selection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92
Pipette Tips Layout. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
Compound and Tip Columns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
Pipette Tip Air Gap . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
Settings Displayed in Plate Sections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
Other Software Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
Reading a Microplate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
Loading Tips and Microplates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
Starting the Reading. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
Selecting a Plate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
Replacing Data in a Plate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
Viewing Experiment Progress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
Data Display . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
Shutting Down the System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
Optimizing Fluorescence Assays . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
Using Spectral Scanning to Optimize Excitation and Emission
Wavelengths for Fluorescence Assays . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105
Optimizing Time-Resolved Fluorescence Assays . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110
Optimizing Fluorescence Polarization Assays . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
Optimizing Luminescence Assays . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112
Chapter 4: Maintenance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
Obtaining Support. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Moving the Instrument. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Cleaning the Instrument. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Cleaning Up Spills . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Cleaning the Fan Filter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Cleaning the Barrels on the Pipettor Head. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Using the Microplate Adapters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Microplate Adapter Installation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Removing the Microplate Adapter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Using the Compound Baseplate. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Replacing Fuses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Replacing the Flash Lamp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Long-Term Shutdown . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
114
114
115
116
116
117
120
120
120
121
121
123
128
Chapter 5: Troubleshooting Procedures. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129
Problems During Startup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Opening a Drawer Manually . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
Understanding Potential Mechanical Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133
Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133
Before Using the Instrument . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133
Avoiding Mechanical Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134
In Case of Power Failure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135
Recovering from Mechanical Problems in Flex Mode when Using
Fluidics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135
Assessing a Mechanical Problem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136
Opening the Instrument . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
Evaluating the Tip Rack. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138
Inspecting Inside the Fluidics Module . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
Removing the Pipettor Head . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142
Expelling Undispensed Fluid from Tips . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145
Recovery Procedure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146
General Error Messages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147
Error Messages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147
Other Error Messages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148
Tilting or Removing the Fluidics Module . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
Tilting the Fluidics Module . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
Removing the Fluidics Module. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151
Appendix A: Parts and Accessories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153
Ordering Parts and Accessories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154
Appendix B: Performance Specifications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155
Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167
6
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Description
1
This chapter provides background information on the system, including
descriptions of the principal components and overviews of how the
system functions. It is divided into the following sections:
• Introduction, see page 7
• How To Use This User Guide, see page 9
• Safety Information, see page 9
• System Overview, see page 13
• System Components, see page 15
• Overview of Operation, see page 32
• Theory of Operation, see page 33
• SoftMax Pro Software, see page 41
Introduction
The FlexStation® 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader combines
the performance of the Molecular Devices SpectraMax® M5e MultiMode Microplate Reader with an integrated 8-channel or 16-channel
pipettor into one compact benchtop reader. This integrated system
provides users with a multi-detection platform capable of increasing the
liquid handling throughput and flexibility for biochemical-based and cellbased assays. Using an integrated 8-channel or 16-channel pipettor
increases assay flexibility by transferring reagents from 96 or 384 distinct
wells in a source plate to the read plate. This method enables users to
define individual reagents or compound concentrations to be delivered
to each well during the assay. The direct transfer from a source
microplate reduces consumption and allows more assay conditions to be
explored in a single microplate, making the system equally amenable to
agonist and antagonist assay formats. These additions can either occur
concurrently with kinetic analysis of reactions or before an assay to
automate reagent additions. Combined fluid transfer with multidetection optics provides a single reader capable of performing a broad
span of applications that pass through drug discovery and research
environments.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Based on the SpectraMax M5e instrument platform, the FlexStation 3
instrument can address detection modalities including absorbance,
fluorescence intensity, fluorescence polarization, time-resolved
fluorescence, and luminescence. Dual monochromators allow users to
target the optimal assay excitation and emission wavelengths, while
eliminating the need to change expensive band pass filters between
experiments. Dual PMTs are integrated into the system to provide
flexibility to detect multiple detection modes, while a separate PMT
provides additional sensitivity for luminescence applications. Reference
diodes automatically adjust to slight fluctuations in excitation intensity to
reduce measurement noise. Absorbance applications are enhanced using
top-quality UV-grade fibers to provide high light transmission in the
lowest wavelengths. These optical characteristics enable the system
performance to be comparable to a top-of-the-line dedicated
spectrophotometer or spectrofluorometer with no trade-off between
instrument performance and the number of read modes.
Figure 1-1: FlexStation 3 Instrument
8
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Description
How To Use This User Guide
This user guide was written to ensure safe and proper use of the system.
Before use, read this user guide carefully to realize the full capabilities of
the system. Also, if something is unclear during daily use or if a problem
occurs, please refer to this user guide.
User Guide Organization
This user guide is organized as follows:
• Description on page 7 provides background information on the
system, including component descriptions, functional overviews,
and safety information.
• Installation on page 49 provides instructions for setting up the
reader.
• Operating Procedures on page 65 provides instructions for
starting up the reader, setting parameters for the various read
modes, and reading a microplate.
• Maintenance on page 113 provides instructions for cleaning the
fan filter, changing the fuses, and moving the system to a new
location.
• Troubleshooting Procedures on page 129 provides instructions
for diagnosing and solving common problems, as well as a list of
error conditions.
• Parts and Accessories on page 153 provides a list of spare parts.
• Performance Specifications on page 155 provides the technical
specifications for the instrument.
• Glossary on page 163 provides a list of terms and definitions.
Safety Information
When operated properly in a safe environment and according to the
instructions in this user guide, there are no known hazards associated
with the FlexStation 3 instrument. However, proper use requires an
understanding of situations that are potentially dangerous and can result
in serious injury. All users must be familiar with the guidelines in this
section before working with the system.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Conventions Used for Precautionary Information
This user guide uses the following conventions to provide technical and
safety information of special interest.
Note: A note gives background information that is provided to clarify a
particular step or procedure. A not can also provided an instruction to
ensure correct results and optimal performance.
CAUTION! A caution is an instruction that, if not followed, can result in
damage to the system or in loss of data.
WARNING! A warning is an instruction that, if not followed, can result
in potential injury to a person working with the system.
WARNING! BIOHAZARD. A biohazard warning indicates a condition
involving potentially infectious biological agents requiring that proper
handling precautions be taken.
Electrical Safety
WARNING! Follow all instructions in this user guide and on system
labels. If you use the system in a manner not specified by Molecular
Devices, then any protections provided by the system might be
impaired.
10
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Description
Service-Trained Users
There are two types of users described in this user guide. Most
procedures required for operating and troubleshooting can be
performed by any user who has read the instructions in this user guide
and is familiar with the system. However, all installation procedures, and
some more complex service and troubleshooting procedures, require the
expertise of a service-trained user. Whenever the following warning
message appears, a service-trained user must perform the procedure to
ensure user safety and to prevent instrument damage.
Example:
WARNING! The following procedures must be completed by a
service-trained user. Do not attempt the following procedures if you
have not been trained properly by appropriate Molecular Devices
personnel.
Avoiding Mechanical Problems During Fluid Transfer
Because of the complex mechanical nature of the FlexStation 3
instrument, including both fluidics and optical reading, smooth and
reliable operation of the system depends on both good design and
operator knowledge.
To prevent problems of a mechanical nature, be sure to read all sections
of this user guide before attempting a reading with fluidics. See
Understanding Potential Mechanical Problems on page 133.
Safety Messages
Observe the following warnings and precautions:
High internal voltages. Always turn off the power switch and unplug the
system power cord before removing labeled covers or panels.
Xenon-arc flash lamp. Do not look directly at the flash lamp while it is
illuminated. The lamp emits ultraviolet radiation at levels that can injure
the eye if viewed directly.
Electrical grounding. Never use a two-prong plug or extension cord to
connect primary power to the system. Use of a two-prong adapter
disconnects the utility ground, creating a severe shock hazard. Always
connect the system power cord directly to a three-prong receptacle with
a functional ground.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Spilled liquids. Avoid spilling liquids on the system. Fluid spilled into
internal components creates a potential shock hazard. Wipe up all spills
immediately. Do not operate the system if internal components have
been exposed to spilled fluid. Unplug instrument if there is a fluid spill in
the instrument and contact Technical Support.
Replacement fuses. Use replacement fuses with the required current
rating and specification. Improper fuses or short-circuiting the fuse
holders can cause fire or damage the instrument.
Power rating. Ensure the system is connected to a power receptacle that
provides voltage and current within the specified rating for the system.
Use of an incompatible power receptacle can create electrical shock and
fire hazards.
Remove watches and jewelry before removing any panels from the
instrument.
Warning labels. There are several labels affixed to the instrument covers
and inside panels. The purpose of these labels is to alert the user to use
caution when servicing a component or the instrument. The user should
be aware that ignoring the instructions on any instrument label can
result in a hazardous condition that can cause injury.
Identification labels: The following label, among others, appears on the
instrument.
\
Figure 1-2: FlexStation 3 Instrument Label
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Description
System Overview
The FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader is a
monochromator-based microplate reader that has 6-well, 12-well, 24well, 48-well, 96-well, and 384-well microplate reading capability for
absorbance, fluorescence intensity, fluorescence polarization, timeresolved fluorescence, and luminescence. When using the integrated
pipettor, the instrument offers 96-well and 384-well microplate-tomicroplate fluid transfer, 8 or 16 wells at a time.
The top portion of the instrument, the fluidics module, uses an 8-channel
or 16-channel pipettor, to expand assay flexibility by transferring
reagents from a 96-well or 384-well source plate to the assay plate.
When transferring reagents from distinct wells of a microplate, users can
define individual reagents or concentrations to be delivered in each well
during their assay. This direct transfer allows more assay conditions to be
explored in a single microplate, reducing reagent consumption as well as
making the system more amenable to both agonist and antagonist assay
formats. In addition, kinetic cell-based assay throughput (for example,
calcium mobilization) is increased when 8 or 16 wells of a microplate are
analyzed in conjunction rather than individually.
Integrated pipetting provides flexibility, and also offers users parameters
to optimize assay robustness. Trituration, mixing via aspiration and
dispense of the pipettor, encourages mixing to either resuspend source
plate compounds or spontaneously mix reagents to promote a rapid
response with minimal assay variability. Dispense parameters can also be
optimized for each experiment to accommodate cells with different
adherence characteristics to prevent cell dislodging. Furthermore, the
integrated fluidics platform uses disposable pipette tips to minimize
reagent cross contamination between wells or experiments.
The fluidics module interfaces with the lower reading chamber which
encloses a high-powered Xenon flash lamp as the light source. Sensitivity
or read-speed can be optimized by varying the number of lamp flashes
per read.
The two holographic diffraction grating monochromators allow selection
of any wavelength between 200 nm and 1000 nm in absorbance; 250 nm
and 850 nm in fluorescence intensity, time-resolved fluorescence (TRF),
or luminescence; and 400 nm and 750 nm for readings in fluorescence
polarization. Excitation and emission wavelengths are optimized using
the mirrored optics to focus light into the sample volume, and cutoff
filters to reduce stray light and minimize background interference.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
The system has five assay types available which include Flex, Endpoint,
Kinetic, Spectrum, and multi-point Well Scan. Flex mode assay enables
users to transfer fluid from the source read plate while immediately
reading a fast kinetic assay that uses absorbance, fluorescence, or
luminescence detection technologies. Alternatively, the pipettor head
can be used to transfer fluid before an endpoint or kinetic assay to
automate fluid transfer and minimize user interaction.
In addition to fluid transfer, well contents can be mixed automatically by
shaking before each read cycle, making it possible to perform kinetic
analysis of solid-phase, enzyme-mediated reactions.
Top detection in microplates is available for all fluorescence and
luminescence readings. Bottom detection is available for all assay types
except fluorescence polarization. When reading absorbance at
wavelengths below 340 nm, special UV-transparent, disposable or quartz
microplates that allow transmission of the far ultraviolet spectra must be
used.
A plate drawer adapter is provided with the reader. The adapter is
required for optimum performance when reading from the top or
bottom of standard 96-well and 384-well microplates in all read types,
including absorbance.
Variations in measured fluorescence values are virtually eliminated by
internal compensation for detector sensitivity, photomultiplier tube
voltage, and excitation source intensity.
Using the FlexStation 3 instrument with the PathCheck® Pathlength
Measurement Technology allows normalization of variable well volumes
to absorbance readings. In addition PathCheck technology allows for
pipettor validation, including the online 8-channel and 16-channel
pipettors, and to compare experiments from different days.
Temperature in the microplate chamber is isothermal, both at ambient
and when the incubator is turned on. When the incubator is on, the
reading chamber temperature can be controlled from 2°C above ambient
room temperature to 45°C. Please note that the temperature of the
fluidics module is not regulated and that it is recommend that any
microplates or tips should be at the desired temperature before placing
them inside the instrument.
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Description
The FlexStation 3 instrument is controlled by an external computer
running the SoftMax® Pro Microplate Data Acquisition and Analysis
Software, which provides integrated instrument control, data display,
and statistical data analysis. The on-board microprocessor calculates and
reports the absorbance, percent transmittance, fluorescence, or
luminescence for each well of a microplate. Data from multiple
wavelengths can be acquired and ratio analysis can be performed during
a single reading, if desired. In addition, different calculations can be
made based on this data using the SoftMax Pro software, including the
subtraction of blanks, quantitation from standard curves, calculation of
IC50 values, and more.
The extreme flexibility and high sensitivity of the FlexStation 3 reader
makes it appropriate for applications within the fields of biochemistry,
cell biology, immunology, toxicology, molecular biology, and
microbiology. Online fluidic integration expands the capabilities of the
instrument to include fast fluorescence (calcium mobilization),
luminescence, and absorbance assays in addition to typical applications
which include ELISA, nucleic acid and protein quantitation,
homogeneous and heterogeneous enzyme-activity assays, and microbial
growth, endotoxin testing, and reporter-gene assays.
System Components
This section describes the major system components listed below.
• Covers and Instrument Panels, see page 17
• Drawers, see page 21
• Fluidics Module, see page 24
• Detection Module, see page 26
• Computer, see page 28
• Accessories, see page 28
• Consumables, see page 30
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Figure 1-3: Instrument, Front View
Figure 1-4: Instrument, Rear View
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Description
Covers and Instrument Panels
Top Cover
The instrument is protected by a molded plastic housing. The large top
cover protects the fluidics module and the exposed portions of the
detection module.
Note: The top cover can be lifted back, as shown in the figure below,
for certain limited troubleshooting procedures. See Opening the
Instrument on page 137.
Figure 1-5: Lifting Off the Top Cover
Note: To achieve optimal performance during readings, you must
operate the system with the top cover in place.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Control Panel
The control panel consists of an LCD and six pressure-sensitive
membrane keys which can be used to initiate and regulate the
temperature and to open and close the drawers.
A 2×3-character liquid crystal display (LCD) shows the current instrument
temperature at all times, and the set point temperature when the
incubator is on.
Figure 1-6: Control Panel
See Starting Up the System on page 67 and Setting the Temperature on
page 72.
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Description
Input/Output Panels
There are two input/output panels on the rear of the instrument.
• The upper input/output panel, on the back cover, consists of a
power switch, fuse box cover, and power cord receptacle.
• The lower panel consists of an RS-232 serial port and parallel
port (not currently active). There are also a number of
identification labels.
Figure 1-7: Input/Output Panels.
For information about attaching the computer cable and power cords to
the instrument, see Connecting the Cables on page 61.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Lamp Cover
The plastic lamp cover provides access to the flash lamp on the right side
of the instrument (as viewed from the rear).
CAUTION! Flash lamp access and maintenance are restricted to servicetrained users.
Figure 1-8: Rear View
See Replacing the Flash Lamp on page 123.
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Description
Drawers
The instrument has three drawers that open on the right side. The two
drawers in the fluidics module open and close to move the pipette tip
rack and compound plates (or reservoirs) into and out of the instrument.
The reading chamber drawer in the detection module transports the
assay microplate into the reading chamber.
Figure 1-9: Instrument with Drawers Open and Carriages Accessible
Small plastic pushers, in the front left corner of each drawer, hold the
plates, racks, or reservoirs securely in place when the drawers are closed.
Figure 1-10: Drawer Detail
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
CAUTION! Do not obstruct the movement of any of the drawers. If you
must retrieve a plate after an error condition or power outage, and if the
drawer will not open, it is possible to open the drawer manually. See
Opening a Drawer Manually on page 132.
You can open and close the drawers using either the SoftMax Pro
Software or by pressing the drawer keys on the instrument control panel.
Using the SoftMax Pro Software, open the Control menu and click Tip
Drawer for the tip rack drawer, Compound Drawer for the compound
plate drawer, or Open Drawer for the reading chamber drawer.
Figure 1-11: SoftMax Pro Software Control Menu
You can also open or close the reading chamber drawer with the Drawer
button on the Status Bar.
Figure 1-12: SoftMax Pro Software Drawer Button
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Description
Tip Rack Drawer
The top drawer holds the pipette tip rack.
Only tips specified by Molecular Devices for use with the FlexStation 3
instrument can be safely used. See Parts and Accessories on page 153.
CAUTION! Do not use parts and accessories that are not authorized by,
specified by or provided by Molecular Devices. Using unauthorized parts
can damage the instrument.
Compound Plate Drawer
The compound plate drawer holds a 96-well or 384-well microplate. The
instrument can simultaneously transfer a column of fluids from the
compound plate:
• Eight fluids from a 96-well compound plate to a 96-well assay
plate
• Sixteen fluids from a 384-well compound plate to a 384-well
assay plate
Note: Be sure to install the compound baseplate before placing a
compound plate in the drawer.
Reading Chamber Drawer
The reading chamber drawer opens to accept a 96-well and 384-well
microplate for analysis in the reading chamber. It is the lowest of the
three drawers.
The reading chamber drawer operation varies, depending on the
incubator status. When the incubator is off, the reading chamber drawer
is open at power up and after a read. When the incubator is on, the
drawer closes automatically to maintain the temperature of the reading
chamber.
Note: Be sure to install the black microplate adapter before placing an
assay plate in the drawer for standard 96-well and 384-well microplates.
See Installing the Drawer Adapters on page 62.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Fluidics Module
The fluidics module houses the pipettor head, several motors, and all the
fluidics components. There are two horizontally-moving carriers, one for
the pipette tip rack and the other for the compound plate. The pipettor
head moves vertically between the drawers.
The fluidics module can be opened, by service-trained users, from the
inside front panel, if necessary for maintenance, or from the inside top
panel to install or remove the pipettor head. The entire fluidics module
can be removed for maintenance or to transport the system to another
location.
Figure 1-13: Fluidics Module
See Installing the Fluidics Module on page 53 or See Troubleshooting
Procedures on page 129.
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Description
Pipettor Head
The instrument is configured with an 8-channel pipettor head for use
with 96-well microplates or a 16-channel pipettor head for use with 384well microplates.
Figure 1-14: Pipettor Head
See Installing the Pipettor Head on page 56.
The barrels on the pipettor head require periodic cleaning to remove
silicone lubricant, dust, and other miscellaneous contamination. See
Cleaning the Barrels on the Pipettor Head on page 117.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Detection Module
The detection module is the lower portion of the instrument. This
module houses the reading chamber, the optics bench, several cables
and optic fibers, the power supply, the flash lamp, and other hardware.
The fluidics module attaches to the detection module and can be tilted
off to the side, to provide access to the optical system for
troubleshooting or maintenance. The detection module is contained in a
molded plastic housing, to which the top cover is attached at the back of
the instrument.
Figure 1-15: Detection Module Detail
Reading Chamber
The reading chamber includes the assay plate carriage that holds the
assay microplate in the reading chamber during read cycles. The reading
chamber can be maintained at an elevated temperature. It contains both
top and bottom read heads that can be selected in the software.
The instrument uses a plate sensor to assure that an assay plate is
present in the reading chamber before a reading begins.
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Description
Optical System
The optical system includes a xenon flash lamp, monochromators,
excitation bandpass filters, emission cut-off filters, PMTs, and
photodiodes.
There are a number of cables and fibers that exit the optics bench and
enter the reading chamber. They are the excitation fibers (thin and black
or red, has a collar and pins), emission fibers (black and fatter, with
attached electrical cord), electrical connector to the read head (green
with brass fitting).
