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In laboratory settings, hot plates are generally used to heat glassware or its contents. Some hot plates also contain a magnetic stirrer, allowing the heated liquid to be stirred automatically.
In a student laboratory hot plates are used because baths can be hazards if they spill, overheat or ignite, because they have a high thermal inertia (meaning they take a long time to cool down) and mantles can be very expensive and are designed for specific flask volumes.