Shopping for a High Capacity Cell Disrupter?

To date, there are six high-throughput Bead Mill Cell Disrupters on the market capable of high-energy shaking of 96-well microplates:  The MiniBeadbeater-96, the 2025 Geno/Grinder, the Talboys Homogenizer, the Retsch MM 301, the FastPrep-96, and the Bead Rupter-96.

When "shopping" for a commercial high-throughput Cell Disrupter there are several important features to consider.  Sample capacity and price are obviously important considerations, but one should also look at vial orientation during shaking.  For example, vials positioned with the axis oriented close to horizontal and the shaking action in the same direction are disrupted are more efficient at cell disruption than vials held in an upright position and shaken in an up/down motion.

High shaking speeds (2000 +/- 200 oscillations/min) and adequate shaking distances or 'throw' (1.0 +/- 0.25 inch) are also important.  Compromise on either of the latter two properties in the vial shaker and it can take up to 10X longer to get good cell disruption.  Put another way, there are several variables that account for 'efficient' cell disruption.  If you are measuring proteins expressed in bacteria, for example, close to 100% cell disruption is desirable.  On the other hand, if you want to extract nucleic acids followed by PCR amplification applications, perhaps a partial disruption of cells is acceptable.  Some manufacturers imply disruption times of less than 30 seconds.  That may be fine for PCR-related work, but it is not for blotting or measuring protein expression yield.

Look for an efficient, easy-to-use microplate- or vial-clamping mechanism. Microplate holders must press down on the entire surface area of the microplate sealing mat or membrane in contact with the top surface of the microplate.

One of the most important parts of a beadmill cell disrupter is the motor which provides the high shaking energy required to shake the loaded microplates.  It takes a high horsepower motor to get the job done and some bead-mill cell disrupters are compromised in their design by employing smaller motors that heat up faster -- and wear out sooner.  Consequently, some manufacturers suggest protocols that limit beadbeating times to 60 secs or less and, between each run, cool-down periods of up to 5 minutes.

Beadmill cell disrupters are almost always operated at their highest available shaking speed.  Because speed settings below its maximum are rarely used, elaborate speed control features on a bead mill cell disrupter are somewhat a "bell and whistle" feature.

Finally, talk or visit others who own a bead mill cell disrupter that you have your eye on.  And, if it is one of ours -- we will consult our records and give you contact information for nearby owners.

Comments from a Researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Lab:

  • "We have now tested the MiniBeadBeater-96 with two different sets of samples, with more than 100 samples processed. It seems to perform comparably with the single channel units we have from BioSpec, which is a very pleasant surprise. We are able to isolate DNA from purified Bacillus spores, which have proved to be too difficult for all of the other commercially available, multi-channel instruments we have tried.
  • From Ontario Veterinary College:
    'We received your MiniBeadbeater and put it to use immediately. It is just as advertised, easy to use, and our tissue homogenization and resultant RNA isolation has improved drastically!!
  • From Steve
    "I'm shopping around for a bead-beater kind of homogenizer, and the MiniBeadbeater-16 looks great, price-wise anyway, compared to the Fastprep and other similar bead mill products.  How does it compare to the other $7000-$10000 high-throughput bead beaters on the market and why is BioSpec's price so much cheaper?

Reply to Steve:

1.  Occasionally a product designed by BioSpec Products is build around a proven, a low-cost, mass-produced tool or appliance.  As examples: The motor of the 'TissueTearor' homogenizer uses a highly regarded Dremel-tool™; our 'Beadbeater' uses a Hamilton-Beach™ restaurant-grade blender motor; and the 'SoniBeast' multi-vial beadbeater is powered with a mass-produced Multipurpose Oscillating Tool.  That money-saving strategy eventually benefits our customers.

2.  For product promotion, BioSpec Products mostly relies on its 'word-of-mouth' reputation and references in the scientific literature. Marketing strategies, such as print- and internet advertising, representative commissions, trade shows, and product demonstrations, as a whole, can be remarkably expensive. Those expenses must be paid for, in part, by the products having higher sales prices.  For companies who's business models is committed to aggressive product promotion, up to 50% of the final list sales price of a lab tool may be determined by its marketing costs!