Figure 1-16: Optical System
CAUTION! Optical fibers are very fragile, especially the excitation fiber.
Handle cables with extreme care. Do not flex, twist, bend, or stretch the
optical cables.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Computer
The FlexStation 3 instrument works as a system with the SoftMax Pro
Software. The SoftMax Pro Software must be installed on a dedicated
computer to communicate with and control instrument functions.
The instrument is equipped with an 8-pin DIN RS-232 serial port for
connecting to a computer.
SoftMax Pro Software, version 5.1 or later, is required to control the
FlexStation 3 instrument. TheFlexStation 3 instrument is not currently
supported in SoftMax Pro Software, version 6.x.
The minimum computer configuration includes a Pentium processor with
2.8 GHz, 1 GB hard drive.
See Installing SoftMax Pro on page 63 and Setting Up the Software on
page 75.
Accessories
The following accessories are included with the system:
• Black microplate adapter (for use in reading chamber drawer)
• Compound baseplate (for use in the compound plate drawer)
• Computer cable
• Power cord, USA/Canada
• Power cord, ECI
• Fuses (2 each)
• User Guide
• Pipettor head, 8-channel and/or 16-channel
• Pipette
• Yellow plate for the respective pipettor head
• Hex key
All necessary accessories are shipped with the system. Parts and
Accessories on page 153.
Fuses are rated slow-blow (United States/Canada/Metric: 6.3 amp time
delay). See Replacing Fuses on page 121.
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Description
Cables
Molecular Devices recommends that you use high-quality, doubleshielded cables to connect the instrument to the computer. Choose
cables that meet the following requirements:
Serial Interface Cable: The serial interface cable used to connect the
instrument to the computer is a custom cable designed and built by
Molecular Devices. Use the cable supplied by Molecular Devices, or
contact Molecular Devices for specific pin-out requirements: Male DB8
to Female DB9 (custom cable made by Molecular Devices,
P/N 9000-0149).
USB Adapter Cable: Many newer computers do not have a serial port.
You can connect a serial cable between these computers and the
instrument using a USB-to-serial adapter. Molecular Devices has tested
many third-party USB-to-serial adapter cables and has found Keyspan
USA-19HS (Molecular Devices, P/N 9000-0938) to be the most reliable. It
is the only one we recommend.
Note: For specific pin-out requirements, contact Molecular Devices
Technical Support.
Microplate Adapters
The black microplate adapter fits in the assay plate carriage, in the
reading chamber drawer, to elevate standard microplates for both top
reads and bottom reads. Remove the adapter when using high-profile,
6-well, 12-well, 24-well, or 48-well microplates.
Compound Baseplate
Molecular Devices provides a metal baseplate that must be placed in the
compound plate drawer under the compounds plate to reduce stray
light.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Consumables
The system consumables include:
• Microplates
• Pipette tips
One box (10 racks) of pipette tips is shipped with the system pipettor
head. See Parts and Accessories on page 153.
CAUTION! Do not use parts and accessories that are not authorized by,
specified by, or provided by Molecular Devices. Using unauthorized parts
can damage the instrument.
Microplates
The FlexStation 3 instrument can accommodate standard 6-well to
384-well microplates and strip wells. When reading absorbance at
wavelengths below 340 nm, special UV-transparent, disposable or quartz
microplates allowing transmission of the deep UV spectra must be used.
Not all manufacturers’ microplates are the same with regard to design,
materials, or configuration. Temperature uniformity within the
microplate can vary depending on the type of microplate used.
Microplates supported for use in this reader are:
• 6-well, 12-well, 24-well, 48-well, 96-well, and 384-well standard
formats
• 96-well half area
• 96-well and 384-well low volume
Read plate formats not already loaded as defaults in the SoftMax Pro
Software can be added by manually entering the dimensions using the
Plate Editor in the software.
The instrument can accommodate standard 6-well, 12-well, 24-well,
48-well, 96-well, and 384-well microplates. In Flex or other assay types
which you intend on using fluidic integration you can only use 96-well or
384-well formatted assay plates.
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Description
Figure 1-17: Top View of a 96-Well Microplate
For fluorescence, Molecular Devices generally recommends black-walled,
clear-bottom microplates for bottom reading, and all-black microplates
for top reading, because they have lower backgrounds than clear plates.
For luminescence, white microplates can optimize light collection.
Note: Not all microplates are made with the same materials. Some
plastics, most notably polystyrene, have significant native fluorescence
and can cause moderate to severe background fluorescence, especially
in the UV range. If your fluorescence experiments require high
sensitivity, it might be appropriate to use microplates designed and
designated by the manufacturer to reduce background fluorescence.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Pipette Tips
•
For 96-well assays, Molecular Devices specifies using 96-well,
FlexStation Pipette Tips. These 200 μL tips are available in black
(P/N 9000-0911) and clear (P/N 9000-0912) versions and can be
purchased in 10 racks per box quantities.
• For 384-well assays, Molecular Devices specifies using 384-well,
FLIPR and FlexStation Pipette Tips. These 30 μL tips are available
in black (P/N 9000-0764) and clear (P/N 9000-0763) versions and
can be purchased in 50 racks per case quantities. Please ask your
local sales representative for details regarding purchasing partial
cases.
Tips are available in both black and clear options. Black tips are generally
used during fluorescence assays when auto-fluorescent properties of
clear tips can interfere with your response. Molecular Devices
recommends that you evaluate both black and clear tips during assay
development to determine which tip version is most appropriate to your
assay.
Overview of Operation
Using the FlexStation 3 instrument is a process in five stages:
• Choosing an Experiment
• Preparing the Instrument
• Preparing the Software
• Running the Experiment
• Analyzing the Data
Choosing an Experiment
•
•
New or repeated experiment?
Does the protocol exist?
Preparing the Instrument
•
•
•
32
Turning on the power
Setting temperature, if needed
Preparing and loading tips, plates, and compounds
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Description
Preparing the Software
•
•
•
•
Entering software preferences
Selecting instrument settings
Defining templates, reduction parameters, and display
parameters
Confirming hardware and software setup
Running the Experiment
•
•
Initiating the operation (detection or fluidics plus detection)
Saving the data file
Analyzing the Data
•
•
•
•
Modifying the template or parameters as desired
Saving the data file
Analyzing the data
Exporting data to another software application as desired
Theory of Operation
This section includes the following topics:
• Instrument Design, see page 33
• Assay Read Types, see page 38
Instrument Design
Fluidics
The instrument is designed with a fluidics module that transfers liquids to
the assay plate during a fast kinetic read or before an experiment.
The fluidics module incorporates an 8-channel or 16-channel pipettor
that automatically changes tips and transfers reagents to the plate that is
read in the system. Pipette height and dispensing rate are adjustable. The
instrument can add reagents within milliseconds of a column being read,
enabling fast kinetic assays of transient responses.
As many as three compounds can be transferred from columns in a
compound plate to a single column in an assay plate, at different points
during or before the total read time.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Mixing
Mixing can be accomplished in one of two ways, using either the
Trituration or Automix functions. Use of these functions are dependant
on the assay performed and the read mode used.
• Trituration is mixing of the well contents in either the compound
or assay plates. This is accomplished by fluid being alternately
aspirated from and dispensed back into a well using the pipettor.
Trituration is available only during assays that include fluid
transfer, including Flex, Endpoint, or Kinetic modes, and can be
performed in either the compound or assay plate. Within the
compound plate, trituration can be used to resuspend
compounds that might have crashed out of solution.
Alternatively, it can be used to promote prompt mixing in the
assay plate when delivering small reagent volumes for fast
kinetic cell-based assays, such as calcium mobilization.
Note: Trituration in the assay plate well may agitate cells,
causing responses not associated with the compound addition.
Assay development should be performed to determine if
trituration is necessary for the assay.
•
34
The Automix function permits automatic shaking of the
microplate at preset intervals, thereby mixing the contents
within each well. Automix must be selected before beginning a
reading. Automix settings vary with assay type.
 For Endpoint assays, enabling Automix shakes the plate for a
definable number of seconds and then reads at all selected
wavelengths.
 For Kinetic assays, two types of Automix can be enabled. You
can set Automix to shake the plate for a definable number of
seconds before the initial reading or for a definable number
of seconds before each subsequent reading.
Use of Automix is strongly recommended for ELlSA and other
solid-phase, enzyme-mediated reactions to enhance accuracy.
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Description
Temperature Regulation
The instrument regulates the temperature of the microplate reading
chamber from 2°C above ambient to 45°C. On power up, when the
incubator is off, the temperature in the reading chamber is ambient and
isothermal. Turning on the incubator by pressing the Temp on/off key
causes the instrument to begin warming the reading chamber and the
fluidics module.
Note: The reading chamber is warmed to the set temperature.
However, the fluidics module might be lower than the set point.
The temperature set point defaults to 37°C at startup. With the incubator
on, the temperature of the reading chamber can be set and regulated
from 2°C above ambient to 45°C. Accuracy of the temperature set point
is only guaranteed if the set point is at least 2°C above ambient. If the
temperature set point is lower than the ambient temperature, the
chamber temperature remains at ambient. Temperature regulation is
controlled by heaters only and, therefore, cannot cool the temperature
to a setting lower than ambient.
Temperature regulation and control of the reading chamber is achieved
through electric heaters, a fan, efficient insulation, and temperature
sensors. The heaters are located within the instrument, which is
insulated to maintain the temperature set point. The seven sensors are
mounted inside the reading chamber and measure the air temperature
and chamber temperature. The temperature feedback closed-loop
control algorithms measure the chamber air temperature, compare it to
the temperature set point, and use the difference to calculate the
regulation of the heating cycles. This technique results in accurate,
precise control of the reading chamber temperature with a temperature
variation of the air across the entire assay plate of less than 1°C.
Temperature uniformity within the assay plate itself depends on its
design, materials, and configuration.
Note: Temperature of samples in all assay plates are affected by
evaporation.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Time-Tagged Data
The FlexStation 3 instrument is a single-channel reading system.
Although the scan time is very fast (8 wells in about 1.0 seconds; 1 well in
about 50 ms), the difference in the exact time each well is read is
dependent on the number of rows selected in a column. This difference
is an important factor in fast kinetic assays.
For this reason, all readings are tagged with an exact read time, and
when multiple-well fast kinetic responses are plotted, the curves overlie
each other as plotted by the SoftMax Pro Software. If kinetic data are to
be exported, you can choose either time-interpolated data or raw timetagged data. Molecular Devices recommends that you select timeinterpolated data. This option is explained in more detail in the SoftMax
Pro user guide.
Figure 1-18: Time-Tagged Data Example
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Description
Optical System
The instrument uses excitation and emission filter wheels to decrease
interference by stray light, thus augmenting the wavelength selection
that is provided by the monochromators. Two independent, singlechannel reading heads can service top and bottom reading requirements.
Both the top reading head and bottom reading head support coaxial
excitation and emission beams.
The instrument’s electrical, firmware, and optical designs incorporate
many features that work together to virtually eliminate instrumentbased day-to-day and instrument-to-instrument variations in measured
fluorescence values.
For more detail of the optical design and an illustration of the optical
system, see Detection Module on page 26.
Bottom and Top Reading
Switching to bottom or top reading capability is activated through
software. No manual positional switching of the read-head is required.
Bottom reading allows for well scanning ability maximizing the sampling
area for 6-well, 12-well, 24-well, 48-well, 96-well, and 384-well
microplates. In addition, bottom reading enables concurrent reagent
addition to monitor fast kinetic reactions such as calcium mobilization.
Availability of top or bottom reading functions varies depending on the
detection mode.
Note: Clear-bottom plates must be used for bottom reading. Bottom
reading is intended for cell-based assays.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Assay Read Types
The instrument operates in three integrated fluidics/read (Flex, Endpoint,
and Kinetic) read and two read types. The Table 1-1 on page 39 compares
the types of operation and features that are available for the different
read types.
Note: This user guide describes instrument behavior for Flex read type
primarily. For instructions on other read types, see the SoftMax Pro
user guide.
Flex Reads
The fluidics module is designed to aspirate fluids from a compound
source plate and dispense them into an assay plate. Fluid transfer is
made possible with an 8-channel or 16-channel pipettor that is fully
automated, including changing the tips from a tip rack.
In Flex reads, one to eight or one to sixteen wells in one column of the
assay plate are read repeatedly for a selected total experimental time. At
a preselected point or points during that time sequence, the pipettor can
transfer up to three reagents from the compound plate to the assay
plate. The instrument continues to read at the preselected time intervals
before and after each fluid transfer. After completion of reading the
column (or partial column) for a preselected time, the instrument can
repeat this cycle with other columns. All the data is collected in one data
file represented as a 96-well or 384-well microplate.
For example, an experiment with a two-minute run time accommodates
a 96-well microplate in about 24 minutes.
Run time × Number of columns = Plate time
2 minutes × 12 columns = 24 minutes
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Description
Table 1-1: Operation Modes and Features
Operation
Modes
Endpoint
Kinetic
Spectrum
Well Scan
Flex
Operation
Type
Fluidics +
Detection
Fluidics +
Detection
Detection
Detection
Fluidics +
Detection
Read Modes
Absorbance,
Fluorescence,
Fluorescence
Polarization,
Luminescence,
and TimeResolved
Fluorescence
Absorbance,
Fluorescence,
Fluorescence
Polarization,
Luminescence,
and TimeResolved
Fluorescence
Absorbance,
Fluorescence,
Fluorescence
Polarization,
Luminescence,
and TimeResolved
Fluorescence
Absorbance,
Fluorescence,
Luminescence,
and TimeResolved
Fluorescence
Absorbance,
Fluorescence,
and
Luminescence
Top read
Yes or No
Yes or No
Yes or No
Yes or No
No
Bottom read
Yes or No
Yes or No
Yes or No
Yes or No
Yes
Wavelength
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Automix
before
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Automix
between
No
Yes
No
No
No
Timing
No
Yes
No
No
Yes
Wells to read
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
AutoCalibrate
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Compound
source
Yes
Yes
No
No
Yes
Compound
transfer
Yes
Yes
No
No
Yes
Triturate
Yes
Yes
No
No
Yes
Compound
and tips
columns
Yes
Yes
No
No
Yes
AutoRead
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Well Scan
Editor
No
No
No
Yes
No
PMT sensitivity Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
System
Settings
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Table 1-1: Operation Modes and Features (cont’d)
Operation
Modes
Endpoint
Kinetic
Spectrum
Well Scan
Flex
Assay plate
type
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Compound
plate type
Yes
Yes
No
No
Yes
Endpoint Reads
In Endpoint reads, as well as in Kinetic and Flex reads, you can select
from one to four excitation/emission pairs to obtain readings for each
well of a microplate.
In Endpoint reads, one to eight or one to sixteen wells in one column of
the assay plate are delivered before starting the read. At a preselected
point or points before the read, the pipettor can transfer up to three
reagents from the compound plate to the assay plate. After reagents are
transferred, the read initiates for the entire read area. Unlike Flex, the
read area is not limited to one column at a time in an Endpoint read. All
the data are collected in one data file represented as a 96-well or
384-well microplate.
For more information on this read type, please review the appropriate
section in the SoftMax Pro user guide.
Kinetic Reads
Kinetic analysis can be performed for a total run time of up to 99 hours.
The kinetic read interval depends upon the instrument setup parameters
selected in the SoftMax Pro Software, but is limited to 2 hours and 45
minutes (165 minutes). At the end of a reading, rates are reported as
each well. Kinetic analysis has many advantages when determining the
relative activity of an enzyme in different types of assays, including the
purification and characterization of enzymes and enzyme conjugates.
In Kinetic reads, one to eight or one to sixteen wells in one column of the
assay plate can be delivered before starting the read. At a preselected
point or points before the read, the pipettor can transfer up to three
reagents from the compound plate to the assay plate. After reagents are
transferred, the read initiates for the entire read area. Unlike Flex, the
read area is not limited to one column at a time in Kinetic reads. All the
data are collected in one data file represented as a 96-well or 384-well
microplate.
For more information on this read type, please review the appropriate
section in the SoftMax Pro user guide.
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Description
Spectrum Reads
Spectral analysis measures across a spectrum of wavelengths (excitation
250 nm to 850 nm, emission 360 nm to 850 nm). When reading using a
specific detection mode, such as fluorescence, you can set a fixed
wavelength for excitation and scan the emission wavelengths, or set a
fixed wavelength for emission and scan the excitation wavelengths. All
spectrum readings are made using scanning monochromators.
In Spectrum reads, the fluidics module is not enabled.
For more information on this read type, please review the appropriate
section in the SoftMax Pro user guide.
Well Scan Reads
Some applications that involve the detection of whole cells in large area
tissue culture plates can require the use of Well Scan reads. As many cell
lines tend to grow in aggregates or in the edges of microplate wells, this
non-confluent growth pattern can require multiple reads at different
locations in a well.
When used with 6-well, 12-well, 24-well, 48-well, or 96-well plates, well
scanning allows maximum surface area detection for whole cell assays.
No plate adapter is used for tissue culture plates of 24 wells or less.
In Well Scan reads, the fluidics module is not enabled.
For more information on this read type, please review the appropriate
section in the SoftMax Pro user guide.
SoftMax Pro Software
The Molecular Devices SoftMax Pro Software is a highly integrated
program that can be used to:
• Control the reader
• Collect data
• Analyze data
SoftMax Pro software is easy to use, yet is powerful and flexible, and is
necessary to access the full capabilities of the FlexStation 3 instrument.
SoftMax Pro Software allows you to:
• Set Up the Reader and Software Parameters, see page 42
• Acquire Data from the Reader, see page 43
• Perform Complex Data Analysis, see page 44
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Set Up the Reader and Software Parameters
•
Read microplates in using Flex, Endpoint, Kinetic, Spectrum, or
Well Scan read types.
 Use up to four wavelengths for Flex, Endpoint, Kinetic, and
Well Scan reads.
 Perform absorbance and percent transmittance readings in
the 200 nm to 1000 nm range.
 Perform fluorescence readings in the 250 nm to 850 nm
range.
 Perform luminescence readings in two ways: wavelength
nonspecific (all wavelengths between 360 nm and 630 nm)
or wavelength selectable (250 nm to 850 nm).
 Read the whole plate or a subset of microplate wells.
 Specify kinetic run times up to 99 hours.
 Select your own read intervals for kinetic runs.
 Specify the duration for Automix before or between reads.
Automix shakes the microplate at preset intervals, thereby
mixing the contents of each well (highly recommended for
ELISAs and other solid-phase, enzyme-mediated reactions).
Note: Automix is not intended to be used continuously for
several hours.
•
•
•
•
42
Use PathCheck technology to normalize the absorbance readings
in each microplate well to a 1 cm pathlength.
Design microplate templates to simplify data reduction.
 Identify groups of wells with labels of your choice.
 Identify individual wells with unique names.
 Blank the entire plate, groups, or individual wells.
Save reader settings, template formats, and data analysis
parameters as assay protocol files and recall them for later use.
 Rapid reader and analysis setup for repeated assays.
 Uniform analysis for equivalent microplates.
Turn the incubator on or off to control the temperature in the
read plate drawer.
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Description
•
Integrate fluid transfer with Endpoint, Kinetic, and Flex reads.
 Transfer fluid during the experiment for fast kinetic
fluorescence, luminescence, and absorbance assays.
 Transfer fluid before the beginning of an experiment for
endpoint and kinetic applications.
 Define the reagent source and tip columns to be used for
each fluid transfer.
 Optimize dispense parameters by specifying the volume,
height, and speed of addition.
 Specify the number of strokes used during Trituration to mix
the contents of the source and read plates. Trituration uses
the pipettor to mix the contents of a well by aspirating and
dispensing, for both the source and read plates.
Acquire Data from the Reader
•
•
•
•
•
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Pre-read microplates.
Analyze kinetic and spectrum data as it is collected.
Save data files for in-depth analysis at a later time.
Save multiple microplates with individual template and data
analysis parameters in one or more experiments in a single data
file.
Display data on screen.
 Raw values, reduced number, or raw values with reduced
number.
 Raw microplate data in a microplate format.
