The CTC CombiPal is not a GERSTEL MPS

Martin Perkins

6th July 2011

It has happened again.

A lab that needed a GERSTEL MPS has been talked into buying a CombiPal and discovered the hard way, that they are very different – the customer says that he was told by the person selling the CombiPal that both products worked the same. The result is much frustration, much unneccesary cost and wasted time for everyone involved, but especially for the customer who is the innocent party in all this.

So let us expore the differences between the two products in detail. Superficially, the CombiPal and the MPS look similar because they both share the same XYZ robotic platform (made by CTC Analytics in Switzerland). It is also true that any accessory sold for the CombiPal can be used on the MPS, but the reverse is seldom, if ever, true.

The CombiPal is a sound product, but it has limited capability compared to the GERSTEL MPS. GERSTEL is a chromatography engineering company and the MPS is simply the automation platform that they use to support their own, broad and inovative range of chromatography products. Element also produces accessories and applications for the MPS (none of which work on a CombiPal).

Virtually, no method detailed in application notes published by Element or GERSTEL can be reproduced on a CombiPal. The reason is that we run GERSTEL Multi-Purpose Samplers with Maestro software in our labs – not CombiPals.

Here also is (an incomplete) list of the analytical techniques that the MPS supports, that can’t be done on a CombiPal:

  • Dynamic headspace sampling
  • Centrifugation
  • Thermal desorption
  • Stir bar sorptive extraction (Twister)
  • Automated Pyrolysis
  • Advanced SPME (multi-fibre exchange etc.)
  • Automated liner exchange
  • Solvent evaporation
  • Disposible Pipette Extraction (DPX)

The GERSTEL MPS also comes in (and can be upgraded to) dual head and dual rail configurations these enable complex automation projects to be undertaken. These are the projects that deliver customer’s the greatest value (the more that the robot does, the less you have to).

There is also a multitude of special trays, bells, whistles, widgets, tricks and wheezes that we have access to and that we know work, because they have been tested in our application laboratory

Lesson One: If your needs are simple, you can be sure that they won’t change over the next seven years and you have seen a CombiPal doing exactly what you need it to do – buy a CombiPal. If not an MPS will be a much better bet.

Every man and his dog sells the CombiPal, so GERSTEL and Element work hard to differentiate the MPS by making it much more capable. We don’t bother with the simple jobs that will work on a standard CombiPal. One way we do this is with the excellent Maestro software which fully integrates ALL elements of your system and enables very complex programe sequences to be built and run. There is no other control software on the market that can match Maestro for capability and ease of use.

Lesson Two: Method files developed using the GERSTEL Maestro software, will not and cannot be made to run on the CombiPal’s CycleComposer software or anything else. If someone says they can work that miracle, ask them to show you.

Experience has taught us that it is essential to perform a full technical assesment of customers requirements, before we come up with a recomended solution. Diagnose before you prescibe in other words. We do this for free and we will always check-out any technical risks in our lab before we make a recomendation.

Lesson Three: Insist on seeing the instrument performing your application – before you commit to placing an order

A robotic autosampler is a pile of junk until it has been configured, programmed and tested on your application, in your lab. Effective technical support is as important as the hardware itself. Who you buy from matters.

Lesson Four: The quality of the technical support that you recieve pre-sale is an excellent indicator of the quality of the support that you will recieve post-sale.

If you make a mistake and buy a CombiPal and then find that you need an MPS what can you do?

There is an upgrade path from CombiPal to the GERSTEL MPS. We (Element) are supportive when customers make this mistake, but, it costs money and time. It is like driving from London to Brighton via Timbucto, it’s expensive, inefficient, time consuming and uses up a lot of energy. Far better to get it right first time.

If you are miss-sold a short rail CombiPal and you find that you actually need a long rail MPS, then you really are up a gum tree as there is no possible upgrade available in that case.

The safe option? – Simple. buy a GERSTEL MPS.