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Custom Lyophilized Bead Handling & Automation

Owens Design provides design and build of custom manufacturing equipment that handles and dispenses lyophilized beads in high volumes while keeping them free of damage and contamination 

Lyophilized beads – also called lyo beads, lyospheres, PCR beads, single assay beads, and multiplex beads – are tiny, fragile, and low mass beads containing a precise volume of material. Lyo beads can be used in medical diagnostics for early detection of disease to save lives.

Typically ranging from 2-4 mm in diameter, these beads are difficult to handle due to their fragile nature, low mass, static properties, and sensitivity to contamination. It’s critical to avoid damage and contamination to lyo beads during manufacturing of the diagnostic test since this can lead to a false or misleading diagnoses.


Common Challenges of Handling Lyophilized Beads

The table below summarizes some of the common challenges of lyo bead handling:

Fragile & Small: Lyo beads are fragile and highly susceptible to damage during handing. Broken beads can create errors in reagent volume or generate cross contamination to invalidate test accuracy.
Difficult to Handle: Due to their low mass and static charge, lyo beads cling to each other and other surfaces making them difficult to separate and handle. The low density of the beads limits gravitational forces and makes the beads very sensitive to air flow.
Dry Environment: Lyophilized beads absorb moisture very quickly so must be handled and stored in very low humidity environments.
Avoiding Contamination: Often used in molecular diagnostics, preventing contamination of the beads is crucial to the efficacy and accuracy of the test.

Problematic Methods of Handling Lyo Beads

Current methods of bead handling and dosing lead to high levels of bead damage and poor reliability.

Some attempt manual pick-and-place with vacuum wands for placement in a grid tray but risk DNA contamination.

Another common method of handling is using shearing or other mechanical mechanisms to separate the beads. During this process, lyo beads often rub against one another causing damage.

Lyo Bead Singulation

Supporting lyophilized bead handling improvements for clients since 2016, Owens Design has developed a means to “singulate” and dispense lyo beads into PCR pockets or medical devices without gripping or shearing. This proprietary system loads beads at a rate of 30-60 PPM without damage or contamination. The system enables vision-based bead inspection for:

  1. Single or double-sided inspection prior to placement
  2. Final Inspection after bead placement

Owens Design offers three types of patent-pending device configurations to support start-ups to production ramp:

3 Lyo Bead Tools

Bench Top

  • Provides testing and validation of the process prior to automation
  • The device is manually placed on a nest (to hold and align the device)
  • Delivers one or more beads of the same or different chemistries


  • The system automatically dispenses multiple beads into PCR tray or your device
  • Supports product ramp and clinical trials

High Speed Automation

  • Includes all assembly steps to complete the device
  • Singulator can also be integrated to existing automation
  • Supports high-volume production

Get Started

The Owens Design team of engineers designs and builds custom automation solutions that are capable of handling even the most delicate material, including lyophilized beads. Whether you require an improved solution for bead singulation or increased throughput to scale your operation, let Owens Design assist you – speak to one of our lyophilized bead handling experts today to set up a demonstration of feeding your lyo beads into your device.