 Ranged data as integers from 0 to 9 in a microplate format.
 Threshold data as being above, below, or between set limits
in a microplate format.
 Grayscale data in eight shades of gray corresponding to high
and low limits in a microplate format.
 Kinetic or spectrum plots of all microplate wells.
 Enlarge the display of individual well plots and overlay
multiple well plots.
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Perform Complex Data Analysis
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Calculate maximum kinetic rates on non-linear data.
Assign plate, group, or sample blanks.
Customize data analysis for each group in the template.
Create graphs with multiple plots.
Pick from nine curve-fitting routines.
Analyze unknown samples against a standard curve.
Analyze and compare data within a plate, between plates, and
between experiments.
• Customize your print formats.
 Print all or individual sections of the data file.
 Define and print a report containing only selected sections.
 Customize the order of data file sections.
• Export data in tab-delimited ASCII format.
For complete information on the current SoftMax Pro Software, see the
SoftMax Pro User Guide and Formula Reference Guide included with
your FlexStation 3 instrument.
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Description
User Interface
This section briefly presents the basic features of the SoftMax Pro
Software user interface. More instructions regarding how to use the
interface appear throughout these instructions during relevant steps.
You can control the instrument by using either buttons and icons in the
windows and along the tool bars, or by using the menus. You can use
either your mouse or keystrokes to make selections.
Note: For complete details about the SoftMax Pro Software and user
interface, refer to your SoftMax Pro User Guide.
Figure 1-19: Plate Section, Flex Mode
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The Status bar allows you to monitor instrument status and access
several functions with the click of a button. You can verify
communication with SoftMax Pro, and monitor the reading chamber
temperature. The Status bar also provides buttons used to begin a
reading, open the Incubator dialog box, shake the microplate (Automix),
and open or close the instrument drawers. The Status bar can be hidden
by selecting Hide Status from the View menu.
Figure 1-20: SoftMax Pro Software Status Bar
The following icons are present in the Status bar and are used to set up
the instrument or interact with it during operation.
Note: Different Molecular Devices systems have different icons.
Table 1-2: SoftMax Pro Software Status Bar Icons
Icon
Description
The Instrument Status icon provides visual confirmation that
SoftMax Pro is communicating with the instrument. Doubleclick this icon to display the Preferences dialog.
The temperature icon displays the current temperature
inside the instrument. Click this icon to display the
Preferences dialog.
Click to begin reading. It changes to Stop during a reading.
Clicking this button also closes any open drawers.
Click the Incubator button to open the Incubator dialog to
change temperature settings.
Click the Automix button to manually shake the assay plate.
Note: The manual shaking that occurs when you click this
button differs from the Automix that can be selected as an
instrument setting within the protocol settings.
Click the Drawer button to open or close the reading
chamber drawer.
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Description
One SoftMax Pro Software file contains at least one experiment, and can
contain a section for Notes and one or more Plates. You can enter Notes
and edit Plates using the tool bars shown below.
Figure 1-21: SoftMax Pro Software Plate Section Toolbar
The following icons appear on the Plate Section tool bar.
Table 1-3:
Icon
Description
Double-click the Plate icon to open the Plate section in a new
window.
Double-click the Name of Plate icon to open the Section
dialog.
Click the Settings button to open the Instrument Settings
dialog for this plate.
Click the Template icon to open the Template dialog, where
you can create or edit the template. This is used to setup
groups for defining areas of the assay plate.
Click the Reduction icon to configure settings for data
analysis and graph reduction.
Click the Display icon to open the Display dialog and change
your display properties.
Click the Graph icon to enlarge sections of the display into
graphic form.
Click the Mask icon to mask selected wells.
Click the Printer icon to include or exclude a section from a
printed report.
The SoftMax Pro Software provides other icons and tool bars. For
example, you can keep Notes on the experiment in the Notes section.
Groups are also contained in experiments when you define a template.
You can create Graph sections as desired. For details, see your SoftMax
Pro Software User Guide.
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2
Installation
This chapter provides information about how to install the FlexStation 3
instrument in your laboratory. Installation must be done by qualified
Molecular Devices personnel or a service-trained user.
CAUTION! The following procedures must be completed by a servicetrained user. Do not attempt the installation procedures if you have not
been trained properly by appropriate Molecular Devices personnel.
The following sections describe the installation procedure:
• General Precautionary Information, see page 49
• Unpacking the System, see page 50
• Installing the Fluidics Module, see page 53
• Installing the Pipettor Head, see page 56
• Setting Up the Computer, see page 61
• Connecting the Cables, see page 61
• Installing the Drawer Adapters, see page 62
• Installing SoftMax Pro, see page 63
General Precautionary Information
WARNING! Always make sure the power switch on the instrument is
in the OFF position and remove the power cord from the back of the
instrument before any installation or relocation of the system.
WARNING! Do not install or operate the system in an environment
where potentially damaging liquids or gases are present.
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CAUTION! Do not touch or loosen any screws or parts other than those
specifically designated in the instructions. Doing so might cause
misalignment and will void the system warranty.
CAUTION! Do not attempt to assemble or disassemble the instrument
with the pipette tips or compound and read plates in place. Spillage or
damage to the pipette tips, plates, or the instrument can occur.
Unpacking the System
This section provides instructions on how to unpack the system safely.
WARNING! The instrument weighs approximately 50 pounds and
should be lifted with care. To prevent injury, use at least two people to
lift the instrument.
Each FlexStation 3 instrument comes with the following components.
• Fluidics module and accessories
• Detection module (main instrument body) in housing
• Computer (can be user-supplied)
• Computer monitor (can be user-supplied)
• SoftMax Pro Software package
Please retain the cartons, all boxes, and any significant packing materials.
If the system needs to be moved to a different location, use the original
packing materials and cartons whenever possible. If the cartons have
been damaged in transit, it is particularly important that you retain them
for inspection by the carrier in case there has also been damage to the
instrument.
As you unpack the system components, examine the packing list that
accompanies the system to be sure all items are present.
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Installation
Unpacking the Fluidics Module and Accessories
1. Remove the fluidics module from the cardboard box inside the
wooden crate and take it out of the protective bag. Set it in a safe
place.
2. Remove the box (containing the pipettor head) and the bags of
accessories.
3. Open the accessories bags and remove cables and the hex key.
You will need them later in the assembly procedure.
4. Set packaging aside.
Unpacking the Detection Module
Note: Keep the system in a location that is dedicated to its use, on a
level surface, away from direct sunlight, dust, drafts, vibration, and
moisture.
Tools Needed
• Hex key, 3/32 inch ball drive, L (provided)
• Phillips screwdriver (not provided)
To unpack the detection module:
1. Use two people to unlatch the midsection of the crate (on top
and bottom) and then move that midsection aside. Due to the
size of the crate, this step requires two people.
2. Slide the plastic bag enclosing the instrument out of the way,
around the base of the detection module.
3. Use two people to reach inside the bag and under the
instrument and then lift the instrument out of its shipping tray
and place it on the bench.
WARNING! The instrument weighs approximately 50 pounds
and should be lifted with care. To prevent injury, use at least
two people to lift the instrument.
4. Set the shipping materials out of the way.
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Removing the Shipping Screws
1. Locate the two stainless steel shipping screws under the front
flange of the detection module that hold down the cover of the
instrument.
Figure 2-1: Location of Shipping Screws
2. Use the 3/32 inch hex key to unscrew the shipping screws. It
might be necessary to move the instrument to the front of the
bench to reach the screws from below. The screws remain
attached to the base.
3. Press the latch in the handle and pivot the top cover up and
back.
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Installation
Installing the Fluidics Module
After removing the shipping screws and opening the top cover, you can
see the location for the fluidics module hardware. There is a hinged
flange (metal plate) to the left side of the exposed reading chamber.
There are also two quarter-turn fasteners (Zeus screws) attached to the
flange, and two locating pins near the middle of the reading chamber.
Figure 2-2: Positioning the Fluidics Module
CAUTION! To avoid damage to the instrument, follow these instructions
and any instruction labels on the instrument exactly.
WARNING! Do not remove cover until power is disconnected. Do not
operate instrument unless all covers are in place.
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To install the fluidics module:
1. Grasp the handle on the fluidics module and use a second person
to help to lift the module into position over the detection
module.
2. Tilt module up at about 90° and have one person hold it in
position while the other person aligns the quarter-turn fasteners
in the flange to the holes in the bottom of the fluidics module.
3. Connect the quarter-turn fasteners to the bottom of the fluidics
module and lock the fasteners into place.
4. Attach the restraining cable from fluidics module to the rightmost mounting tab on the top cover of FlexStation 3 instrument.
The restraining cable comes attached to the fluidics module.
Figure 2-3: Restraining cable attached to the fluidics module
Attach the other end of the restraining cable the right-most
mounting tab on the top cover.
Figure 2-4: Restraining cable attached to the top cover
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Installation
A finished installation should look like Figure 2-5.
Figure 2-5: Restraining cable installation finished
The restraining cable for the fluidics module prevents the
module from pivoting too far, and prevents the accidental
detachment of the serial communication cable. The restraining
cable also holds the module in the open position so that the
instrument can be serviced without first detaching the
communication or power cable.
5. With the fluidics module tilted back, connect the 15-pin sub-D
electrical connector into the communication port on the far
bottom edge of the fluidics module. It must be aligned properly
to fit.
Note: The labels on the fluidics connector (Fluidics Connector)
and near the communication port (Connect Fluidics Here) help
identify these ports.
Figure 2-6: Fluidics connection labels
6. Press the connector in firmly.
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7. Use your fingers to lightly tighten the two communication port
thumbscrews.
Molecular Devices recommends tightening the thumbscrews on
the Sub-D connector to firmly attach the communication and
power cable to the connector on the fluidics module. This
prevents the accidental disconnection of the cable from the
fluidics module due to vibration of the FlexStation 3 instrument.
8. Ensure that all cables and wires are tucked out of the way.
9. Gently lower the fluidics module by the handle down over the
detection module and onto the locating pins.
CAUTION! Be careful when lowering the fluidics module that
you do not trap or compress any of the optical fibers coming up
from the detection module.
10. Ensure that the fluidics module is firmly seated on the detection
module.
Installing the Pipettor Head
After you install the fluidics module, you can place the pipettor head into
the fluidics module. Use this same procedure for both the 8-channel and
16-channel pipettor heads.
The barrels on the pipettor head require periodic cleaning to remove
silicone lubricant, dust, and other miscellaneous contamination. See
Cleaning the Barrels on the Pipettor Head on page 117.
CAUTION! To avoid damage to the instrument, follow these instructions
and any instruction labels on the instrument exactly.
1. Remove the pipettor head from its carton.
CAUTION! During the pipettor installation process, make sure
that the pipettor cap remains on the 16-channel pipettor. This
minimizes any potential damage to the pipettor nose cones.
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Installation
2. Turn the quarter-turn fastener on the inside top cover and then
unfold the cover off the fluidics module.
Figure 2-7: Opening the Inside Top Cover
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3. Hold the pipettor head in one hand and the round, black, 14-pin
connector in the other.
4. Move the pipettor head into its approximate position under the
z-stage plate and red mounting knob.
5. Maneuver the cable down toward the back of the cavity and
align the connector over the receptacle.
6. Press the connector in place and screw down the black outer
collar over the pins.
Figure 2-8: Securing Spiral Cord to Hook
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Installation
7. Press the first four loops of white spiral cord onto the coil hook in
the upper left corner of the top panel opening. This secures the
cable up out of the way of the pipettor head when it moves
about in the fluidics module during operation.
Figure 2-9: Positioning Pipettor Head
8. With one hand, pull up on the red knob.
9. With the other hand, align the metal plate at the back of the
pipettor head, with the screw hole and the two locating pins,
underneath the red knob.
10. Slide the plate up into place.
11. Screw down the red knob, securing the pipettor head so that it
hangs in place from the black bar.
CAUTION! Tighten the red knob (the pipettor retaining nut) as
firmly as possible.
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12. Remove the cap at the completion of the pipettor installation.
CAUTION! Do not discard the nose cone cap. Always store the
pipettor with the nose cone cap on.
The pipettor head is now installed (see Figure 2-10).
Figure 2-10: Pipettor Head Installed
13. Fold the inside top panel back over the pipettor head and lock
the quarter-turn screw in place.
14. Bring the top cover back over the fluidics module and snap it into
place at the handle on the detection module. Make sure the
latch clicks shut.
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Installation
Setting Up the Computer
Set up the computer and monitor, according to the instructions that
come in their packaging. Place them close to the instrument on the
bench.
The power cords for the computer and monitor are provided in the
computer packaging. Connect them to the computer hardware as
described in Connecting the Cables on page 61. Do not connect the
power cables to the power outlet at the wall.
CAUTION! Do not attach the computer to a power outlet until after the
computer and the instrument are connected.
Connecting the Cables
After the instrument is assembled and the computer is set up, you can
connect computer cable and the power cord.
CAUTION! Make sure that all assembly is completed before connecting
the power cord to a power outlet.
Figure 2-11: Computer Cord and Power Cord Locations
1. Locate the instrument power cord (P/N 4400-0002) and the
computer serial cable (P/N 9000-0149) in the FlexStation 3
instrument accessories kit.
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2. Insert the 8-pin DIN round end of the serial cable into the RS-232
serial port receptacle on the back panel of the instrument.
3. Attach the other end to the COM serial port to the back of the
computer.
4. Insert the female end of the power cord into the power
receptacle at the rear of the instrument.
5. Connect the instrument power cord to a grounded power outlet
of the appropriate voltage.
Molecular Devices recommends that you use a surge protector
between the power cord and the grounded power outlet.
6. Connect the computer hardware power cords to similarly
grounded power outlets.
CAUTION! Make sure that no cables run beneath the instrument. Leave
at least three inches between the back of the instrument and the
nearest objects or surfaces to ensure proper ventilation and cooling.
Installing the Drawer Adapters
The drawer adapters include the black microplate adapter and metal
compound baseplate.
Microplate Adapter Installation
To bottom read or top read a standard 96-well or 384-well microplate,
you must install the black microplate adapter in the reading chamber
drawer. The black adapter elevates the plate in the drawer.
CAUTION! Incorrect insertion or removal of the adapter can cause
damage to the microplate drawer or to the pipettor head.
1. Turn the power to the instrument on.
2. Press the Reading Chamber button on the front panel. The
reading chamber drawer opens.
3. Hold the adapter so that its cutout corner is facing the front left
corner of the drawer, and then lower the adapter into the read
plate drawer.
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Compound Baseplate Installation
The metal compound baseplate installs in the bottom of the compound
plate drawer.
1. Turn on the power to the instrument.
2. Press the Reagents button on the front panel. The compound
plate drawer opens.
3. Lower the baseplate into the compound drawer with its cutout
corner facing the front left corner of the drawer.
CAUTION! Always remove any microplates and adapters from the
instrument drawers before moving the instrument or before any service
or maintenance procedures. Microplates and adapters can easily
become jammed inside the instrument, causing damage. For
instructions on removing adapters, see Using the Microplate Adapters
on page 120.
Installing SoftMax Pro
Install the SoftMax Pro Software on the computer according to the
instructions in the SoftMax Pro Software User Guide.
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Operating Procedures
3
This chapter explains how to start up the system and how to use the
control panel and the SoftMax Pro Software to configure instrument
settings, define experiment protocols, and run an analysis, as described
in the following sections.
• Overview, see page 66
• Starting Up the System, see page 67
• Setting the Temperature, see page 72
• Setting Up the Software, see page 75
• SoftMax Pro Software Parameters, see page 78
• SoftMax Pro Software Parameters for Fluid Transfer, see page 86
• Other Software Settings, see page 99
• Reading a Microplate, see page 99
• Shutting Down the System, see page 103
• Optimizing Fluorescence Assays, see page 103
• Optimizing Time-Resolved Fluorescence Assays, see page 110
• Optimizing Fluorescence Polarization Assays, see page 111
• Optimizing Luminescence Assays, see page 112
Note: The information in this chapter assumes that the instrument and
computer are properly installed and connected. See Installation on
page 49.
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Overview
The following list provides an overview of the basic operating procedures
required for using the system.
1. Turn on the power to the instrument and then the computer, if
they are not already on, and then start the SoftMax Pro
Software. See Starting Up the System on page 67.
2. View the control panel and note the temperature inside the
reading chamber, and use the control panel on the front of the
instrument to turn on the incubator, if it is required by your
experiment. It can take a while for the temperature to stabilize,
so do this before configuring other instrument parameters. See
Setting the Temperature on page 72.
Note: Incubator settings can also be set using the SoftMax Pro
Software.
3. Use the SoftMax Pro Software to configure the read mode, type
of analysis, template, and so on, as desired. You can also create
sections, such as Notes and Plates, as needed in the Experiment
section of the software window. See Setting Up the Software on
page 75, SoftMax Pro Software Parameters on page 78, SoftMax
Pro Software Parameters for Fluid Transfer on page 86, and
Other Software Settings on page 99.
4. Load the prepared pipette tip rack and microplates into their
drawers. Use drawer adapters as needed. See Loading Tips and
Microplates on page 99.
5. Use the SoftMax Pro Software to start the reading. See Starting
the Reading on page 100.
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Starting Up the System
Normally, you do not need to switch off power at the end of the day. If
the system will not be used for more than a day, it is best to turn off the
instrument. Use the following procedure only if the system has been
switched off.
Note: These instructions assume that the SoftMax Pro Software has
been installed and you are ready to begin an experiment. For software
installation instructions, see the SoftMax Pro Software User Guide.
1. Locate the power switch on the back of the instrument.
Figure 3-1: Power Switch Location
2. Press the rocker switch to the ON position (I).
The instrument automatically performs diagnostic checks to
ensure that it is functioning correctly. All three drawers open and
close. After about four minutes, the control panel displays the
temperature inside the reading chamber. The reading chamber
drawer automatically opens.
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After about five minutes, the instrument is warmed up and
ready.
Figure 3-2: Control Panel Ready
Note: No set point temperature appears at this time, since the
incubator has not been turned on.
3. Turn on the host computer and allow Windows to start up.
4. Double-click the SoftMax Pro Software icon to start the program.
Note: If you get an error message while the software is starting
up, see Troubleshooting Procedures on page 129.
The SoftMax Pro Software opens with an Untitled window in Flex mode,
with a default template selected.
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Figure 3-3: SoftMax Pro Software New Untitled Window
•
For users new to SoftMax Pro Software:
If you are new to SoftMax Pro Software, familiarize yourself with
the software by reading about the default protocol, and running
the tutorial described in this window. Also, refer to the SoftMax
Pro Software User Guide.
• For users familiar with SoftMax Pro Software:
If you are already familiar with SoftMax Pro Software, you can
close the Notes section and open the Plate section. You are now
ready to begin setting up your experiment protocols.
For information on adjusting software settings, see Setting Up the
Software on page 75.
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Using the Control Panel
You can interact with the instrument by using the buttons on the
instrument control panel. All control panel button functions can also be
controlled in the software.
Figure 3-4: Detail of Control Panel with LCD
The following tables describe the indicators and buttons in the control
panel.
Table 3-1: Indicators in the Control Panel
Indicator
Description
The actual°C provides the actual temperature inside the
reading chamber at any given time.
The set pt°C provides the set point temperature you select
for the current experiment. This number is displayed only
when the incubator is on.
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Table 3-2: Buttons in the Control Panel
Button
Description
the Temp on/off button enables or disables the incubator.
When the incubator is on, both the set temperature and
measured internal temperature are shown on the front panel
LCD display.
The arrow buttons allow you to enter a set point for the
temperature in the instrument reading chamber. Press these
buttons to adjust the temperature up or down, starting at
the previous temperature setting, or the default of 37°C if no
setting has been made. Press either arrow once to increase
or decrease the temperature shown in the display by an
increment of 0.1°C; press and hold to scroll the temperature.
The tip rack button opens or closes the tip rack drawer.
The reagents button opens or closes the compound plate
drawer.
The reading chamber button opens or closes the reading
chamber drawer. Whether or not the drawer remains open
depends on the incubator setting.
• If the incubator is off, the drawer remains open.
