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What features should you look for when buying a stirrer?

19 April 2017

One way to help you with your purchasing decision when buying a laboratory equipment is by knowing what other people are looking for. In this article, we'll go over some features that other people consider when buying a stirrer or mixer, data courtesy of a recent Lab Manager survey.

According to the survey, the most sought after feature is durability, with 86% of the respondents considering it before purchasing a stirrer.

Another important feature is the stirrer being easy to maintain (which, for a stirrer, is primarily being easy to use and easy to clean). Eighty percent of the survey respondents consider low maintenance as one of the most essential features.

Here’s the complete set of data:

Top 10 Features/Factors Survey Respondents Look for and Consider Before Selecting a Stirrer

Durability of product

86%

Low maintenance - Easy to use and clean

80%

Value for price paid

71%

Reliability of vendor

54%

Minimal vibration

53%

Safety features

50%

Versatility

47%

Reputation of vendor

42%

Compact design

40%

Warranty

40%

About durability of product

The warranty provided by the manufacturer is one of the most useful specifications to know. It is an indirect way to determine whether the laboratory equipment will be durable or not.

The warranty duration reflects the manufacturer’s confidence about the product. The longer the warranty duration (and the more comprehensive the coverage), the more confident the manufacturer is about the laboratory stirrer. In fact, 40% of the survey respondents stated directly the importance of warranty in purchasing a laboratory stirrer.

This is especially important in the purchase of expensive stirrers. For example, the Maxi MR 1 digital (which can cost up to $4,000) has a 2-year warranty. Many smaller and more affordable stirrers, such as the MiniMag Magnetic Stirrer, come with a  2-year warranty.

Warranty duration is not generally a function of price, however, but rather a function of the manufacturer. Troemner / Talboys stirrers, for instance, all have 5-year warranties.

Other indicators of reliability include the reputation of the manufacturer as well as whether the instrument is manufactured in-house or not. Since we provide the country of manufacture for all the stirrers we sell, you can cross-reference that with where the manufacturer is located and get an idea if they are manufacturing the item themselves or if they are outsourcing its manufacture. Generally speaking, products which are made in-house are subject to greater quality control, but this is not always the case. Reviews and user ratings are also important when looking to assess a stirrer's reliability.

About low maintenance (easy to use and clean)

When it comes to the ease of operation, lab managers and personnel look for controls. For instance, the RH Hotplate Stirrer has a touch keypad for easy control and operation. There is also a clear digital display of the temperature and speed.

The clear digital display also helps in double checking the temperature and speed. This can be very helpful because the controls for speed and temperature are not always easily differentiated, and the markings on analog controls may not correspond to an actual value, but rather a relative scale (such as a temperature setting from "1" to "10"). Accidentally increasing the temperature beyond a point could be dangerous or otherwise detrimental in many applications.

It’s also important for lab personnel that the plate is easy to clean. They often check if the plate is chemically resistant. The FlatSpin Stirrer by Scilogex has a chemically resistant plate which helps in making it easy to clean. The C-MAG MS Series by IKA has a ceramic setup plate which also offers excellent chemical resistance.

A glass top also provides outstanding chemical resistance. The Big Squid by IKA has a glass top. In addition, its synthetic bottom is made from a thermoplastic polyester elastomer (TPC-ET). It shows excellent heat and chemical resistance, strength, and durability properties.

Other notable features of stirrers

Laboratory managers (and those in charge of purchasing laboratory equipment) are also concerned about the safety features of stirrers.

Safety features are essential in stirrers (especially with hot plates). One reason is that stirrers often operate for long periods of time without constant attention. Built-in safety features will help in preventing accidents even if the users don’t keep watch on the equipment.

Many laboratory stirrers, including the ones for intensive mixing and highly viscous applications, have built-in safety features to protect the users. For example, the EUROSTAR 100 (a powerful overhead stirrer, shown below) automatically cuts off the operation in case of overload conditions. This is made possible through the installed safety circuits.

EUROSTAR 100 Overhead Stirrer

The EUROSTAR 100 Control overhead stirrer

Safety features are more pronounced in hot plate stirrers. The RCT basic by IKA has an improved heat control technology. In addition, there’s also a Hot Top Indicator (a warning indicating the surface is hot) so users will avoid touching the hot surface.

For magnetic, hot plate, and overhead stirrers, durability is the number one factor. Other features such as safety and low maintenance are also important. Before and during the actual purchase, lab managers and personnel are likely to consider most of the features mentioned in the data.