Friday, October 1, 2010

MoFlo Upgraded to XDP, plus a couple new laser lines.

Ah, the MoFlo - what a fine piece of craftsmanship!  I started my relationship with the MoFlo (Formerly of Cytomation, Formerly of DakoCytomation, Formerly of Dako, Currently of Beckman-Coulter) in the year 2000.  We had many great years together, but our relationship was getting a bit stale.  You see, there was this fancy new gal in town call the Aria who lured me into her web of seduction with promises of 'turn-key' operation, and I bit!  I soon realized however, that the grass isn't necessarily greener on the other side, and re-visited the rock-solid usability of the MoFlo.  In recent years, the MoFlo started showing its age.  I have to admit, part of the issue was a certain level of neglect and abuse on our part, but hey 10 years in instrument years is like 80 in people years.  And so we came to a fork in the road, and as with most things in the technology area utilizing 20 year old components, we had to decide, pull the plug or pursue the upgrade path.
When I was contacted by the folks at Propel labs (who, evidently are a group of people from the original Cytomation company) that there was an upgrade path to the XDP electronics for the legacy MoFlo, I was thrilled.  After about a year of begging for money from anyone that would listen to me, I finally secured the funding and was ready for the upgrade.  So, why upgrade to XDP instead of buying a new sorter?  Well, first of all, it was a financial thing.  The cost of an upgrade is about 1/4th the cost of a new sorter.  Secondly, the fluidics on our MoFlo are uncannily stable; who knows if we'd strike it rich again with a new sorter.  You may also be asking, what's so great about XDP?  Well, I'd never be able to explain with such elegance as Dan Fox could, so all I can say is track down the white paper Dan wrote, read it, then pick your lower jaw up off the floor.  The big lure for me (besides the obsolescence of parts for the legacy MoFlo) was just the fact that we'd be able to operate with no/low hard aborts similar to the Aria, which, when paired with the higher number of droplets a jet-in-air can achieve, should allow us to sort faster and maintain high yields and purity. With our XDP upgrade, we also had all our PMTs changed, and threw on two new laser lines to boot.  - Side note - We had one of these co-lase towers installed on our MoFlo, which is also a product of Propel Labs, that basically combines two laser lines so they can be run colinear into the 3-pinhold MoFlo setup.  We chose to put on a UV and Red laser and run them colinear through the co-lase tower.  This now gives us a 4-laser MoFlo (355, 488, 561, and 640) - End Side Note -
The remains of the MoFlo after the tear-down
As far as the actual upgrade goes, the install went pretty smooth.  It took 2-3 guys about 3 days to completely tear down the instrument to basically an empty table, and then install the PMTs, electronics, the touch-screen panel, and the computer.  As with most installs/upgrades, we did have a couple hiccups, but they were taken care of immediately.  I guess that's one good thing about working with a smaller company like Propel Labs.  They can't afford to lose any business, so customer service is automatically very good.

We've been using the XDP now for about a week, and things have gone pretty well.  We're still getting use to the touch-screen interface, and some of the new things in Summit, but overall, I'd say we made the right decision, and hopefully the MoFlo can dutifully give us another 10 years of service.

Once we've gotten into a rhythm on this thing and really test the bounds of speed, I'll post some data.  But for now, enjoy a pic of the finished product below.

The upgraded MoFlo XDP in all its polished glory!


  1. I'm looking forward to your posts on how the upgrade performs, I'll be looking to do this myself before 2013. I bought mine in 1997, and it's still my favorite sorter. It runs better than anything else I have! Let us know how you like it.

  2. I guess I forgot that I said I'd do it. So thanks for the reminder. I'll get my thoughts up shortly. It's a mixed bag at this point so I'll be sure to lay it all out there.