• If the incubator is on, the drawer closes after
approximately 10 seconds to assist in maintaining
temperature control within the microplate chamber.
Note: If the feature is selected in Instrument Setup, the
drawer remains closed after the assay plate reading.
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Setting the Temperature
If you want an elevated temperature within the instrument for your
experiment, turn on the incubator at least 30 minutes before you plan to
start plate reading. Up to 30 minutes can be required for the
temperature within the chamber to reach the set point. Turning on the
incubator and choosing a temperature set point can be done using the
software or the front panel of the instrument.
The instrument will operate with a reading chamber temperature from
2°C above ambient to 45°C. The temperature cannot be regulated at a
set point that is outside this range.
Note: It is possible to enter a temperature setting that is outside the
operational range, either with the software or with the control panel.
However, the instrument will not respond with a temperature outside
the allowable range.
Displaying the Temperature
Two temperatures are displayed in the LCD on the control panel.
Figure 3-5: Temperature Control and Display
The upper reading is the temperature measured inside the reading
chamber. When the incubator is off, this upper number is the ambient
temperature. The lower reading is the set point, that is, the temperature
you desire for the current experiment, and it is displayed only when the
incubator is enabled.
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Setting the Temperature with the Control Panel
To enable the incubator, press the Temp on/off button on the control
panel. The display indicates that temperature control is on by displaying
numbers in the lower half of the LCD. The instrument sets the reading
chamber to the default temperature, 37°C.
Figure 3-6: Temperature Control Enabled
To change the temperature set point, press the up or down arrow keys
until the desired temperature set point appears on the display.
The reading chamber temperature is maintained at the set point until
you disable temperature control by touching the Temp on/off button
again. When the incubator is off, the temperature within the reading
chamber returns to ambient.
Note: If the power is shut off to the instrument for any reason, you
need to turn on the incubator again and allow sufficient time (at least
10 minutes) for the control algorithm to fully stabilize the reading
chamber temperature.
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Setting the Temperature with SoftMax Pro Software
You can turn on the incubator with software by selecting Incubator from
the Control menu. You can also click the Incubator button on the
instrument Status bar.
Figure 3-7: Incubator Button
The Incubator dialog appears.
Figure 3-8: Incubator Dialog
You can leave the temperature setting at the default value or you can
type a different value into the Temperature field.
Note: The incubator setting is independent of the protocol being run.
Running an experiment does not automatically select the temperature
set point. After a reading, the temperature set point, range, and
average actual temperature are recorded in the saved file.
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Setting Up the Software
Use the following procedure to check the instrument status and settings.
1. Observe the Instrument Status icon in the left corner of the
SoftMax Pro Software Status bar. The icon is purple when the
SoftMax Pro Software correctly recognizes the instrument.
2. Observe the temperature displayed in the Temperature display
field.
v
Figure 3-9: Instrument Status Bar
If there is a red X in front of the Instrument Status icon, if there is
no temperature in the Temperature display field, or if you see
other problems, you might need to adjust instrument
preferences.
 To adjust instrument preferences, follow Step 3 through
Step 5.
 Otherwise, skip to Step 6.
3. Click Edit > Preferences or double-click on the instrument icon.
The Preferences dialog appears.
Figure 3-10: Preferences Dialog
4. Make sure that the serial port setting agrees with the actual port
the computer cable (RS-232 cable) is connected to. This is
generally Com1.
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5. Make sure that the serial comm speed is 9600 Baud.
Note: After you read an assay plate in Flex mode, the serial
communication speed changes to 57600 Baud.
If you have correctly configured the settings in the Preferences
dialog as described in Step 3 through Step 5 and you are still
observing problems (a red ‘X’ over the Flex icon, no temperature
in the temperature display box, or other problems), then you
must take further steps to establish communication between the
computer and the instrument, or to resolve a different
instrument problem. See Troubleshooting Procedures on
page 129.
6. The SoftMax Pro application defaults to Flex mode every time
you start the software. You can confirm this mode, if desired, by
clicking Control > Instrument Setup or click the Settings button
on the Plate section tool bar to view the Instrument Settings
screen.
Figure 3-11: Settings Button
Figure 3-12: Instrument Settings Dialog
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7. Make sure that the Flex button on the right is selected.
Note: You can select a different read type from the Instrument
Settings screen by clicking on one of the other four buttons at
the top of the window. The rest of these instructions assume
you are remaining in Flex mode.
8. Click OK to return to the Untitled window.
Figure 3-13: Untitled Window in Flex Mode
9. Before continuing with other software settings, create or edit the
Plate sections you will need. To create more Plate sections, click
Experiment > New Plate.
If you want to create a plate section with settings identical to a
particular existing plate section, select that plate section and
then click Edit > Duplicate.
Double click on the word Plate in the Plate Section tool bar to
open a dialog to name the Plate section. See the SoftMax Pro
Software User Guide.
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SoftMax Pro Software Parameters
In addition to the settings discussed in Setting Up the Software on
page 75, there are several other parameters to select when reading a
microplate. Listed under Setup in the SoftMax Pro Software, these reader
parameters can and should be adjusted to get the best data from your
particular assay. Some of the parameters are discussed here in the
FlexStation 3 instrument User Guide, and they are discussed in more
detail in the SoftMax Pro Software User Guide. All possible combinations
of type, mode, and parameter are not presented here, but Molecular
Devices technical support is always available to help you achieve the best
possible results.
Refer to the following sections for considerations when setting up for a
specific read.
• Read Types, see page 79
• Read Modes, see page 79
• Wavelengths, see page 80
• Sensitivity, see page 80
• Timing, see page 81
• Assay Plate Type, see page 82
• Wells to Read, see page 83
• Automix, see page 84
• AutoCalibrate, see page 85
• Settling Time, see page 85
• AutoRead, see page 85
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Read Types
Choose from five read types. The reading can occur in a each well of a
microplate unless otherwise noted.
• Flex: Data is collected over a specified period of time at regular
intervals and uses integrated fluid transfer to delivery reagents
while the wells are being read.
• Endpoint: A single reading is taken. Fluid transfer can occur only
before the read.
• Kinetic: Data is collected over a specified period of time at
regular intervals and fluid transfer can occur only before the first
read.
• Spectrum: The scanning monochromator is used to take readings
of the same sample at many different wavelengths within the
range specified. No fluid integrated transfer is available.
• Well Scan: Multiple readings are taken in different areas of each
well in a 6-well to 96-well microplate. No integrated fluid transfer
is available.
Read Modes
The detection modes available for each experiment will vary depending
on the read type selected. Select from up to five possible Read Modes:
• Fluorescence (RFUs)
• Absorbance (ODs)
• Luminescence (RLUs)
• Time-Resolved Fluorescence (RFUs)
• Fluorescence Polarization (RFUs)
If bottom reading is possible for the selected read mode, a check box
appears in the window that says Well Bottom Read. If you want to read
through the bottom of a clear-bottom plate, select the Well Bottom
Read check box.
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Wavelengths
Up to four wavelengths can be read per well. Although the arrows open a
window showing the six most commonly-used wavelengths, the tunable
monochromator allows any excitation or emission wavelength to be
entered between a certain range for the particular read mode. In
addition to an emission monochromator, fluorescent-quality cutoff filters
help reduce background signal.
You can either manually choose from 15 emission filters or allow the
software to choose which long pass emission filter to use based on the
excitation wavelength. See Table 3-4: Emission Cutoff Filter Default
Settings on page 109.
Sensitivity
Adjust sensitivity either by varying the number of readings that are
performed in each well or by changing the PMT sensitivity (voltage). In
general, a higher number of readings results in better reader precision. In
fluorescence intensity reading, the sample can photobleach if a high
number of flashes are used, so if the plate will be re-read (especially for
kinetic assays or multiwavelength reads), Molecular Devices
recommends using 10 readings or fewer. During Flex mode, Molecular
Devices recommends that you begin with 6 readings to supply enough
light for these fast kinetic assays. For low-signal endpoint assays, such as
some FP or TRF assays, 100 readings per well can be optimal.
The Automatic PMT sensitivity setting allows the reader to adjust the
PMT voltage automatically for varying signals coming from samples on
the plate. In modes that allow manual setting of the PMT, a setting of
High is best for low signal assays, including assays that require Flex mode.
The PMT sensitivity is not adjustable for all read types, including Kinetic
and Flex reads.
Note: Increasing the number of reads also increases the total read
time.
Figure 3-14: Sensitivity Settings
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The photomultiplier tube (PMT) is a photon detector that detects light,
through the use of photoemission and successive instances of secondary
emission, to produce enough electrons to generate a strong signal.
Timing
The Timing setting depends on several settings which appear after it in
the list. To obtain the minimum read interval, you must return to Timing
after completing all the settings.
To adjust the Timing for readings, enter the total run time and the time
interval between readings.
Figure 3-15: Timing Settings
To change the default values, click in the appropriate box and then type
the desired run time or interval. The acceptable run time range is from
0 seconds to 1000 seconds.
After you have entered the values, the total Number of Reads calculated
by the instrument is displayed automatically. Depending on what
sensitivity you have selected in the sensitivity settings, the Minimum
Interval and the Minimum Run Time automatically adjusts. The Minimum
Interval is also dependent on the Compound Transfer settings and the
number of wells to be read per column.
If you select a time that is out of range or an inappropriate interval, an
error message appears at the bottom of the window.
Figure 3-16: Timing Error Message
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Assay Plate Type
Assay Plate Type determines the alignment of the read head with respect
to the microplate. For 384-well microplates, it is important that the
correct assay plate be chosen to match the microplate that the reader
will read. If the microplate you are using is not listed in the selection, a
new plate type can be added under the Plate menu option Edit Plate
Type.
Figure 3-17: Assay Plate Types
Note: If you change the Assay Plate Type setting for a Plate section, the
well assignments stored in the previous template are discarded. The
previously created groups remain, however, so that you can select new
wells and apply existing groups to them. The Assay Plate Type setting
takes precedence over all other fluidics module settings and affect the
correctness of other settings.
If you go back and change this setting after you have selected settings
that follow (for example, Compound Source, Compound and Tip
Columns) the earlier settings might be automatically reconfigured to
reflect the new assay plate type and well layout. Be sure to check any
earlier assignments to ensure they remain correct.
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Wells to Read
You can choose which plate wells to read in your experiment. You can
choose a combination of wells, from one well only to all the wells in a
plate. Partial-plate reading can significantly reduce the time required for
certain types of readings because the instrument does not have to read
the entire plate.
Figure 3-18: Wells to Read Setting
Select the wells you want read by dragging the pointer. Wells must be
contiguous, and in a rectangular arrangement, but do not need to start in
the column 1. You can choose a partial row or column, or a single well.
When planning your experiment, remember that the instrument makes
fluid transfers and readings one column at a time. You might want to use
partial rows (A through H) rather than partial columns (1 through 12 or 1
through 24) for most situations.
Note: The selected wells must be contiguous and in a rectangular
arrangement.
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If you select a partial-plate for reading, only those wells selected will be
visible in the data display. In the figure below, the Plate section reflects
that wells A1 through H2 have been selected for reading.
Figure 3-19: Plate Section with Selected Wells to Read
Automix
The Automix function is a patented feature that allows you to set
automated shaking of the microplate before and between readings.
Select Before First Read to shake the microplate before the first
wavelength reading only. You can also set Automix to shake the plate
Between Reads.
Select the check box next to the type of shaking you want and then type
a value in the field on the right to indicate how long shaking should last.
Automix time can last from 1 second to 999 seconds.
Figure 3-20: Automix Settings
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AutoCalibrate
This AutoCalibrate check box allows you to disable or enable automatic
calibration. The default is enabled. Turn automatic calibration off to
allow the instrument to begin or complete readings more quickly.
The instrument maintains the most recent automatic calibration settings
in memory (NVRAM) until another automatic calibration is performed.
Figure 3-21: AutoCalibrate Selection
Note: Allow the instrument to perform an automatic calibration of at
least one microplate before you disable this function.
Settling Time
Settling Time is the delay time between reader motion and initiation of
reading. In Fluorescence Polarization, the settling time happens before
each well is read. However, in all other read modes, the settling time
happens only after the microplate has been moved to begin the read of
another column. This delay allows time for the meniscus motion to
cease, potentially improving precision, especially in the low-density,
high-volume microplates with fewer than 96 wells.
AutoRead
AutoRead, if checked, causes the reader to read the same microplate
over and over, without user intervention. Several different Plate sections,
with the same or different setups, can be defined in one experiment
protocol. Starting the read in the first protocol results in the microplate
being read until it reaches the last Plate section, after which it
automatically stops.
CAUTION! To prevent data loss, make sure that you turn off the
AutoRead function for the last Plate section.
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SoftMax Pro Software Parameters for Fluid Transfer
In addition to defining the parameters to be used during a read, the
FlexStation 3 instrument includes distinct parameters only available for
use with the integrated pipettor. It is essential that settings for the
fluidics operations are correct and correlate with one another. In
particular, layouts and settings for Assay Plate Type, Wells to Read,
Compound Source, Compound Transfer, and Compound & Tip Columns
must correlate.
The SoftMax Pro Software cross-checks these settings as you move
through the configuration windows, and after you click OK to close the
Instrument Settings dialog. If settings do not correlate, an error message
appears, and you must correct the settings before continuing.
The following sections describe the available fluid-transfer settings.
• Compound Source, see page 87
• Compound Transfer, see page 88
• Triturate Selection, see page 92
• Compound and Tip Columns, see page 93
• Pipette Tip Air Gap, see page 97
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Compound Source
This setting allows you to select a compound source plate. Compound
plates store fluids that are aspirated (withdrawn from the compound
plate) and then injected (dispensed) into the assay plate during the run.
Make sure that you select a plate type that matches the type and well
configuration of the actual compound plate you are using and the
number of wells selected in the Assay Plate Type setting.
In particular, the well bottom height is different for different types of
plates, and selecting the plate type correctly is important to prevent
jamming pipette tips into the bottom of the well. The instrument
assumes a 20 μL pipette height when aspirating from a 96-well
compound plate.
Figure 3-22: Well Bottom Height
CAUTION! Selecting an incorrect compound plate type can result in
pipette tips jamming into the wells and damaging the microplate, the
tips, and the instrument.
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Figure 3-23: Compound Source Settings
Compound Transfer
Compound Transfer is an important setting to configure correctly. In
addition to configuring precise fluid transfers for your experiments, this
setting also helps prevent flooding of the assay plate.
The fields in this dialog allow you to set volumes for up to three transfers.
However, you must be careful to keep in mind the actual maximum
volume allowed in the wells you are using as you move through the
settings. The maximum cumulative volume depends on the assay plate
type you select.
Figure 3-24: Compound Transfer Settings
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Assay Plate Fluid Initial Volume
Type a value in the Initial Fluid field that equals the largest initial volume
before compound transfers for any well in the assay plate. For example,
this value can be set from 0 μL to269 μL, although typical values are
about 10 μL to 200 μL for a 96-well microplate.
The SoftMax Pro Software assumes all wells hold the same initial volume.
The software uses this value to compute the total volume in each well
after all fluids have been dispensed. The software makes this calculation
to warn you in the Compound and Tip Columns setting of the potential
for overflow of fluid from the wells.
If there is no fluid volume in the assay plate before compound transfers,
do not type a value in this field.
Any value entered is saved with the file but the value is not displayed
anywhere except in the Compound Transfer setting.
Values for a 384-well microplate can be set from 0 μL to 120 μL.
Transfers
You can enable up to three compound transfers in a single well during a
run time. The default value for the number of transfers is one (1). As you
enable transfers, color-coded transfer buttons appear next to the
Transfers field.
When you select one of the Transfer buttons, that button appear with a
darker gray background. You can then enter the parameters for that
particular transfer in the Transfer Settings portion of this dialog.
Note: There are no other indications in the Transfer Settings for which
transfer you are configuring. Pay close attention to which transfer
settings you are modifying.
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Transfer Settings
•
Pipette Height: (1 μL to 999 μL) This setting determines the
volume of fluid (in microliters, measured from the bottom of the
assay plate microplate well) above which the tip of the pipette
will remain during the dispensing portion of the transfer event.
This setting helps ensure that the tip of the pipette is below the
surface of the liquid at the end of the transfer, minimizing the
possibility that undispensed drops remain on the tips.
Note: As you configure subsequent transfers you must calculate
the amount of fluid added and set the pipette height
accordingly.
•
Rate: (1 to 8) This setting determines the rate at which the fluid
is dispensed into the well of the assay microplate. In a 96-well
microplate, a setting of 1 is equal to 26 μL per second and each
subsequent number increases in increments of 26 microliters.
Therefore, a setting of 2 is equal to 52 μL per second. A setting of
3 or 4 can help minimize cell damage or dislodgment. In 384-well
microplates, the speed is set to 6 μL per second and increases in
increments of 6 μL.
Note: For non-contact dispensing, use a rate of 8 to ensure all
liquid is dispensed from pipette tip.
•
Volume: During Flex mode, this setting determines the volume
of material to be dispensed from the source to each individual
well chosen to receive that transfer.
 For a 96-well microplate, the range is 1 μL to 200 μL.
 For a 384-well microplate, the range is 1 μL to 30 μL.
Note: Keep in mind the maximum total volume each well can
hold as you accumulate volumes with multiple transfers.
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•
Time Point: (Minimum Time to 9999 seconds) This setting
determines the time after the start of the reading when the fluid
is scheduled to begin being dispensed. Your time point will
eventually be your baseline time. This is not the time interval
between transfers. In Endpoint and Kinetic reads, Time Point
reflects the time at which the first dispense occurs. The Endpoint
or Kinetic read begins after all transfers are made.
Note: The Time Point cannot be smaller than the Minimum
Time identified by the software for each transfer.
•
Minimum Time: This information line automatically displays the
minimum time required before a pipetting event can occur. This
minimum time value is cumulative, not an interval between
pipetting events. The value is the minimum number of seconds
of elapsed time from the beginning of the read. It takes into
account the mechanical speed of the pipette head and the time
needed to load and unload tips, aspirate and dispense fluids,
trituration, and Automix.
The minimum time for the second pipetting event depends on
when the first pipetting event occurred. The calculation for the
second event starts at the end of the first event and adds the
total time necessary to load pipette tips, aspirate new fluids from
the compound plate, and dispense them into the assay plate.
Possible Problems
Time point calculations are based on the number of wells read, the tip
column and compound column used during transfer. If you select time
points that are not long enough (incompatible with the selected volumes
and transfer speed), the system notifies you that the time point needs to
be increased.
If you select transfer volumes that add up to more than the maximum
that can be accommodated by the assay plate, an overflow warning
appears at the bottom of the settings screen indicating you have
exceeded the volume limits of the read plate.
Pay attention to the minimum time value displayed under the time point
field for each transfer, as the minimum time values are different
depending on which transfer you are configuring.
The Compound Transfer setting works in conjunction with the Compound
& Tip Columns setting. Until well assignments are made in the
Compounds & Tip Columns setting, the Compound Transfer setting
displays No targets assigned.
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Triturate Selection
Note: The choices shown in this section are based on the number of
compound transfers you specified in the Compound Transfer settings. If
no transfers are enabled, no triturate settings are applicable.
Trituration is mixing of the contents of the wells in either or both the
compound source and assay plates. Trituration is accomplished by fluid
being alternately aspirated from and dispensed back into a well.
Applications for which trituration is recommended include when
compound in the source plate needs to be resuspended before addition,
transferring low volumes to the read plate, or when transferring fluid
before or during an absorbance read to ensure that there is proper
mixing of the well contents.
Select the transfer (if more than one is enabled) during which you wish to
perform trituration, and then select the check box for either Compound
Source or Assay Plate, or both.
You can set the Volume of fluid to be withdrawn from the well and the
number of times (Cycles) to be aspirated and dispensed into that well.
In addition, for assay plates, you must also enter a value for the Height at
which the trituration occurs. The height setting should take into account
the volume selected, so that the tips remain below the liquid surface and
do not draw air.
Figure 3-25: Triturate Settings
If you choose dispense times that are incompatible with the settings, an
error message appears.
Figure 3-26: Triturate Error Message
To modify the dispensing time, return to the Transfer Settings in the
Compound Transfer settings.
