An apparatus for penetrating a cover over a multi-well sample plate containing at least one individual sample well includes a cutting head, a cutter extending from the cutting head, and a robot. The cutting head is connected to the robot wherein the robot moves the cutting head and cutter so that the cutter penetrates the cover over the multi-well sample plate providing access to the individual sample well. When the cutting head is moved downward the foil is pierced by the cutter that splits, opens, and folds the foil inward toward the well. The well is then open for sample aspiration but has been protected from cross contamination.
 The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.