The FLEX Tube Pro: An Automatic Tube and Vial Labeling System

Successfully implementing an automatic label application solution in your lab requires the right equipment and resources. If you are in need of a high-volume, walk-away system—consider the FLEX Tube Pro automated tube and vial labeler. The system is the result of a dual effort between Computype and our partners in the automation engineering space–but sold and serviced exclusively by Computype. If you are still determining what level of automation is best for your environment take a moment to consider these factors, but for now let’s breakdown the FLEX Tube Pro. 

The FLEX Tube Pro System Breakdown

The FLEX Tube Pro is comprised of two main components: the FLEX TVF Tube and Vial Feeder, and the LC100i Tube Pro. Both of these units can be employed separately as well to either enhance an existing label strategy, or slowly transition to automation.

The complete FLEX Tube Pro solution utilizes a tandem pick and place loader system to transfer the tubes from the Flex TVF to the Tube Pro module for labeling and output. Additionally, the FLEX Tube Pro uses a PC-based automation system with an included HMI panel to provide the operator interface and controls needed to run the system.

The FLEX TVF Tube and Vial Feeder is the most basic component of this system—its job is simply to take in the tubes and vials loaded into the hopper and facilitate their path to the loader system.

The pick and place loader system will then orient each tube or vial into the proper position and direction for precise label placement. The Tube Pro module utilizes thermal transfer print technology to prepare the label which is then securely applied. Each tube or vial takes less than 3.5 seconds to go through this system.

One of the most significant benefits of implementing a fully automated solution is the ability to integrate label application with your LIMS system and any existing automatic workflows in your lab. Robotic pick and place mechanisms can easily be added to advance each tube towards filling and testing stations. The precision label placement can also support further automated processes by ensuring accurate scans and boosting read rates.

Overall, this solution was designed to help labs improve throughput and efficiency while drastically reducing waste; and frankly, the lean advantages of this system cannot be overstated.

A few additional features to note:

  • The FLEX system can print both linear and 2D barcodes, and can incorporate pre-printed labels.
  • The FLEX TVF operates much quieter than traditional vibratory bowls—capping around 65db, similar to normal conversation volume.
  • Operators can easily change out different sized tubes without tools. 

Keep in mind that the discs and nests used to transport and label each tube in this system need to be changed for different sized tubes—meaning you cannot label different sized tubes at once. It is important to also be aware of the physical size of this system, if your lab is hurting for real estate you may need to consider a desktop option—remember the Tube Pro module in this system can be implemented on its own.

How Much Does the FLEX Tube Pro Cost?

Any piece of automation equipment is an investment, however you should never consider one that won’t ultimately be of help to your bottom line. The main drivers of cost when it comes to tube and vial automation are operator involvement, throughput volumes and the variety of tube and vial sizes the equipment is expected to accommodate. As a fully automated high volume solution, The FLEX system begins at $100,000+ —with price adjustments depending on customization options and labeling terms.

When calculating if this decision is right for you consider the time and resources your lab currently dedicates to identification and tracking. Do you need to free up your employees to focus on research goals? Do you need to reduce time spent on waste and stoppages caused by inaccurate scans or potentially mislabeled samples? Are you confident in the integrity of your data and audit trails?

How to Get Started with the FLEX Tube Pro

There are a number of moving pieces associated with implementing a new tube and vial labeling strategy. One of the most critical factors is ensuring that your labels are compatible with the new equipment. The construction of your label needs to be engineered to move smoothly through the applicator without causing stoppages. For example unfit adhesives could ooze and gum up the equipment, and labels that are too thin may not peel from the liner properly. All of these factors support the need to source the system and respective labels from a single supplier like Computype; so as to ensure smooth commissioning, full optimization of the system itself, and closed-loop service and support. 

Incompatibility between labels and hardware is the most common problem with automatic label application, so it is imperative that your label supplier knows how you intend to use your labels and qualifies them accordingly. 

Additionally, there will be some adjustments needed in terms of logistics. From making the proper arrangements to the organization and layout of your facility, to connecting your LIMS database with the systems HMI. 

All of these considerations can be handled seamlessly with the help of a strategic partner. Integrated labeling automation systems should be designed and commissioned to meet your needs today—and in the future. The right partner will ensure proper understanding of your goals to provide labels and systems that will hold up to unexpected growth, expansion, and procedural changes. Don’t spend your time managing a complex labeling system without the proper support, choose a partner that can lay a good foundation for your anticipated growth.

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