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Pipette Tips Layout
The Pipette Tips Layout setting displays the format of tips, 96-well or
384-well, that need to be used for the respective Assay Plate Type that is
chosen.
CAUTION! Molecular Devices recommends using a full rack of tips each
time you perform a fluid transfer to ensure proper pipetting. If you
mistakenly enable a pipetting function from a tip that is not present, the
instrument can malfunction, potentially causing serious damage.
Figure 3-27: Pipette Tips Layout Settings
Compound and Tip Columns
The choices for these settings depend upon the number of transfers
chosen in the Compound Transfer window. When one or more transfers
are enabled, these settings allow you to choose the tips and compounds
to be used for transfers.
The settings are either automatically assigned by the software, or you
can manually assign them into any configuration you require.
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Compound and Tip Columns Automatically Assigned
The SoftMax Pro Software automatically enters information in the
Compound & Tip Columns window taking into consideration the number
of transfers and the Wells to Read section already selected. The software
assumes fluid will be aspirated from the compound plate starting with
the first available column. Aspirated fluid will then be dispensed to the
first available column indicated in the Wells to Read selection.
The software assumes the following conditions:
• All columns in the Wells to Read selection will receive fluid.
• The fluids are transferred from left to right. The read-transferread sequence in each column is initiated only after the previous
column’s read-transfer-read event is completed (the total read
time for that column).
• The fluid transfer targets are cumulative from transfer to
transfer. That is, the second transfer’s targets start with the next
available clean tip and untargeted compound column rather than
reusing tips and compound columns targeted by the preceding
fluid transfer.
• Each fluid transfer will use a new tip.
The software assumes that all of the columns in the Wells to Read area
will receive fluid during the initial transfer. The Tips Target grid is filled
left to right starting with the first available tip column and incrementing
the tip target by one until all columns in the Wells to Read selection have
been filled.
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Figure 3-28: Compound & Tips Columns Window with Three Transfers
In the previous illustration, the instrument is configured for three fluid
transfers as follows:
• Wells to Read selection of columns 1 through 4.
• Compound Source selection of a 12-column compound plate.
• Pipette Tips Layout selection of a full rack of tips.
From those settings, the SoftMax Pro Software selects tip and compound
columns 1 through 4 for the first transfer. The second transfer uses the
next four columns (5 through 8) and the third transfer employs the
remaining four unused columns (9 through 12).
This settings show one, two, or three transfers, with blue, pink, and
green color-coded tips to match the setting made in the Compound
Transfer window.
There are two menus: Tips Column and Compound Column.
• The Tips Column menu displays a sequence of numbers that
match the Pipette Tip Layout settings.
• The Compound Column menu displays numbers from 1 through
the number of columns of the compound plate or the number of
troughs selected in the Compound Source tab.
A tips or compound row displays 12 columns to represent the number of
columns in a 96-well assay plate. The actual number of columns and their
placement further depends on the number of columns and their
locations as selected in the Wells to Read settings window.
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Manually Assigning Tips and Compounds
Alternatively to automatic assignment, you can assign any tip column
and any compound column to correspond to any assay plate column.
To assign a tip to an assay plate well, select one or more tip cells and
select one of the items available in the Tips Column menu. The tip
column selected in the menu is shown as a number in the selected tip
rows. Choosing the Fill option at the top of the menu fills the selected
cells with the tip numbers that correspond to the same column numbers
(tip 3 with column 3, and so on). Similarly, to assign a compound, select
one or more compound cells and select one of the items from the
Compound Column menu.
Note: To leave tips on between columns in Endpoints and Kinetic reads,
designate the same Tip Column to be used for multiple read columns in
the Tip Target grid.
The wells shown graphically convey the volumes of liquid in the assay
plate for each pipetting event. Using the color associated with each
event, the compound settings display the dispensed compound volume
as a percentage of the total assay well volume. If you entered an initial
volume in the Compound Transfer settings, that is shown as a gray fill. As
the liquid volumes are cumulative, the first event’s volume is shown
above the initial liquid volume (if any), the second event’s volume is
shown above the first, and the third event’s volume above the second.
To deselect a tip or compound assignment, first select the appropriate
cells and then press Backspace on your keyboard. To change an
assignment, select the wells and choose new values or type a value.
Note: If you have multiple wells selected, and you type a value, that
value is shown in the first selected well and the subsequent wells
increment to the next higher value.
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Pipette Tip Air Gap
The pipette air gap is the volume between the end of the pipette tip and
the bottom of the liquid in the tip.
Figure 3-29: Pipette Tip Air Gap
To set the pipette tip air gap, click Control > Set Air Gap.
Figure 3-30: Setting Pipette Tip Air Gap
In the Air Gap Settings dialog, the allowed values ares 0 μL to 200 μL for
96-well microplates and 0 μL to 30 μL for 384-well microplates.
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Settings Displayed in Plate Sections
The Plate section provides visual feedback on all instrument settings in
the Instrument Settings section, the gray area to the far right of the Plate
section. Information about wells to read and transfer settings are also
displayed in the Data Display section.
For example, the following figure shows a Plate section with three fluid
transfers. The blue squares in their upper-left corners represent the first
transfer, the red squares in the upper-right corners represent the second
transfer, and the green squares in the lower-left corners represent the
third transfer.
Figure 3-31: Plate Section with Wells Selected for Injection
The Plate section also provides information on the transfer settings and
the compound sources. The information is displayed below the plate
table.
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Other Software Settings
There are other software settings that deal with data calculation and
display. In contrast to instrument setup parameters, these data settings
can be configured before, during, or after running an experiment. These
include:
• Setting reduction parameters
• Setting data display parameters
• Using the Template Editor
Molecular Devices strongly recommends that you define a template and
set the reduction and display parameters before reading the assay plate,
because these parameters determine how data is displayed and
analyzed. You can set up or modify templates, reduction, and display
parameters after collection, but this can be complicated or confusing.
For information about using the software to continue to prepare for an
experiment, see the SoftMax Pro Software User Guide.
Note: While it is strongly recommended that you use the Template
Editor before running an experiment, it is not strictly necessary. The
values received from the instrument are raw values, and are not
affected by the settings in the Template Editor.
Reading a Microplate
Loading Tips and Microplates
Prepare your tip rack, compound plate, and the assay plate you want to
analyze and load them into the instrument.
CAUTION! Make sure that the underside of the assay plate is dry before
you place it in the reading chamber drawer. Damage to the lower read
head can occur from liquids that come into contact with it. If the
microplate has fluid on the underside, dry it using a paper towel, or
equivalent, before placing the microplate in the drawer.
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To load tips and microplates:
1. Open the appropriate drawer by either pressing the appropriate
drawer button on the instrument control panel, or by using the
SoftMax Pro Software.
2. Insert the filled tip rack or plates into the drawer, placing well A1
into the upper-left corner of the drawer as you look at it.
 Make sure the compound plate is flat against the compound
baseplate.
 Make sure the assay plate is flat against the black adapter
(for 96-well and 384-well microplates) or the drawer bottom
(for 6-well, 12-well, 24-well, or 48-well microplates).
For more information, see Using the Microplate Adapters on
page 120 and Using the Compound Baseplate on page 121.
3. Close drawer by either pressing the appropriate drawer button
on the instrument control panel, or by using the SoftMax Pro
Software.
Starting the Reading
Note: Make sure that you have completed all required settings and
configurations before starting the read. You cannot change settings
during a read, or after the read and data collection are complete.
You can start reading at any time after defining instrument settings.
To read the microplates, click the Read button on the SoftMax Pro
Software tool bar or click Control > Read. You can also press Ctrl+R on
your keyboard.
Figure 3-32: The SoftMax Pro Software Read Button
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Selecting a Plate
If you have created more than one Plate section, and no Plate section is
active, choosing the Read command will display a dialog box requiring
you to choose which section to read.
Figure 3-33: Selecting a Plate Section
Select the correct section and click OK. If a Plate section is active, starting
a read will read the active plate.
Replacing Data in a Plate
If you select a Plate section that already contains data and select the
Read command, an alert appears requiring you to confirm that you want
to replace the data with data from the new reading.
Figure 3-34: Replace Data Warning

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Click Replace to proceed with the reading and replace any
previous data with the new data.
Click Cancel to prevent the reading from starting, preserving
the current data.
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Viewing Experiment Progress
During the read, the Status bar displays information about the current
reading.
Figure 3-35: The SoftMax Pro Software Status Bar During a Read
Table 3-3: Status Bar Reading Information
Item
Description
The Read button changes to Stop. Clicking the Stop button
halts the reading.
The plate name and icon appear to indicate which Plate
section is currently being read.
The Reading field displays the portion of the read that is
currently under way.
The time display shows the amount of time elapsed since
the beginning of the read.
Data Display
You can observe the gradual accumulation of data in the Plate section of
the SoftMax Pro Software window. The values read by the instrument
appear in the data display of the Plate section as they are received from
the instrument to the software in real time.
For information about how to change the data display, see the SoftMax
Pro User Guide.
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Shutting Down the System
When a read is completed, you can perform more reads, or shut down
the instrument.
Shutting down the FlexStation 3 instrument includes the following steps:
1. Save any data files desired in the SoftMax Pro Software.
2. Make sure all three drawers are empty of pipette tips and plates.
3. Clean up any spills that may have occurred during the day’s
experiments.
4. Turn off the instrument and the computer according to your
laboratory’s practice.
Note: Generally, you do not need to switch off the power at the end of
the day. If the system will not be used for more than one day, it is best
to turn off the instrument.
Optimizing Fluorescence Assays
The optimum instrument settings for detection of a particular
fluorophore depend on a number of different factors. Settings that can
be adjusted for assay optimization include the excitation and emission
wavelengths, emission cutoff filter, readings per well, the PMT voltage,
and the temperature of the reading chamber.
Another important factor that is independent of the instrument but
which affect assays optimization is the Stokes shift. When the Stokes shift
is very small, optimizing the excitation and emission wavelengths and
correct cutoff filter choices are very important.
Excitation and Emission Wavelengths
The excitation and emission wavelengths can be set in 1 nm increments
between 250 nm and 850 nm. A procedure to optimize excitation and
emission wavelengths for a given assay is outlined in Using Spectral
Scanning to Optimize Excitation and Emission Wavelengths for
Fluorescence Assays on page 105.
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Emission Cutoff Filter
The emission cutoff filters assist in reducing background. Sources of
background include stray excitation light and native fluorescence of
microplate materials, sample constituents, and solvents (including
water). The default setting allows the instrument and the SoftMax Pro
Software to determine which cutoff filter should be used in Endpoint and
Kinetic reads. For default settings, see Table 3-4 on page 109. The
spectral scan read default uses no cutoff filter.
Readings Per Well
The number of readings per well may vary between 1 (used for a quick
estimate) and 100 (for very precise measurements). The default number
of readings per well varies with the read mode. For fluorescence, the
default is 6, and for luminescence, the default is 30.
PMT Voltage
The voltage of the photomultiplier tube can be set to low (for higher
concentration samples), medium, or high (for lower concentration
samples) in all read modes. In Endpoint and Spectrum reads, there is an
additional setting, automatic, in which the instrument automatically
adjusts the PMT voltage for varying concentrations of sample in the
plate.
Temperature Control
The reading chamber of the FlexStation 3 instrument is isothermal at
ambient as well as at elevated temperatures. The temperature in the
reading chamber can be adjusted from 2°C above ambient to 45°C.
Note: Assay optimization requires the use of a computer and SoftMax
Pro Software.
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Using Spectral Scanning to Optimize Excitation and
Emission Wavelengths for Fluorescence Assays
Put 200 μL of sample that includes the fluorophore and 200 μL of a
buffer control into separate wells of a microplate.
Perform the Excitation Scan
1. Using the SoftMax Pro Software, set up a Plate section for a
fluorescence read, spectrum mode, Em Fixed/Ex Scan, with no
cutoff filter (default), and medium PMT.
2. Set the emission wavelength based on the tentative value from
the literature, or from a customary filter set used to measure
your fluorophore. If the emission wavelength is not known,
select a tentative emission wavelength about 50 nanometers
greater than the absorbance maximum of the fluorophore. If
necessary, the absorbance maximum can be determined by
performing an optical density spectral scan first.
3. Set the excitation scan to start/stop approximately 50 nm
below/above the tentative excitation value obtained from the
literature, or the customary excitation filter.
4. Set the step increment to 2 nm or 3 nm. You can choose to do a
preliminary scan with a 10 nm increment to determine the
approximate peak location, and then repeat the scan over a
narrower wavelength range with a 2 nm or 3 nm increment.
5. Perform the scan and view the results as a plot of emission
fluorescence vs. excitation wavelength.
Note the excitation wavelength at the emission peak and the
maximum RFU value.
If an error message reporting missing data points occurs, it might
be due to possible saturation reported by the SoftMax Pro
Software at the end of the spectral scan. Reset the PMT to Low
and re-scan the sample. Scan the buffer blank with the PMT set
to Medium or High. If the error occurs after scanning with the
PMT set to Low, it might be necessary to dilute the sample.
If the excitation scan shows no apparent peak, change the PMT
setting to High and re-scan the sample. If the spectral scan still
shows no apparent peak, adjust the Y-scale of the zoom plot so
that the plot fills the graph.
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Select the optimal excitation wavelength.
 If the excitation peak wavelength and emission wavelength
are separated by more than 80 nm, use the excitation peak
wavelength value.
 If the excitation and emission wavelengths are less than
80 nm apart, use the shortest excitation wavelength that
gives 90% maximal emission. Follow the plot to the left of
the peak until the RFU value falls to approximately 90% of
the maximum, and then drop a line from the 90% point on
the plot to the x-axis. See Figure 3-36.
Perform Emission Scan #1
1. In the SoftMax Pro Software, set up a second Plate section for a
fluorescence read, spectrum read type, Ex Fixed/Em Scan, with
no cutoff filter (default), and medium PMT.
2. Set the excitation wavelength to the value determined in Step 5
in Perform the Excitation Scan on page 105.
3. Set the emission scan to start/stop approximately 50 nm below
or above the tentative emission value obtained from the
literature, or existing filter pair.
Note: If the Stokes shift is less than 50 nm, then start the
emission scan above the excitation wavelength.
4. Set the step increment to 2 nm to 3 nm. You can choose to do a
preliminary scan with a 10 nm increment to determine the
approximate peak location, and then repeat the scan over a
narrower wavelength range with a 2 nm or 3 nm increment.
5. Perform the scan and view the results as a plot of fluorescence
vs. emission wavelength.
6. Select an emission cutoff filter that blocks as much of the
residual excitation light as possible without unduly reducing the
fluorescence signal.
The cutoff wavelength choices are 325, 420, 435, 455, 475, 495,
515, 530, 550, 570, 590, 610, 630, 665, or 695 nm. The cutoff
value should be near the maximum emission wavelength,
preferably between the excitation wavelength and the maximal
emission wavelength, but at least 10 nm less than the emission
wavelength.
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If you have questions about this procedure please contact
Molecular Devices Technical Support and ask to speak to an
applications scientist.
RFU at 90%
of maximum lamda
RFU
Maximum lambda
90% of
maximum lambda
Wavelength
Figure 3-36: Plot of RFU vs. Wavelength
Perform Emission Scan #2:
1. In the SoftMax Pro Software, set up a third Plate section for an
emission scan as specified in Perform Emission Scan #1 on
page 106, except selecting Manual Cutoff Filter and setting the
wavelength to that determined in Step 6.
2. Perform the scan and view the results as a plot of fluorescence
vs. emission wavelength.
Note the wavelength giving the maximum emission (the optimal
emission wavelength).
3. Compare the spectra of the sample containing the fluorophore
to the spectra of the buffer blank to get an estimate of the signalto-noise ratio. If there is significant background interference,
repeat Step 1 and Step 2 with another choice of cutoff filter.
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Results
The optimal excitation and emission wavelengths are those
determined in Step 5 in Perform the Excitation Scan on page 105
and in Step 2 in Perform Emission Scan #2: on page 107.
Comments


In Endpoint or Kinetic fluorescence reads, the Autofilter
feature generally selects the same cutoff filter wavelength as
the above optimization method. If desired, however, you can
specify the cutoff filters manually.
For emission wavelengths less than 325 nm, experimental
iteration is usually the best method of determining the
optimal emission and excitation wavelengths. Begin
optimization by performing the previous procedures. Try
emission and excitation wavelength combinations with the
325 nm cutoff or with no cutoff filter. Similarly, for excitation
wavelengths greater than 660 nm, try emission and
excitation wavelength combinations with the 695 nm cutoff
or with no cutoff filter.
Figure 3-37: Effects of cutoff filters on fluorescein. Emission was
scanned from 490 nm to 560 nm; excitation was fixed at 485 nm.
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Figure 3-37 on page 108 shows the effects of different cutoff filters on a
scan of fluorescein where excitation was fixed at 485 nm and emission
was scanned from 490 nm to 560 nm. Buffer blanks are not shown in this
plot. Table 3-4 lists default settings for the emission cutoff filters.
Table 3-4: Emission Cutoff Filter Default Settings
Number
Automatic Cutoff Selection
Wavelength (nm)
Endpoint and Kinetic Reads
Emission Wavelength (nm)
1
None
< 415
2
420
415–434
3
435
435–454
4
455
455–474
5
475
475–494
6
495
495–514
7
515
515–529
8
530
530–549
9
550
550–569
10
570
570–589
11
590
590–609
12
610
610–629
13
630
630–664
14
665
665–694
15
695
695–850
For Spectrum reads, the default is “manual” (no automatic cutoff).
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Optimizing Time-Resolved Fluorescence Assays
Time-resolved fluorescence (TRF) assays can be read from the top or
bottom of a microplate. Solid white plates are recommended for top
time-resolved fluorescence reads, and white plates with clear bottoms
are recommended for bottom reads.
If the time-resolved fluorescence assay you are using has low signal or
gives results with high % CV, use 100 readings per well. If a faster read
speed is required, be sure Settling Time is Off in the SoftMax Pro Plate
Settings dialog, and experiment with fewer flashes per well until
acceptable precision and speed are achieved.
Important settings for obtaining the best results in TRF assays are
integration delay and integration time:
• The integration delay is the amount of time that elapses
between the flash of the lamp (excitation) and the beginning of
data acquisition from the well (emission).
• The integration time is the amount of time the well is read.
Delay and integration time are usually specified in the package insert of
commercially available TRF reagent kits. If a kit is not used, start with a
delay of 50 μs and try different delays up to 400 μs with a fixed
integration time of 400 μs. After the optimum delay is chosen, based on
the highest ratio of a well containing a fluorophore divided by wells
containing only buffer, optimize the integration time, which is usually
between 400 μs and 1000 μs.
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Optimizing Fluorescence Polarization Assays
Fluorescence polarization (FP) can be read only from the top of a
microplate. The plastic from a microplate affects the light polarization,
precluding bottom reads and reading a covered plate.
Solid black plates are recommended for fluorescence polarization reads.
If the assay components seem to bind to the microplate, as evidenced by
poor mP dynamic range (small difference between bound and unbound
tracer), we suggest using polypropylene plates or adding a very small
amount of detergent, such as Tween-20, to the assay buffer. Background
wells, containing all assay components minus the fluorophore, should be
tested. If the signal in the background wells is more than 1/10 the signal
in the wells containing fluorophore, then background wells should be run
on each assay plate. The average raw signal from the parallel and
perpendicular readings of the background should be subtracted from the
raw parallel and perpendicular readings of each sample well before the
mP calculation is performed. For setup of background subtraction in
fluorescence polarization, see the SoftMax Pro Software User Guide.
For best precision in assays using a low amount of fluorophore (such as,
<5 nm fluorescein), set the PMT sensitivity to High and the number of
readings to 100. If faster read speed is required, be sure Settling Time is
Off in the SoftMax Pro Plate Settings dialog, and experiment with fewer
flashes per well until acceptable precision and speed are achieved.
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Optimizing Luminescence Assays
Luminescence can be read from the top or the bottom of a microplate.
Solid white plates or white plates with clear bottoms are recommended
for luminescence reads.
