Lab Benchtop Rockers and Rollers Guide

When it comes to purchasing tools and equipment in a laboratory, one requires careful consideration. Most tools in a lab are used over a long period. Therefore, it is important to purchase the right tool for the job that can stay durable.

There are several types of equipment and materials used in a lab. One of the major materials is the sample mixing and agitation materials like rockers and rollers. What are the factors to consider before purchasing these materials? Are there tips that can guarantee you a better buy? We have answered all these questions about rockers and rollers in this in-depth guide. Read on to find out.

Functions of Lab Benchtop Rockers and Rollers

In the laboratory, there are three main materials used for mixing samples, vortexing and gentle agitation. They are; rockers, rollers, and shakers. Every benchtop in a laboratory is most likely to have these materials, whether it is a small or large academic or commercial benchtop.

Rockers and rollers are made of an electric motor that initiates the movement of the platform upon which the sample is secured. The speed of the motor can be programmed to vary from mild to vigorous, making it easy to control for different actions.

Here are some of the activities that require benchtop rockers and rollers;

  • DNA extraction
  • Cell culture
  • Reagent mixing
  • Blotting
  • Staining gels.

These are some of the major activities that are done on the benchtop in a laboratory.

Now, there are several models and configurations of lab shakers and rockers. They come in different designs, each structured to suit a particular purpose.

Rockers are used for applications that require a gentle rocking motion. Different models of rockers provide different motions. The rocking motion is always in the form of a seesaw movement, or it can be like a 3D gyration movement. The speed and angling of the rocker are adjustable and can be tilted to meet the need of the application. Rockers can be used with dishes, flasks, and test tubes.

Rollers are used to mix samples for applications in biochemistry, clinical testing, and molecular biology. The speed of the rollers can also be adjusted to suit a specific need. Rollers are used with sample tubes that are rotated to get the samples in them mixed properly, both horizontally and vertically.

Features to Look Out for When Buying Benchtop Rockers and Rollers

There are some features of benchtop rockers and rollers that make them easy to use. Some of these features include;

  • Precision control: A rocker or roller working without precision control can lead to several accidents in the laboratory. It is important to check to confirm that the tool has functional precision control.
  • Variable speed: Another important feature is speed. Rockers should have speed control to enable the user to change the speed as required. Some applications will require slow, rocking movement, while others will require a faster movement. When the speed of the tool can be varied, this will not be an issue.
  • Mode of operation: As we mentioned earlier, these tools have different designs and configurations. Checking to see the mode of operation of the tool is important.
  • Built-in digital timer: One major feature of modern rockers and rollers is that they have a built-in digital timer. With this timer, you can track simultaneous timing events. This makes it easy to carry out repetitive and recurring tasks without hassle.

Questions to Guide Your Lab Mixing Requirements

If you are uncertain about whether to use a shaker, rocker, or roller for a mixing application, these four questions will help you decide;

  1. What is most suitable for the applications I will perform? When you check the procedures involved, the temperature, angling, and speed of your procedure, you will be able to determine the most suitable material.
  2. What is the maximum required RPM? Determine how many rotations per minute are required for your application.
  3. Do I need materials to be heated or cooled?
  4. What is the size of the platform I need? This depends on the maximum number of samples you would process per time.

Buying rockers and rollers that are unsuitable for the task is like a waste of money. The wrong tool will be unable to produce the right results. You will always have issues with the quality of your samples, the speed and functionality of the tools, and the results of all your mixing procedures.

Again, the wrong tools will not be durable. This implies that they will need multiple repairs and replacement sessions, eventually costing the owners more money than necessary.

Factors to Consider When Buying Rockers and Rollers

Having talked about the functions, necessary features, and benefits of buying the right materials for mixing in the laboratory, let us now discuss some factors that will help you make the right selection.

The type of laboratory:

The first question to ask yourself before purchasing tools in the laboratory is; what type of laboratory am I expecting to have? This question affects everything, including other equipment and tools in the lab. What kind of lab are you outfitting? Is it; a small or a large lab, an academic or clinical, industrial or commercial lab?

You also need to know your financial budget for the lab. The spending capacity for a start-up lab with a small budget is different from that of a large laboratory.

There are several advancements in technology that are visible in the science industry today. Most equipment and materials have been designed with new tech features that provide more options for easy use and higher-quality results. Investing in the purchase of cutting-edge equipment certainly has its benefits.

Carrying out an inventory or a thorough assessment of the laboratory will prevent you from making unnecessary expenses. You might not require all of the advanced features that are present in the more expensive tools. So, if you do your assessment properly, you will end up not buying these tools and cutting costs.

Getting the right rocker:

After checking the size and type of lab you are outfitting and measuring it up with your budget, the next thing to do is consider the type of rocker you need.

There are different types of rockers. According to the motion of the rocker, the two main types of rockers are; 2D rockers and 3D rockers.

2D rockers use a seesaw and forward-backward motion to operate. They operate at a low speed as well. This makes them suitable for applications like; blotting, staining, de-staining, and other related activities.

The 3D rockers operate orbitally in an upward-downward motion. They are more capable of stronger agitation, they can handle higher speeds, and they are also suitable for blotting and staining applications.

Another factor to consider when choosing the rocker is whether it will ever be used in either a cold room or an incubator. These are locations with a more sensitive temperature range, and tools that will be used in these locations might need to have an in-built temperature control feature.

Space requirement:

Now, rockers and rollers will be used on benchtops, so another factor to consider is the space requirement of the lab. The larger the mixer, the more space you will have for samples and other mixing procedures, and the more space you will require in the lab.

A smaller mixer will work well with limited benchtop space but will also be able to handle smaller loads. So, confirm that the size of your workbench is suitable for the rocker you want to purchase.

Having a mixer with the right motion and the right application placed in an adequate room space will yield accurate and reliable results for your research.

Your research goals:

Another important factor to consider is the goal of your research. If you intend to use your rockers for multiple applications, then you should choose a rocker with variable speed and tilt control. This way, all you need to do is adjust the tilt and the speed, and you can use the same tool for both mild and vigorous actions. In a case where you will only need the rocker for one application, then you can save a lot of money by purchasing a rocker with a fixed speed and angle, which is optimized for only a specific application.

Again, it is advisable to check with the laboratory staff to know the load capacity and desired temperature range. Flasks and vessels can be filled to different levels, so you should ensure that the motor used in the mixer is capable of carrying the weight placed on the operating platform. You should understand what flasks and vessels can be placed on the rocker, as the rocker platform should be able to handle the weight of different vessels and flasks while it is in motion.

Sample type:

Another major factor is the type of sample used in the mixing process. If the mixer is required for mixing samples and other basic tasks, then a basic model with mechanical dials that do not have heating or cooling features can be used. This model will certainly be cheaper and save you some money.

If the mixer is, however, required for other more complex processes like cell culturing, enzyme reactions, and growth study, it will require a special type of mixer. For instance, if it is a shaker, it will need an enclosed incubating shaker with more precise control.

Availability of the researcher:

Researching takes time. Most times, the scientist will need to carefully watch the samples in the mixer, observe them, and be on standby to monitor the timing and set it accordingly. A full-time researcher would barely have a problem with this. The researcher will be completely devoted to carrying out this task. However, a researcher that is not always available might have a problem with this.

As a solution, lots of automated features have been added to rockers and rollers. Many modern mixer systems can be easily programmed to carry out specific tasks with time constraints attached to them. These tools with automated features are more expensive but are also more suitable for a busy researcher. Therefore, considering your availability will help you determine the exact type of mixer you need.

Maintenance Tips for Workbench Rockers and Rollers

When maintained properly, these materials can last for a very long time serving their purpose effectively. Here is a major tip that can help you maintain your workbench rollers and rockers.

Avoid spills and sloshes:

Most times, spills and sloshes occur during the mixing process and this is due to certain activities that could have been prevented. There are two major reasons for spills and sloshes;

  • The labware is poorly matched with the rocking speed and pitch of the mixer. An easy way to solve this is by ensuring that both pairs match.
  • Low-quality, poorly-covered containers. Sometimes, during the mixing process, the shaking gets vigorous. In cases where the containers are not covered properly, the liquids can spill.

Spills can create a mess on the surface of the benchtop. Even worse, they can have disastrous effects on the machine when liquid seeps into the motor and damages the motor.

Therefore, it is important to ensure that the labware matches the speed and pitch of the mixer. You should also cover the containers properly and place the motor and other critical parts of the mixer in a liquid-proof enclosure. This way, even in an inevitable case of spills, you are certain that the vital parts that are prone to damage are properly covered.

Our Best Rockers and Rollers

1. Tube Rollers

The specifications are:

  • Speed: Fixed, 38 rpm (+/- 10%)
  • Tilt angle: +/- 5°
  • Operating temperature: +4 to +40°C
  • Dimension: 12 x 12.5 in. / 3 x 32 cm

The Tube Roller is perfect for clinical research, laboratories, and doctor’s offices. It is designed for the gentle, thorough mixing of various containers. It has two models; a 5-roller model and a 10-roller model. It has in-built tilt features that ensure homogeneity in the mixtures.

2. The Problot Rocker 25

The specifications are:

  • Speed: 5 - 120 tilts/min
  • Tilt: Fixed 7°
  • Dimensions: 11.4 x 12.6 x 5.7 in or 29 x 32 x 14.5 cm

The Problot Rocker 25 is another favorite. It is very noiseless while in operation, and this is one of its most desirable features. It is very durable, and its surface is covered with non-slip rubber pads, which prevent objects from moving during operation. It has a low profile and compact size, making it suitable for use in small incubators.

3. The Everlast Rocker

The specifications are:

  • Speed: Variable, 3 to 80 RPM
  • Tilt angle: Variable, 0° to 20° (user adjustable)
  • Operating temperature: 0 to +65°C
  • Dimension: 16 x 13 x 6 in. or 40.55 x 33 x 15.2 cm

The everlast rocker is also very desirable. As the name implies, it is very durable. It has a five-year warranty. Its motor is very reliable and consistent and can be used constantly in almost any temperature; cold room (min. 0°C) or incubator (max. 65°C).

It is designed with a dual-platform accessory, and this creates a double workspace for the user. In general, it is a masterpiece.

In conclusion, getting the right benchtop rockers and rollers will make your work more efficient and give you better results in your laboratory.