For standard luminescence, a separate light path without
monochromators carries the emitted light to a dedicated PMT. The
optimum emission wavelength is between 360 nm and 630 nm. Under
reader setup the emission says All.
For wavelength-selectable luminescence, the emission monochromator
is used to differentiate the wavelengths being emitted from the well. Up
to four emission wavelengths between 250 nm and 850 nm can be
specified. If reading only one luminescent event in the well, best
sensitivity should be achieved using the standard luminescence
measurement, without a wavelength selected.
Luminescence read times are not designated by multiple reads per well,
but rather by choosing the total integration time desired between 1 ms
and 1500 ms. Typical luminescence assays require between 500 ms and
1000 ms integration.
If wells have been incubating for a long period of time, it is a good idea to
mix the plate before reading. This can be done using Automix in the
reader.
If it appears that the signal is always higher in the first wells read (such
as, column A), the plate might need to be “dark adapted” to reduce the
auto-luminescence of the white plastic. The auto-luminescence
decreases quickly, so manually load the plate from the control panel and
wait for 1 to 2 minutes before initiating the read and then determine if
the read-out is more consistent across the plate.
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Maintenance
4
This chapter provides procedures for regular maintenance that the
FlexStation 3 instrument needs.
• Obtaining Support, see page 114
• Moving the Instrument, see page 114
• Cleaning the Instrument, see page 115
• Using the Microplate Adapters, see page 120
• Using the Compound Baseplate, see page 121
• Replacing Fuses, see page 121
• Replacing the Flash Lamp, see page 123
• Long-Term Shutdown, see page 128
WARNING! All maintenance procedures described in this user guide
can be safely performed by qualified personnel. Maintenance not
covered in this user guide should be performed only by a Molecular
Devices representative.
WARNING! Turn off the power switch and disconnect the power cord
from the main power source before performing any maintenance
procedure that requires removal of any panel, cover, or disassembly of
any interior instrument component.
Service-Trained Users: Whenever the following warning message
appears, a service-trained user must perform the procedure to ensure
user safety and to prevent instrument damage.
Example:
WARNING! The following procedures must be completed by a
service-trained user. Do not attempt the following procedures if you
have not been trained properly by appropriate Molecular Devices
personnel.
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Obtaining Support
Molecular Devices is a leading worldwide manufacturer and distributor
of analytical instrumentation. We are committed to the quality of our
products and to fully supporting our customers with the highest possible
level of technical service.
Our support web site, www.moleculardevices.com/support, has a link to
the Knowledge base with technical notes, software upgrades, and other
resources. If you do not find the answers you are seeking, follow the links
to the Technical Support Service Request Form to send an email message
to a pool of technical support representatives.
You can contact your local representative or contact Molecular Devices
Technical Support by telephone at 800-635-5577 (U.S. only) or
+1 408-747-1700. In Europe call +44 (0) 118 944 8000. Please have the
system ID number, system serial number, software version number, and
the system owner’s name available when you call.
Moving the Instrument
If you need to relocate the FlexStation 3 instrument, follow these steps.
WARNING! The instrument weighs approximately 50 pounds and
should be lifted with care. To prevent injury, use at least two people to
lift the instrument.
1. Ensure that the new location meets the proper specifications as
described in Installation on page 49.
2. Remove any microplates, adapters, reservoirs, and tips from all
three drawers, and then close the drawers.
CAUTION! Do not attempt to assemble or disassemble the
instrument with the pipette tips or compound and read plates in
place. Spillage or damage to the pipette tips, plates, or the
instrument can occur.
3. Be sure reading chamber screws are still in place. Contact
Technical Support if reading chamber screws have been
removed.
4. Be sure all covers are closed and securely fastened.
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5. Turn off the power switch and unplug the power cord from the
source and from the receptacle on the back of the instrument.
6. Disconnect the instrument from the computer and any printer.
7. Remove the fluidics module. For related instructions, see
Installing the Fluidics Module on page 53.
8. Depending on the distance that you will be moving the
instrument, you might want to repackage the FlexStation 3
instrument in its original shipping cartons. Otherwise, carry the
instrument or place it on a rolling cart to transport it.
Cleaning the Instrument
WARNING! BIOHAZARD. Wear gloves and other personal protection
equipment during any cleaning procedure that could involve contact
with either hazardous or biohazardous materials or fluids.
Periodically clean the outside surfaces of the FlexStation 3 instrument
using a cloth or sponge that has been dampened with water. Do not use
abrasive cleaners. If required, clean the surfaces using a mild soap
solution diluted with water or a glass cleaner and then wipe with a damp
cloth or sponge to remove any residue.
CAUTION! Do not spray cleaner directly onto the instrument or into any
openings.
If needed, clean the reading chamber drawer using a cloth or sponge that
has been dampened with water. Never clean the inside of the
instrument. Do not allow excess water or other fluids to drip inside the
instrument.
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Cleaning Up Spills
WARNING! Always make sure the power switch on the instrument is
in the OFF position and remove the power cord from the back of the
instrument before opening any covers or panels.
If fluids spill into the bottom of the reading chamber when the reading
chamber drawer is outside the instrument, the fluid is directed to a tray
at the bottom of the instrument, from which it exits to the bench or
counter beneath the instrument. Wipe up spills immediately. Clean the
exterior of the unit and the drawer as necessary.
Cleaning the Fan Filter
The fan filter on the bottom of the reader requires periodic cleaning. The
frequency of the cleaning depends on how dusty your particular lab is
and could range from once per month to once every six months.
1. Remove any microplates, adapters, reservoirs, and tips from all
three drawers, and then close the drawers.
CAUTION! Do not attempt to assemble or disassemble the
instrument with the pipette tips or compound and read plates in
place. Spillage or damage to the pipette tips, plates, or the
instrument can occur.
2. Turn the power to the reader OFF and then remove the power
cord and cables from the back of the reader.
3. Turn the reader over so that it rests flat on the bench.
4. Remove the black fan cover and then remove the filter.
5. Clean the filter by blowing canned air through it or by rinsing it
first with water and then with alcohol, and allowing it to dry
completely.
6. Place the clean, dry filter over the fan and replace the black
cover.
7. Turn the reader back over.
8. Reconnect the power cord and cables to the reader and return
the plate adapters to their respective positions.
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Maintenance
Cleaning the Barrels on the Pipettor Head
The barrels on the pipettor head require periodic cleaning to remove
silicone lubricant, dust, and other miscellaneous contamination.
Molecular Devices recommends that you clean the barrels at least once
every three months. The frequency of cleaning depends on how dusty
your particular lab is and how often the pipettor head is used. The
frequency and methods of cleaning are the same for both the 8-channel
and the 16-channel pipettor heads.
Remove the pipettor head and then clean the barrels using cotton swabs
and OS-2 silicone cleaner or alcohol. Do not touch the barrels with your
hands during cleaning.
CAUTION! Do not spill or drip liquid inside of the instrument, as this can
result in damage to the optical components.
CAUTION! To avoid damage to the instrument, follow these instructions
and any instruction labels on the instrument exactly.
WARNING! BIOHAZARD. This procedure includes steps involving
potentially infectious biological agents requiring that proper handling
precautions be taken.
To clean the barrels on the pipettor head:
1. Turn off the power to the instrument and unplug the power cord
and the computer cable from the rear of the instrument.
2. Open the instrument top cover.
Figure 4-1: Opening the Instrument Cover
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3. Turn the quarter-turn fastener on the inside top panel and unfold
the panel off the fluidics module to the right.
Figure 4-2: Opening of the Top Panel
4. Inside the open chamber, loosen the red retainer nut.
Figure 4-3: Removing the Pipettor Head
5. Slide the pipettor head part way out from under the metal
mounting plate, and of the top panel opening, supporting it from
underneath.
6. Lift the pipettor head out of the fluidics module carefully, as it is
still connected inside the instrument.
7. Hold the pipettor head over a tray or something into which you
can catch the liquid used for cleaning the barrels.
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8. Clean the barrels using cotton swabs and OS-2 silicone cleaner or
alcohol. Do not touch the barrels with your hands during
cleaning.
9. Slide the pipettor head back under its mounting plate inside the
fluidics module, making sure that the white spiral cord is secured
on its retaining hook.
Figure 4-4: Pipettor Head Coil Hook
10. Tighten the red retainer nut to secure the pipettor head. Make
sure the knob is as tight as possible.
11. Replace the inside top panel and then lower the cover back onto
the instrument.
12. Reattach the power cord to the instrument and reconnect the
instrument to the computer.
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Using the Microplate Adapters
Microplate Adapter Installation
If you are reading standard 96-well or 384-well microplates, you need to
install a microplate adapter in the reading chamber drawer. The black
adapter elevates the plate in the drawer for optimum performance with
standard 96-well or 384-well microplates in bottom-read and top-read
mode.
CAUTION! Incorrect insertion or removal of the adapter can cause
damage to the microplate drawer.
1. Turn power to the instrument on.
2. Press the reading chamber button on the front panel, or click
Control > Open Drawer in the software.
3. Lower the black adapter plate into the reading chamber drawer
with its cutout corner facing the front-left corner of the drawer.
Removing the Microplate Adapter
If you are reading “high profile” 6-well, 12-well, 24-well, or 48-well
microplates and the adapter is in the drawer, you must remove the
adapter.
1. Turn power to the instrument on.
2. Press the reading chamber button on the front panel, or click
Control > Open Drawer in the software.
3. Hold the adapter at the front (long side of the drawer) and push
toward the back (Row A).
4. Lift the front (Row H) of the adapter and remove it from the
drawer.
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Using the Compound Baseplate
To use the compound baseplate, place the metal baseplate into the
bottom of the compound plate drawer so that a compound plate can be
inserted on top of the baseplate.
1. Turn power to the instrument on.
2. Press the reagents button on the front panel, or click Control >
Open Compound Drawer in the software.
3. Lower the compound baseplate into the compound drawer with
its cutout corner facing the front-left corner of the drawer.
To remove the compound baseplate, open the compound drawer and lift
the baseplate out.
CAUTION! Do not attempt to move, maintain, or service the instrument
with the pipette tips or compound and read plates in place. Spillage or
damage to the pipette tips, plates, or the instrument can occur.
Replacing Fuses
Fuses burn out occasionally and must be replaced. If the instrument is
not getting power after switching it on (the LCD shows no display), check
to see whether the power cord is securely plugged in to a functioning
power outlet and to the receptacle at the rear of the instrument. If
power failed while the instrument was already on, check that the power
cord is not loose or disconnected and that power to the power outlet is
functioning properly. If these checks fail to remedy the loss of power,
follow the steps listed to replace the fuses. Spare fuses (two U.S. and two
metric) are shipped with the reader in the original carton. The U.S. and
metric fuses are identical except for physical size. They can be taped to
the back of the FlexStation 3 instrument.
If you no longer have spare fuses, you can obtain new fuses from
Molecular Devices (part number 4601-0029) or from a local hardware
store. Make sure fuses are rated slow-blow (6.3A 5 × 20 mm Slo-Blo IEC).
To replace the fuses:
1. Turn off power to the instrument and remove the power cord
from the outlet and from the instrument power cord receptacle.
2. Remove the printer cable and computer cable (if connected)
from the back of the instrument.
3. If necessary, turn the instrument to access the rear panel.
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On the left side of the rear panel, viewed from the back, is the
power switch, fuse box, and power cord receptacle.
Figure 4-5: Fuse Box Location
4. Press to the right of the black plastic cover of the fuse box to
release it.
5. Pull the fuse box cover away from the instrument. The fuse box
begins to slide forward.
6. Continue gently pulling the fuse box forward until it is free of the
instrument.
After the fuse holder is out of the instrument, you can see that it
contains two fuses. It is possible that only one of the fuses has
blown. Molecular Devices recommends that you replace both
fuses, however, to ensure continued proper operation.
7. Pull both fuses out of the holder and discard them.
8. Insert new slow-blow rated fuses into the fuse holder. Either end
of the fuse can be forward.
9. Insert the fuse box into the opening in the instrument, making
sure that the fuses are on the right side toward the power
receptacle.
10. Press the fuse box into place, making sure the cover snaps
closed.
11. Plug the power cord into the instrument and then into the wall
outlet.
12. Reconnect other cables previously disconnected.
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Maintenance
Replacing the Flash Lamp
The flash lamp should be replaced when an error message appears in the
SoftMax Pro Software to indicate replacement is necessary.
WARNING! The following procedures must be completed by a
service-trained user. Do not attempt the following procedures if you
have not been trained properly by appropriate Molecular Devices
personnel.
CAUTION! To avoid damage to the instrument, follow these instructions
and any instruction labels on the instrument exactly.
Figure 4-6: Labels Near the Lamp Cover
Figure 4-7: Flash Lamp Location
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Required Tools
• Hex keys: 3/32 inch, 9/64 inch, and 5/32 inch
• #2 Phillips screwdriver
To replace the flash lamp:
1. Turn off the instrument power switch and unplug the power cord
and the computer cable from the rear of the instrument.
2. Remove the Phillips head screw on the top of the cover and lift
the cover off vertically.
3. Set the cover aside, and keep track of the screw.
Note: An interlock switch, held closed by the lamp cover,
interrupts power to the flash lamp automatically when the cover
is removed.
Figure 4-8: Removing the Lamp Cover
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Maintenance
4. Use a 9/64 inch hex key to loosen the clamp screw, located on the
lamp mounting block and facing the rear of the instrument.
Leave the clamp screw in place.
5. Use a 5/32 inch hex key to loosen the two vertical-mounting cap
screws that are holding the Litepac mounting block to the
baseplate. They are located toward the inside of the lamp’s
mounting box. The two cap screws are spring-loaded and stay in
a raised position so that you can slide out the entire Litepac
without getting the screws caught in the holes.
Note: You might need a flashlight to see the cap screws.
Figure 4-9: Removing Litepac Mounting Block Screws
6. Open the top cover of the instrument to provide better access
and clearance to the lamp’s mounting box. This makes it easier to
remove the lamp assembly.
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7. Slide the lamp assembly horizontally out the side of the
instrument and lay it on its heat sink fins, leaving the orange
electrical cord connected.
Figure 4-10: Removing the Flash Lamp Assembly
8. Use a 3/32” hex key to remove the two screws that hold down
the diamond shaped retainer. Be careful not to lose the screws.
Figure 4-11: Withdraw the Lamp
9. Withdraw the silver-colored lamp from its multi-pin socket by
gently rocking it and pulling it upward.
10. Notice the location of the copper coil spring and keep it at hand.
11. Remove the new lamp from its packaging, being careful not to
touch the lamp window.
CAUTION! Do not touch the lamp window at any time.
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Maintenance
12. With the copper coil spring in place around the socket, carefully
align the lamp pins in the proper orientation according to the pin
pattern. Again, do not touch the lamp window.
13. Install the lamp with a gentle rocking motion and steady
downward pressure.
14. Replace the diamond shaped lamp retainer over the new lamp,
and use the 3/32 inch hex key to install the two screws.
15. Tighten the two screws securely and evenly, compressing the coil
spring until the lamp is seated.
16. Tilt up the lamp assembly and line up the lamp with the bore of
the mounting block.
17. Slide the lamp all the way into the block, orienting the assembly
to clear the baseplate. Slide it in until it stops.
18. Tuck the orange power cord inside, behind the assembly.
19. Close the instrument top cover.
20. Use the 5/32 inch hex key to firmly tighten the two vertical
mounting screws.
21. Tighten the clamp screw snugly but not tightly. Use caution not
to over-tighten.
CAUTION! Do not over-tighten the clamp screw or the lamp
could crack inside.
22. Replace the plastic lamp cover over the opening. Be careful not
to pinch the orange power cord if it is not tucked away.
23. Replace and install the screw.
24. Plug in the power cord and the computer cord.
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Long-Term Shutdown
If you will not be using the FlexStation 3 instrument for an extended
period of time, clean the external surfaces of the instrument before
storage. See Cleaning the Instrument on page 115.
Be sure the instrument is emptied of all plates and tips before storage.
Keep all cables and accessories with the instrument during storage.
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Troubleshooting Procedures
5
This chapter provides instructions for troubleshooting problems that can
occur with the FlexStation 3 instrument.
• Problems During Startup, see page 130
• Opening a Drawer Manually, see page 132
• Understanding Potential Mechanical Problems, see page 133
• Recovering from Mechanical Problems in Flex Mode when Using
Fluidics, see page 135
• General Error Messages, see page 147
• Tilting or Removing the Fluidics Module, see page 149
Note: These troubleshooting instructions address only those problems
that can occur with the fluidics operation of the instrument. They do
not address problems with the flash lamp or the detector, or error
messages related to missing data or saturated data points. If you need
to contact Molecular Devices Technical Support, see Obtaining Support
on page 114.
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Problems During Startup
Note: Before starting the SoftMax Pro Software, make sure that the
instrument is powered on.
After you start up the SoftMax Pro Software, the Instrument Status bar
should appear as in the illustration on the left, with a temperature
displaying in the temperature box.
Figure 5-1: Status Bar Detail
If you see a red X in front of the instrument icon, or if no temperature is
displayed in the temperature box (as in the illustration on the right) there
is either a communication problem between the instrument and the
software or the instrument has experienced a fatal error.
1. Make sure that the FlexStation 3 instrument is plugged in and
turned on.
2. Make sure that the instrument has finished its warming up
sequence. Wait until the temperature is displayed on the front
panel of the FlexStation 3 instrument.
3. Click Edit > Preferences in the software to view the Preferences
dialog.
Figure 5-2: Preferences Dialog
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Troubleshooting Procedures
There are two settings in the Preferences dialog that must be
correct for the instrument to operate.
4. Make sure the Serial Port selected is the same as the one on the
computer to which the instrument is physically connected. It
might be COM1 or COM2.
5. Make sure the Serial Comm Speed is correctly selected. The
communication speed is 9600 during the instrument’s initial
warm up sequence, while it is first communicating with the
software.
Note: The Serial Comm Speed automatically changes to 57,600
when you select Flex mode from the Settings window.
If you continue to see the red X after confirming the Serial Comm Speed,
see Recovery Procedure on page 146.
If you follow these steps and are still having trouble starting up the
system, contact Technical Support. See Obtaining Support on page 114.
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Opening a Drawer Manually
Under some circumstances it might be necessary to open an instrument
drawer manually.
1. If the power is not already off (as can occur with a power failure,
or if you are already troubleshooting the instrument with the
covers open), turn off the power. Disconnect the power cord
from the instrument, and the computer cables from the
computer.
WARNING! The power must be off for this procedure. If the
power is not disconnected, and a jammed carriage or drawer is
suddenly freed, the instrument could suddenly move, resulting
in operator injury.
2. Using your fingernail, or a narrow blade, open the drawer door
to its horizontal position and pull out the carriage slowly, and as
gently as possible.
CAUTION! Never force a carriage out of the instrument. If it
does not come out reasonably easily, contact Molecular Devices
Technical Support. See Obtaining Support on page 114.
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Troubleshooting Procedures
Understanding Potential Mechanical Problems
Note: Read these instructions before attempting to use the
FlexStation 3 instrument for Flex reads or Endpoint and Kinetic reads.
Background
The intended function of the FlexStation 3 instrument requires it to have
many moving parts. The operator interacts extensively with the
instrument by introducing various types of plastic disposable plates, tips,
and troughs. Molecular Devices has made every effort to ensure smooth
and reliable operation of the FlexStation 3 instrument. However,
problems can occur. For example:
• Pipette tips can jam in the rack, possibly due to imperfectly
molded tips.
• After transfer, an unreleased tip can remain on the nose cone
and be jammed against one of the lower drawers or into another
tip during a subsequent transfer operation.
• If the tips are accidentally released from the nose cones during
operation, they might fall outside of the rack. To help prevent
frequent tip dropping, periodically clean the pipettor barrels. See
Cleaning the Barrels on the Pipettor Head on page 117.
• If the power fails during a pipetting step, serious damage can
result to the instrument if appropriate corrective steps are not
taken.
As noted, there are several opportunities for mechanical problems within
the fluidics module. Fortunately, these problems will be rare if you
understand how to avoid them. The design of the FlexStation 3
instrument provides the means for successfully recovering from most
problems.
Before Using the Instrument
Molecular Devices recommends that you disconnect the power and open
up the instrument to become familiar with the mechanical parts of the
fluidics module. Observe that it is possible to manually (and always
gently) move the drawers, doors, and pipettor head. Moving the parts
manually is important for recovering from some mechanical problems.
For further information, see Opening a Drawer Manually on page 132.
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Avoiding Mechanical Problems
Following a few simple steps helps avoid many potential problems.
• Make sure that the red knob that holds the pipettor head in
place is securely tightened.
• Use only tips specified for the FlexStation 3 instrument in a
96-well or 384-rack configuration.
Table 5-1: Molecular Devices Pipettor Tips
•
•
•
•
•
•
96-Well Configuration
384-Well Configuration
Clear tips: P/N 9000-0912
Clear tips: P/N 9000-0763
Black tips: P/N 9000-0911
Black tips: P/N 9000-0764
To help prevent frequent tip dropping, periodically clean the
pipettor barrels. See Cleaning the Barrels on the Pipettor Head
on page 117.
Make sure that you maintain appropriate well formats. For
example, the 16-channel pipettor uses 384 tips with a 384-well
compound plate and a 384-well assay microplate.
Remove the lid of the tip rack before placing it in the tip rack
drawer.
Make sure that you seat the tip rack, plates, and trough (if
applicable) securely in the correct drawers.
Make sure that the layout of the tips that you specify in your
SoftMax Pro Software protocol accurately represents what you
have in the in the rack.
Make sure that the compound and assay plates that you specify
in your SoftMax Pro Software protocol accurately represent the
microplates you are actually using.
Note: The software has no way of confirming the presence,
absence, or configuration of tips or plates in the instrument
drawers.
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Troubleshooting Procedures
In Case of Power Failure
Interacting properly with the instrument following a power failure is very
important. If there is a power failure while the instrument is running, you
must manually turn off the power switch at the back of the instrument.
To avoid instrument damage, follow the instructions in Recovering from
Mechanical Problems in Flex Mode when Using Fluidics on page 135.
Recovering from Mechanical Problems in Flex Mode when Using
Fluidics
The procedures in this section are intended for cases in which tips have
jammed, or the power fails while you are using the instrument with
fluidics, and you see an error message on the computer screen indicating
a problem with the instrument. You might need to open the instrument
to locate and correct the problem. The procedures in this section include:
• Assessing a Mechanical Problem, see page 136
• Opening the Instrument, see page 137
• Evaluating the Tip Rack, see page 138
• Inspecting Inside the Fluidics Module, see page 139
• Removing the Pipettor Head, see page 142
• Expelling Undispensed Fluid from Tips, see page 145
• Recovery Procedure, see page 146
WARNING! Always make sure the power switch on the instrument is
in the OFF position and remove the power cord from the back of the
instrument before removing any panels.
CAUTION! Do not touch or loosen any screws or parts other than those
specifically designated in the instructions. Doing so might cause
misalignment and will void the system warranty.
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Assessing a Mechanical Problem
Depending on when the problem occurs during the fluidics operation,
one of several error messages can appear in the SoftMax Pro Software.
The error message might not provide complete information about what
has occurred. The software cannot confirm the presence, absence, or
exact position of tips or plates. Whenever you experience a mechanical
failure of the fluidics operation, follow the entire procedure until you can
pinpoint the source of the problem.
• Fluidics module not detected.
This message might occur if the fluidics module is not correctly
installed.
• Pipettor failure. There may be undispensed fluid in the pipette
tips.
This message might occur if the tip rack is jammed. Tips might be
missing. To help prevent frequent tip dropping, periodically clean
the pipettor barrels. See Cleaning the Barrels on the Pipettor
Head on page 117.
• Pipettor failure. Undispensed fluid in the tips.
This message occurs if fluid remains in the tips. The instrument
needs to be manually recovered at this point.
Note: If you need to contact technical support during the following
procedures, be sure to note which error message you observed.
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Troubleshooting Procedures
Opening the Instrument
CAUTION! To avoid damage to the instrument, follow these instructions
and any instruction labels on the instrument exactly.
1. Turn the instrument power off and disconnect the power cords
from the instrument and the cables connected to the computer.
2. Press in the handle at the bottom of the top cover and lift the
cover back off the detection module, revealing the fluidics
module.
Figure 5-3: Location of Inside Panels and Tip Rack Drawer
3. Turn the four quarter-turn screws and lift the front panel out.
You might need to inspect the interior of the module to determine if the
pipettor was in the process of a fluid transfer when the power was
interrupted. The pipettor head should be at rest in the uppermost
“home” position. If not, there might be fluid in the tips that needs to be
removed. Instructions for these procedures are in the following topics.
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Evaluating the Tip Rack
Inspect the tip rack drawer. The problem might be obvious and visible
from the outside if the tip rack drawer is partially open and jammed.
Possible scenarios include:
• Tip rack cover was not removed.
If the cover was not removed from the tip rack, gently pull the tip
rack carriage out of the fluidics module to the right. Remove the
tip rack cover and reposition the tip rack in the carriage.
• Tip rack is improperly positioned.
If the tip rack is jammed because it was not positioned securely
in the drawer, pull the carriage out of the instrument to access
the rack. If all the tips are accounted for, reposition the rack in
the carriage.
• Tips are not seated properly.
If the tip rack is jammed because one or more tips are not seated
properly in the rack and preventing the drawer from opening,
you might be able to remove the rack and problematic tips from
outside the fluidics module by pulling the tip rack all the way out.
If not, gently push the tip rack back inside the instrument. Reach
in from the front and remove the tip rack by lifting it up and out
toward you. Be careful not to spill tips inside the instrument.
• Tips are missing.
If the tip rack is jammed and there are tips missing, you must
attempt to retrieve them from inside the instrument. See
Inspecting Inside the Fluidics Module on page 139.
After correcting a tip rack issue, replace the inside front panel and top
cover. Reattach the power cord and computer cable to the instrument
and restart the instrument. Save your SoftMax Pro Software file to
prevent loss of data, and then close and restart the software.
Note: Failure to restart the SoftMax Pro Software can result in
communication problems between the instrument and computer.
To help prevent frequent tip dropping, periodically clean the pipettor
barrels. See Cleaning the Barrels on the Pipettor Head on page 117.
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Inspecting Inside the Fluidics Module
If there is any chance at all that there could be fluid in the pipette tips,
you must remove the pipettor head from the instrument and dispel the
fluid or remove the tips outside the instrument. This must be done to
avoid spilling fluid in the reading chamber. See Removing the Pipettor
Head on page 142 and Expelling Undispensed Fluid from Tips on
page 145.
CAUTION! Failure to dispel fluid outside of the instrument can result in
damage to the optical components.
WARNING! BIOHAZARD. This procedure includes steps involving
potentially infectious biological agents requiring that proper handling
precautions be taken.
Determine the position of the pipettor head and the location of all the
tips that were originally in the tip rack. Things to consider include:
• Is the pipettor head loose? Is the red knob tightened securely?
• Is the pipettor head up and out of the way (in home position) or
is it down in the tip rack area, the compounds plate area, or the
reading chamber?
• Are there any pipette tips on the pipettor head?
• Is there is any chance there is liquid remaining in the tips? If so,
remove the head and expel the liquid safely. See procedures in
Removing the Pipettor Head on page 142 and Expelling
Undispensed Fluid from Tips on page 145.
CAUTION! Take care that you do not inadvertently dispel fluid
before the pipettor head is outside of the instrument.
•
•
0112-0127 B
Can you account for all tips or is there a possibility that some
have dropped out of sight?
Do all the drawers move freely to gentle pressure or is there a
plate or tip rack jamming them?
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After you have determined the status of the pipettor head and tips, there
are a number of procedures you might need to follow to resolve the
problem. Possible scenarios include:
• Pipettor head is in home position, without tips.
 If the pipettor head is up and out of the way (without tips)
but the tip rack is jammed, it might be because one or more
tips are not seated properly and are blocking the drawer
movement.
 Reach into the fluidics module from the front panel and
remove the tip rack by lifting it up and out toward you. If the
tip rack drawer is not all the way inside the instrument (in its
left-most position), you might need to gently push it inside
(to the left) to get the rack out.
• Pipettor head is in home position, without tips, but tips are
missing.
 If the pipettor head is up and out of the way (without tips)
but there are tips missing from the rack, then you must
locate and recover the missing tips before proceeding.
 Retrieve any tips you can easily see and reach through the
front panel.
 It might be necessary to raise the fluidics module, to gain
access to the reading chamber. See Tilting or Removing the
Fluidics Module on page 149.
• Pipettor head is in lowest position, without tips, all tips are
accounted for.
 If the pipettor head is all the way down its carrier bar (not in
home position), without tips on the nose cones, and all tips
are safely in the rack, you can remove the tip rack easily. The
compound plate might also be stuck inside the fluidics
module.
 Gently push the tip rack and compound plate (or trough)
drawers all the way outside to the right.
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Troubleshooting Procedures
•
Pipettor head is not in home position, with tips.
 If the pipettor head is somewhere other than home position,
and has tips on it, you must proceed carefully. The pipettor
head might or might not be obviously jammed. Tips could be
jammed in the tip rack, in the compound plate, or in the
assay plate.
 Carefully raise the pipettor head to home position by
manually moving the belt.
 If there is any chance there is liquid in the tips, you must
then remove the pipettor head and dispel the liquid safely
outside the instrument as described in Removing the
Pipettor Head on page 142 and Expelling Undispensed Fluid
from Tips on page 145.
CAUTION! Do not attempt to remove the pipettor head through
the front inside panel. See instructions in Removing the Pipettor
Head on page 142.

If you are certain there is no liquid in the tips, remove the
tips from the pipettor head manually. Reach into the fluidics
module and gently pull the tips off the cones.
 Gently push the tip rack and compound plate (or trough)
drawers all the way outside to the right.
After you have secured all tips and returned the tip rack and compound
plate drawers to their outside, right-most position, replace the inside
front panel and top cover. Reattach the power cord and computer cable
to the instrument and restart the instrument. Save your SoftMax Pro
Software file to prevent loss of data, and then close and restart the
software.
Note: Failure to restart the SoftMax Pro Software can result in
communication problems between the instrument and computer.
When communication between the instrument and computer is
interrupted, as with a power failure, a red X appears over the instrument
icon on the SoftMax Pro Software status bar. After you correct the
problem, and the instrument has completed its startup cycle again, the
red X over the instrument icon in the status bar should disappear,
indicating that communication has been successfully reestablished. See
Problems During Startup on page 130.
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Removing the Pipettor Head
You might need to remove the pipettor head to remove empty tips or to
dispel liquid remaining in tips after a mechanical failure.
To remove the pipettor head, follow the instructions in this procedure. To
reinstall the pipettor head, see instructions in Installing the Pipettor
Head on page 56.
CAUTION! To avoid damage to the instrument, follow these instructions
and any instruction labels on the instrument exactly.
WARNING! BIOHAZARD. This procedure includes steps involving
potentially infectious biological agents requiring that proper handling
precautions be taken.
To remove the pipettor head:
1. Confirm that all power to the instrument is turned off.
2. Unplug the power cord and the computer cable from the rear of
the instrument.
3. Open the instrument top cover.
Figure 5-4: Opening the Instrument Cover
4. Turn the quarter-turn fastener on the inside top panel and unfold
the panel off the fluidics module to the right.
5. Inside the open chamber, loosen the red retainer nut.
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Troubleshooting Procedures
Figure 5-5: Location of the Pipettor Head Inside the Fluidics
Module
6. Slide the pipettor head part way out from under the metal
mounting plate, and of the top panel opening, supporting it from
underneath.
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7. Pull the spiral cord off the coil hook behind the pipettor head.
This will free the mechanism for easier removal.
Figure 5-6: Pipettor Head Coil Hook
Note: Note: If you want to dispense liquid from the tips, skip the
next two steps and see next Expelling Undispensed Fluid from
Tips on page 145.
8. To completely remove the pipettor head, unscrew the black
connector at the end of the white spiral cord from its secure
position around the receptacle.
9. Pull the connector out of the receptacle and take the pipettor
head the rest of the way out of the fluidics module.
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Troubleshooting Procedures
Expelling Undispensed Fluid from Tips
WARNING! BIOHAZARD. This procedure includes steps involving
potentially infectious biological agents requiring that proper handling
precautions be taken.
This procedure assumes that you have opened the instrument and
accessed the pipettor head as described in the previous procedures.
1. Lift the pipettor head out of the fluidics module carefully, as it is
still connected inside the instrument.
2. Hold the pipettor head over a tray or something into which you
can expel liquid and remove tips.
3. With your other hand, rotate the black pulley on the bottom of
the pipettor motor clockwise. This moves the plungers so that
any liquid will be expelled and any tips will be ejected.
Replace the Pipettor Head
Note: For a more complete version of these next steps with
illustrations, see Installing the Pipettor Head on page 56.
1. Slide the pipettor head back under its mounting plate inside the
fluidics module, making sure to secure the white spiral cord back
on its retaining hook.
2. Tighten the red retainer nut to secure the pipettor head. Make
sure the knob is as tight as possible.
3. Replace the inner front panel and lower the cover back onto the
instrument.
4. Reattach the power cord to the instrument and reconnect the
instrument to the computer.
5. Turn on the instrument power. It takes about two minutes for the
instrument to complete its startup sequence.
6. Save your SoftMax Pro Software file to prevent loss of data, and
then close and restart the software.
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Recovery Procedure
When there is an instrument malfunction in which fluid was left in the
tips, rebooting the instrument does not automatically reset the fluidics
module. An additional recover cycle is necessary to restore successful
communication between the instrument and the computer. This
procedure is a precautionary step, designed to minimize the potentially
very serious consequences of liquid spillage in the instrument.
1. After the instrument completes the restart sequence, observe
the instrument display.
 If the temperature display on the front panel of the
instrument is blank and a red X is covering the instrument
icon on the SoftMax Pro Status bar, then see Problems
During Startup on page 130.
 If the temperature display on the front panel of the
instrument displays the actual current temperature, but the
red X is still covering the instrument icon on the SoftMax Pro
Status bar, then continue to the next step.
2. Click Control > Recover.
The recover process is essentially a second startup cycle that
restores the fluidics module to operating conditions and restarts
the instrument.
3. Click Continue to recover the software.
If the red X still remains after the Recover procedure, view the
Preferences dialog in the software and recheck that the serial comm rate
is set to 9600. For instructions, see Problems During Startup on page 130.
If you cannot establish communication between the instrument and the
computer with the Recover procedure, contact Technical Support. See
Obtaining Support on page 114.
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Troubleshooting Procedures
General Error Messages
If a problem occurs during operation that causes an unrecoverable error,
the instrument stops and an error code number appears in the display on
the front panel. To correct the problem, contact your local Molecular
Devices representative for assistance.
Error Messages
The LCD displays Fatal Error codes when a situation arises that requires
attention. Any reading in progress stops.
Warning messages do not stop a reading but are logged in the error
buffer. They indicate a situation that requires attention but is not
sufficient to stop or prevent a reading.
Examples of situations that might cause warning messages are low
memory, entries being out of range, or operations that could result in
loss of data. These messages are generally self-explanatory.
For assistance regarding warning messages, contact your local Molecular
Devices representative.
Table 5-2: FlexStation 3 Instrument Error Code Ranges
0112-0127 B
Error Code Numbers
Possible Causes
100–199
Errors possibly caused by unrecognized commands
being sent from the computer to the instrument.
200–299
Errors probably due to a main board failure or an
error in the firmware code. Most of these errors
require the assistance of Technical Support.
300–399
Instrument errors due to either a main board failure
or other system failure. Most of these errors require
the assistance of Technical Support.
400–499
Errors caused by a motor motion failure. Most of
these errors require the assistance of Technical
Support.
500–599
Errors due to failure or improper initialization of the
instruments non-volatile memory (NVRAM). All of
these errors require the assistance of Technical
Support.
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Other Error Messages
Follow any instructions in the message. Any time a message persists, or if
you cannot return the instrument and software to normal operation,
contact Technical Support and be sure to note which error message you
observed. See Obtaining Support on page 114.
Note: For error messages specific to fluidics operation failures, see
Assessing a Mechanical Problem on page 136.
If you see the following message, make sure that there is an assay plate
correctly placed in the reading chamber drawer and then start the
reading again.
• There is no assay plate.
If you see any one of the following messages, attempt your reading again
before continuing with troubleshooting.
• Unexpected response. Result Code = 105
• Instrument communication problem. Response too late.
• Measurement aborted.
• Result code = Instrument reported error.
If you see the following message, try to determine if there are tips
jamming the read head (follow procedure in section 6.7.1). If this is not
the case, contact Technical Support. See Obtaining Support on page 114.
• Instrument reported a fatal error
For all other error messages or codes not listed here, contact your local
Molecular Devices representative for assistance.
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Troubleshooting Procedures
Tilting or Removing the Fluidics Module
If you need to tilt or remove the fluidics module to clean up after a large
spill, or to recover tips, follow these instructions.
WARNING! The following procedures must be completed by a
service-trained user. Do not attempt the following procedures if you
have not been trained properly by appropriate Molecular Devices
personnel.
WARNING! Turn off the power switch and disconnect the power cord
from the main power source before performing any maintenance
procedure that requires removal of any panel, cover, or disassembly of
any interior instrument component.
WARNING! BIOHAZARD. This procedure includes steps involving
potentially infectious biological agents requiring that proper handling
precautions be taken.
Tilting the Fluidics Module
1. Turn the power off to the instrument. Disconnect the power
cords from the instrument and the cables connected to the
computer.
CAUTION! Never operate the instrument with the covers
removed. Damage to the instrument can occur. Read and obey
all warning labels.
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2. Press in the handle at the bottom of the top cover and lift the
cover back off the detection module, revealing the fluidics
module.
Figure 5-7: Opening the Top Cover
3. Using the handle, tilt the fluidics module to the left.
Figure 5-8: Tilting the Fluidics Module

If you can clean up the spill, or remove the tips, without
removing the fluidics module, do so now.
 If you need to remove the fluidics module completely, see
Removing the Fluidics Module on page 151.
4. Using the handle, lower the fluidics module carefully back over
the detection module, and make sure it is firmly seated.
5. Lower the top cover over the instrument.
6. Reattach the power cord and computer cables.
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Troubleshooting Procedures
Removing the Fluidics Module
CAUTION! To avoid damage to the instrument, follow these instructions
and any instruction labels on the instrument exactly.
1. Turn the power off to the instrument. Disconnect the power
cords from the instrument and the cables connected to the
computer.
CAUTION! Never operate the instrument with the covers
removed. Damage to the instrument can occur. Read and obey
all warning labels.
2. Press in the handle at the bottom of the top cover and lift the
cover back off the detection module, revealing the fluidics
module.
3. Using the handle, tilt the fluidics module to the left.
Figure 5-9: Tilting the Fluidics Module
4. Locate the electrical connector between the bottom of the
fluidics module and the housing, and then unscrew the retaining
screws and unplug the connector.
5. Locate the fluidics module restraint (a green cable) and
disconnect the restraint from the housing.
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Figure 5-10: Removing the Fluidics Module
6. Locate and loosen the quarter-turn fasteners in the metal plate
where the bottom of the fluidics module is attached to the
detection chamber.
7. Lift the fluidics module carefully off the detection chamber and
set it on the bench.
8. Clean the spill or remove tips. If you are attempting to remove
tips, remove any obvious ones on top or around the sides of the
reading chamber. If you look through the openings in the read
head, you might be able to see tips inside.
If you see tips all the way down in the bottom tray of the
instrument, you can safely leave them there. They will be out of
the way of the operation of the read heads.
9. Reattach the fluidics module by following the steps above in the
reverse order, or see Installing the Fluidics Module on page 53.
10. Lower the top cover over the instrument.
11. Reattach the power cord and computer cables.
If you see tips lodged inside the reading chamber, contact Technical
Support. Do not attempt to tilt or remove the read heads on your own.
CAUTION! Do not attempt to tilt or remove the read heads as this can
damage fragile optical components and can void your warranty.
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A
Parts and Accessories
CAUTION! Do not use parts and accessories that are not authorized by,
specified by, or provided by Molecular Devices. Using unauthorized parts
can damage the instrument.
Table A-1: Part Numbers and Descriptions
0112-0127 B
Part Number
Description
4400-0002
Power cord, US
4400-0036
Power cord, European
9000-0149
Computer cable
0310-9336
Bottom read microplate adapter (reading chamber)
2500-1029
Compound Baseplate (compound plate drawer)
4600-0029
Fuse
0310-3992
Pipettor head, 8-channel
0310-5025
Pipettor head, 16-channel
0112-0127
FlexStation 3 Instrument User Guide
9100-0051
Hex key, 3/32 inch
9000-0911
96-Well, FlexStation Pipette tips (Black)
9000-0912
96-Well, FlexStation Pipette tips (Clear)
9000-0763
384-Well, FLIPR Tetra Pipette Tips (Clear)
9000-0764
384-Well, FLIPR Tetra Pipette Tips (Black)
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Ordering Parts and Accessories
To obtain parts and accessories, contact Molecular Devices Customer
Service or your authorized service representative.
Molecular Devices
1311 Orleans Drive
Sunnyvale, California 94089
Telephone: +1-408-747-1700
Fax: +1-408-747-3601
U.S. and Canada Toll Free: +1-800-635-5577
Online: www.moleculardevices.com
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B
Performance Specifications
Thermal specifications for microplates used in the FlexStation 3
instrument apply to flat-bottom microplates with isolated wells. All other
microplate specifications apply to standard 96-well polystyrene
flat-bottom microplates.
When pathlength compensation is applied to microplate absorbance
measurements, the solution volume in the microplate well is between
100 μL and 300 μL.
Technical specifications are subject to change without notice.
Table B-1: Fluidics Specifications for the 8-Channel Pipettor
Item
Specification
Volume range
1 μL to 200 μL
Dispensing precision
8% CV at 5 μL
2% CV at 50 μL
Maximum dispense rate
208 μL per second
Table B-2: Fluidics Specifications for the 16-Channel Pipettor
0112-0127 B
Item
Specification
Volume range
1 μL to 30 μL
Dispensing precision
3% CV at 10 μL
5% CV at 1 μL
Maximum dispense rate
52 μL per second
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Table B-3: Absorbance Photometric Performance
Item
Specification
Wavelength range
200 nm to 1000 nm
Wavelength selection
Monochromator tunable in 1 nm increments
Wavelength bandwidth
 4.0 nm
Wavelength accuracy
± 3.0 nm
Wavelength repeatability ± 0.2 nm
Photometric range
0.0 OD to 4.0 OD
Photometric resolution
0.001 OD
Photometric
accuracy/linearity,
0 OD to 2.0 OD
± 0.006 OD ± 1.0%
Photometric precision
(repeatability),
0 OD to 2.0 OD
± 0.003 OD ± 1.0%
Stray light
 0.05% at 230 nm
Photometric stabilization Instantaneous
156
Photometric drift
None
Continuous referencing of monochromatic input
Calibration
Automatic before first kinetic read and before every
endpoint read
Optical alignment
None required
Light source
Xenon flash lamp (50 Watts)
Average lamp lifetime
1 billion flashes
Photodetectors
Silicon photodiode
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Performance Specifications
Table B-4: Fluorescence Intensity Performance
Item
Specification
Sensitivity
Top Read
< 5 pM FITC, 1 fmol/200 μL (96)
< 20 pM, 2 fmol/100 μL (384)
Wavelength range
250 nm to 850 nm
Wavelength selection
Monochromators, tunable in 1 nm increments
Bandwidth (excitation,
emission)
9 nm, 15 nm
Number of
4
excitation/emission pairs
per plate
Dynamic range
106 in 96-well black plates: auto gain circuitry
System validation
Self-calibrating with built-in fluorescence calibrators
Light source
Xenon flash lamp (1 joule/flash)
Average lamp lifetime
2 years normal operation
Detector
Photomultiplier
Table B-5: Fluorescence Polarization Performance
0112-0127 B
Item
Specification
Wavelength range
400 nm to 750 nm
Wavelength selection
Monochromators, tunable in 1 nm increments
Bandwidth (excitation,
emission)
9 nm, 15 nm
Precision
< 5 mP standard deviation at 1 nM fluorescein
in 96-well and 384-well microplates
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Table B-6: Time-Resolved Fluorescence Performance
Item
Specification
Sensitivity
100 fM europium in 96-well or 384-well microplates
(top read)
Wavelength range
250 nm to 850 nm
Bandwidth (excitation,
emission)
9 nm, 15 nm
Precision data collection 1 to 100 flashes; delay of 0 μs to 600 μs before read;
integration time selectable 50 μs to 1500 μs.
Table B-7: Luminescence Photometric Performance
Item
Specification
Sensitivity
Sensitivity < 2 fg/well for firefly luciferase in 96-well
and 384-well microplates (top read)
Wavelength range
250 nm to 850 nm
Crosstalk
< 0.3% in 96-well and 384-well microplates.
Table B-8: Photometric Analysis Mode Using SoftMax Pro Software
Item
Specification
Data expression
Absorbance: OD or %Transmittance
Fluorescence: Relative Fluorescence Units (RFU)
Luminescence: Relative Luminescence Units (RLU)
Wavelengths per read
1 to 4 wavelengths per microplate read
Read types
Endpoint
Kinetic and kinetic graphics
Spectral scan: 200 nm to 1000 nm
Well scan (absorbance or fluorescence)
Table B-9: Measurement Time (Calibration Off)
158
Item
Specification
Absorbance,
single wavelength
96 wells: 18 seconds
384 wells: 49 seconds
Fluorescence,
single wavelength
96 wells: 17 seconds
384 wells: 48 seconds
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Performance Specifications
Table B-10: Temperature Regulation
Item
Specification
Reading chamber
Isothermal when temperature regulation is not
enabled
Range
2°C above ambient to 45°C when temperature
regulation is enabled
Ambient temperature must be >20°C to achieve
temperature regulation at 45°C
Resolution
± 0.1°C
Accuracy
± 1.0°C for reading chamber
Temperature uniformity
at equilibrium
± 1.0°C at 37°C
Chamber warm-up time
30 minutes (measured on air) after initiation of
temperature regulation
Temperature regulation
4 sensors
Temperature regulation
diagnostics
Temperature regulation system is continuously
monitored and updated
Evaporation
Plate lid required to minimize evaporative cooling
Recommended
microplate
Flat-bottom microplates with isolated wells and lid
Control
Reports reading chamber temperature only
Table B-11: Automix with SoftMax Pro Software
0112-0127 B
Item
Specification
Plate mixing modes
Selectable: off, once before any reading, or once
before and between kinetic readings
Plate mixing duration
Selectable: 0 to 999 seconds (three-second default)
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Table B-12: Microplate Compatibility
Item
Specification
All modes
Standard 6-well to 384-well, flat-bottom
microplates
low-volume 384-well microplates
Absorbance reads
above 340 nm
Polystyrene microplates
Absorbance reads
above 220 nm
UV-transparent microplates
Absorbance reads
above 200 nm
Quartz microplates
Black adaptor plate
Use with 96-well and 384-well microplates only
Table B-13: General Instrument Specifications
Item
Specification
Self-diagnosis
Continuous on-board diagnostics
Spill control
Drawer mechanism and reading chamber assembly
protected from accidental spillage by drainage ports
Computer interface
8-pin DIN RS-232 serial (double shielding required).
Printer interface
Parallel 25-pin to Centronics (double shielding
required).
Microplates supported
All 6-well to 384-well and strip-well microplates,
including lids.
Table B-14: Robotics and Automation
160
Item
Specification
Robot compatible
drawer
Positioning and plate gripping as drawer closes
Integrated automation
interface
SoftMax Pro Software automation interface
integrated with robot partners
For more information, visit the Molecular Devices
web site: www.moleculardevices.com
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Performance Specifications
Table B-15: Environmental Specifications
Item
Specification
Operating temperature
15°C to 60°C
Operating humidity
0% to 70%, non-condensing
Storage temperature
-20°C to 65°C
Table B-16: Physical Specifications
0112-0127 B
Item
Specification
Size (H x W x D)
48 cm × 58 cm × 41 cm
)19 in. × 23 in. × 16 in.)
Weight
22.7 kg (50 lbs.)
Power consumption
500 VA
Line voltage and
frequency
90 to 240 VAC, 50 to 60 Hz
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Glossary
Absorbance
Absorbance is the amount of light absorbed by a solution. To measure
absorbance accurately, it is necessary to eliminate light scatter. In the
absence of turbidity, absorbance = optical density.
A = log10(I0/I) = –log10(I/I0)
where I0 is incident light before it enters the sample, I is the intensity of
light after it passes through the sample, and A is the measured
absorbance.
Automix
The Automix function in the SoftMax Pro Software determines if and how
often automated shaking of the microplate is performed during a reading.
Emission Cutoff Filter
An emission cutoff filter is a long pass filter used to condition the emission
light before detection by the PMT. In automatic mode, the instrument
sets the cutoffs automatically based on the wavelengths chosen for
reading. In manual mode, you can choose the filter wavelength.
Emission Spectrum Scan
An emission spectrum scan measures fluorescence or luminescence
across a spectrum of wavelengths. Fluorescent reads use the emitted
light from a fixed excitation wavelength. The default value reported for
each well is the wavelength of maximum emission in either RFU for
fluorescence mode or RLU for luminescence mode.
Endpoint
In an Endpoint read, a reading of each microplate well is taken in the
center of each well, at a single wavelength or at multiple wavelengths.
Depending on the read mode, raw data values are reported as optical
density (OD), %Transmittance (%T), relative fluorescence units (RFU), or
relative luminescence units (RLU).
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Excitation Filter
An excitation filter is a band pass filter that reduces the amount of
extraneous lamp excitation light before the excitation monochromator.
In endpoint reads and emission spectral scans, selection of excitation
filter is automatic. In excitation spectrum scans, the user has the choice
of “no excitation filter” (for smoother scans) or “auto excitation filter” in
which case there might be slight glitches in the spectrum at the
wavelengths where filter changes occur.
Excitation Spectrum Scan
An excitation spectrum scan measures fluorescence at a single emission
wavelength for the emitted light across a spectrum of excitation
wavelengths. The default value reported for each well is the wavelength
of maximum fluorescence excitation in RFU.
Fluorophore
A fluorophore is a material that absorbs light energy of a characteristic
wavelength, undergoes an electronic state change, and instantaneously
emits light of a longer wavelength.
Gain
Gain is the amount of increase in signal power expressed as the ratio of
output to input for a photomultiplier tube (PMT).
Incubator
In the SoftMax Pro Software, clicking Control > Incubator or clicking the
incubator button opens a dialog allowing you to start or stop temperature
regulation and to select an elevated temperature for the reading
chamber.
Instrument Setup
The instrument setup defines the parameters (mode, wavelengths,
automatic mixing, run time, read interval, and so on) used to read the
microplate.
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Glossary
Kinetic
In a Kinetic read, the instrument collects data over time with multiple
readings taken at regular intervals. To achieve the shortest possible
interval for Kinetic readings, choose wavelengths in ascending order.
The values calculated based on raw kinetic data include VMax, VMax per
Sec, Time to VMax, and Onset Time. Kinetic readings can be singlewavelength or multiple-wavelength readings.
Luminescence
Luminescence is the emission of light by processes that derive energy
from essentially non-thermal changes, the motion of subatomic particles,
or the excitation of an atomic system by radiation. Luminescence
detection relies on the production of light from a chemical reaction in a
sample.
Photomultiplier Tube (PMT)
A Photomultiplier Tube (PMT) is a vacuum tube that detects light from
dim sources through the use of photoemission and successive instances
of secondary emission to produce enough electrons to generate a useful
current.
Read Mode
The read mode is type of reading performed: absorbance, fluorescence
intensity, time-resolved fluorescence, fluorescence polarization, or
luminescence.
Read Type
The read type is the method used to read the microplate: endpoint,
kinetic, spectrum, or well scan.
Readings per Well
The reading per well is the user-definable number of times that readings
are taken on a well in fluorescence mode or the amount of time that data
is collected using the luminescence read mode.
SoftMax Pro Software
The SoftMax Pro Software is an integrated software program from
Molecular Devices that is used to control and collect data from Molecular
Devices microplate readers.
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
Stokes Shift
The Stokes shift is the difference between the wavelengths of the
excitation and emission maxima, or peaks.
Time-Resolved Fluorescence
Time-resolved fluorescence (TRF) is a measurement technique that
depends on three characteristics that lead to better discrimination
between the specific signal, proportional to the amount of label, and the
unspecific fluorescence resulting from background and compound
interference:
• Pulsed excitation light sources
• Time-gated electronics faster than the fluorescence lifetime
• Labels with prolonged fluorescence lifetime
The time-gating electronics introduce a delay between the cut off of each
light pulse and the start of signal accumulation. During the delay, the
unspecific fluorescence (caused by test compounds, assay reagents, and
the microplate) vanishes while only a small portion of the specific
fluorescence from the label is sacrificed. Enough of the specific signal
remains during the decay period with the added benefit of reduced
background.
Trituration
Trituration is mixing of the contents of the wells in either or both the
compound source and assay plates. Trituration is accomplished by fluid
being alternately aspirated from and dispensed back into a well using the
pipettor head.
166
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Index
A
accessories 28
part numbers for 154
unpacking 51
adapters, microplate 28
installing 120
removing 120
assay plate 40
loading 100
AutoCalibrate 39, 85
Automix 39
button 46
function 34
setting 84
AutoRead 71
settings for 85
B
bottom reading 31, 37, 39
0112-0127 B
buttons
Automix 46
Compounds 63, 121
Drawer 46
FLEX 77
Incubator 46, 74
Read 46, 100, 102
Reading Chamber 62, 120
Setup 47, 76
Stop 46, 102
Transfer 89
C
cables 29, 117, 121, 142, 153
cleaning the instrument 115
components, system 15
accessories 28
computer 28
consumables 30
covers 17
detection module 26
drawers 21
fluidics module 24
panels 17
pipettor head 25
compound and tip columns 39, 93
compound baseplate 28
installing 63
use of 121
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
compound plate 121
for each operational mode 39
loading 100
selecting 87
compound plate drawer 21, 121
opening and closing 71
compound transfer 81
for each operational mode 39
settings 88
settings window 92, 93
Compounds button 63, 71, 121
computer 50
minimum configuration 28
setting up 61
starting up 68
computer cable 28, 75, 117, 121, 142, 153
connecting 61
control panel 18
reagents button 121
temperature display 67
using 70, 72
using to load microplates 100
using to turn on incubator 66
covers 17
fuse 122
lamp 20, 124, 127
removing shipping screws 52
tip rack 138
top 17, 52, 57, 60, 117, 125, 127, 137,
142, 150
D
data
appearing in Plate section 102
display parameters 99
replacing with new 101
168
detection module 24, 26
unpacking 51
Display icon 47
Drawer button 46
drawers 21, 63, 66, 67
closing 46
emptying 103
opening 100
opening manually 132
E
Endpoint mode 40
error messages
fluidics module 136
general 148
F
flash lamp 20, 26
precautionary statement 11
replacing 123
FLEX button 77
Flex mode 38, 40, 68, 77
avoiding mechanical problems 11
default at startup 76
recovering from mechanical problems 135
serial communication speed 76
fluidics module 24
inspecting inside of 139
installing 53
tilting or removing 149
unpacking 51
fuses 28
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Index
G
Graph icon 47
I
icons
Display 47
Graph 47
Instrument Status 46, 75
Mask 47
Plate 102
Printer 47
Reduction 47
Template 47
incubator 18, 23, 35
setting temperature 72, 74
switching on 66, 71
Incubator button 46, 74
input/output panels 19
installation procedures 49
connecting the power cords 61
general precautions 49
installing SoftMax Pro 63
installing the fluidics module 53
installing the pipettor head 56
setting up the computer 61
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Instrument Settings screen 77
AutoCalibrate selection 85
Automix 84
AutoRead 85
compound and tip columns 93
compound source 87
compound transfer 88
timing 81
triturate selection 92
wells to read 83
Instrument Status icon 46, 75
L
lamp cover 20
M
maintenance procedures See service and
maintenance procedures
Mask icon 47
mechanical problems
before using the instrument 133
power failure 135
understanding 133
mechanical problems, Flex mode 135
assessing 136
evaluating the tip rack 138
expelling fluid from tips 145
inspecting inside fluidics module 139
opening the instrument 137
pipettor head, removing 142
recovery procedure 146
microplate adapters 28
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
microplates 30
loading 66
reading 99
modes, operational 38
moving the instrument 114
O
operating procedures 65
overview 32, 66
reading microplates 99
setting the temperature 72
setting up the software 75
shutdown 103
starting up the system 67
optical system 37
overview of operation 32, 66
P
panels 17, 137
parallel port 19
parts, replaceable 154
photomultiplier tube 81
sensitivity 39
pipette tip rack 30
loading 66
pipette tips 30
air gap 97
expelling fluid from 145
pipettor head 25, 28
installing 56
removal 142
Plate icon 102
Plate Section screen 84, 98
170
Plate sections 102
creating and editing 77
selecting 101
power cord 19, 28, 117, 142, 153
connecting 61
power failure 135
power switch 19, 67
Preferences dialog 75
printer cable 121
Printer icon 47
procedures
installation See installation procedures
maintenance See service and maintenance
procedures
operating See operating procedures
service See service and maintenance
procedures
troubleshooting See troubleshooting
procedures
R
Read button 46, 100, 102
read modes 103
reading chamber 26
Reading Chamber button 62, 120
reading chamber drawer 21, 26
cleaning 115
installing microplate adapter 120
opening and closing 71
reading chamber key 71
recovery procedure 146
Reduction icon 47
reduction parameters 99
RS-232 port 19
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Index
S
safety information 9
conventions in the user guide 10
screens
Instrument Settings 77
Plate Section 84, 98
Preferences dialog 75
Untitled window 45
Untitled window, Flex mode 77
Untitled, new 68
Untitled, Plate Section 69
serial port 19, 75
service and maintenance procedures 113
cleaning the instrument 115
long-term shutdown 128
moving the instrument 114
replacing the flash lamp 123
technical support 114
using microplate adapters 120
using the compound baseplate 121
set point temperature indicator 70
settings, instrument
AutoCalibrate 85
Automix 84
AutoRead 85
compound and tip columns 93
compound source selection 87
compound transfer 88
on Plate Section screen 98
pipette tip air gap 97
timing 81
triturate selection 92
wells to read 83
Setup button 47, 76
shipping containers 50
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shutdown procedures 103
long-term 128
SoftMax Pro 28
installing 63
software settings 75, 99
Spectrum mode 41
starting up the system 67
Status bar 46, 75
during readings 102
Stop button 46, 102
support 114
system
installing the 49
operating procedures 65
setting the temperature 72
starting up the 67
system components 15
system description
components, system 15
overview of operation 32
safety information 9
T
technical support 114
Temp on/off key 71, 73
temperature
display on control panel 72
indicator 70
regulation 35
setting 71, 72
Temperature display field 46, 75
Template Editor 99
Template icon 47
time elapsed in current run 102
time-tagged data 36
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FlexStation 3 Benchtop Multi-Mode Microplate Reader User Guide
timing
for each operational mode 39
setting 81
tip rack button 71
tip rack drawer 21, 134
inspecting 138
opening and closing 71
top reading 31, 37, 39
Transfer button 89
triturate 39
selecting 92
troubleshooting procedures 129
assessing mechanical problems 136
expelling fluid from tips 145
fluidics module, inspecting inside 139
fluidics module, tilting or removing 149
general error messages 148
mechanical problems, Flex mode 135
opening drawers manually 132
opening the instrument 137
pipettor head, removing 142
problems during startup 130
recovery procedure 146
tip rack, evaluating problems with 138
understanding mechanical problems 133
W
wavelengths 39
well scan editor 39
Well Scan mode 41
wells to read
for each operational mode 39
selecting 83
U
Untitled window 45
Flex mode 77
new 68
Plate Section 69
user interface 45
172
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