Our Top 5 Benchtop Labeling Solutions for The Lab

Our Top 5 Benchtop Labeling Solutions for The Lab

Label Printers, Research & Diagnostics, Labware Automation | 10 September 2020

Posted by John Masica

Our Top 5 Benchtop Labeling Solutions for The Lab

 

No matter the size of your lab or throughput expectations—labeling is something that needs to be done. Our team of experts in printing and automation have put together this list of five benchtop solutions we often recommend to customers dealing with lower throughput volumes and/or limited real estate.

These models are compact, simple and affordable in comparison to similar equipment intended for higher volumes or larger workflows. This list details three of our favorite benchtop printers, and two small-but-mighty print-and-apply automation tools.

If you’re looking for something that’ll fit on a desktop and help you apply labels to less than 1,500 pieces of labware a week, you’ll want to check these out!

Benchtop Print-on-Demand Solutions

Many smaller labs and storage facilities rely on print on demand solutions and hand labeling to address their labeling needs. Selecting a printer suited to your needs is incredibly important—in the case of smaller low volume facilities, you don’t want to invest more budget or valuable real estate than you can justify.

Below are 3 printers we recommend to facilities processing under 1,500 pieces of labware weekly. These printers are compact, affordable and intended to perform their best in lower volume applications.

1.    Cab EOS2

Overview:

The EOS2 is a versatile and compact printer suitable for a broad range of applications—including healthcare. Despite its small size, it’s capable of accommodating media as wide as 8 inches, making it especially suitable for situations where wider labels are necessary, but bench space is limited.

Featuring an LED display the EOS2 also provides an intuitive user experience, ensuring no time is wasted during operation.

Quick Specs:

Print Technology

Thermal Transfer

Print Resolution

203 or 300 dpi

Print Speed

Up to 150 mm/s

Maximum Print Width

108 or 105.7 mm (varies by model)

While the EOS provides durable print technology, a broad range of label sizes and user-friendliness all in one compact unit, it does have a few limitations that might lead you to invest in one of the other options mentioned in this article.

Limitations

While 300 dpi is suitable for the majority of labware labeling applications, 600 dpi is necessary to print very small barcodes—such as those on the bottoms or caps of tubes and vials.

Additionally, there is no peel and present option, which aids in reducing the amount of labor involved in the labeling process.

Summary:

Overall, the EOS2 is going to be a good fit for a lower volume lab with limited real-estate that isn’t printing particularly small labels. It’s small, yet powerful, affordable and extremely simple to operate.

2.    ZD Series

Overview:

The ZD series includes three compact clamshell models with a range of interfaces and capabilities. Standard, each is capable of offering 200 dpi print resolution, accommodating media up to 4.09” and including an optional peeler.

The ZD models vary in their interface—ranging from only three buttons to ten buttons and an LED display. Additionally the 420 and 620 models are able to provide 300 dpi print resolution, increased print speeds and an optional cutter in addition to the peel option.

Quick Specs:

Print Technology

Thermal Transfer

Print Resolution

203 or 300 dpi

Print Speed

4”, 6” or 8” per second (varies by model)

Maximum Print Width

4.09”

 

Limitations:

While all 3 models in the ZD series are suitable for lower volume facilities—the series does have its downsides:

First, the cutter option—which can be added to the 420 or 620, isn’t very strong and won’t stand-up to thicker liners. Second, the highest resolution option is 300 dpi, so very small barcodes are going to be difficult to accommodate.

Summary:

Despite its limitations, the ZD series is a great fit for applications where less than 1,500 labels are needed weekly—offering a range of features to accommodate the demands of various applications.

Check out our review of the ZD series for more  details on its features, benefits and limitations

3.    Cab Mach4S

Overview:

The Mach4S features a compact, clamshell design—engineered to perform in industrial environments—but very well suited to healthcare as well. Despite its small size the Mach4S is actually capable of accommodating media up to 8 inches in width.

While wide media may not be very common in the lab, small labels can be, and the Mach4S is able to provide image resolution as high as 600 dpi. High resolution is incredibly useful when printing small barcodes such as those commonly applied to the bottoms and caps of tubes and vials.

The Mach4S also includes a user-friendly LED display, making it particularly easy to operate.

Quick Specs:

Print Technology

Thermal Transfer

Print Resolution

203, 300 or 600 dpi

Print Speed

Up to 150, 250 or 300 mm/s (varies by model)

Maximum Print Width

104, 105.7 or 108.4 mm (varies by model)

 

Limitations:

While the Mach4S has a lot to offer, it does have limits. The most applicable limitation to lower volume healthcare facilities is the lack of dispensing options. The Mach4s isn’t able to accommodate a cutter or peeler.

Summary:

In short, the Mach4s is one of the most popular printers leveraged in labs because it’s an easy to use, reliable, small benchtop print solution well suited to limited volume applications.

Watch our review video to find out what we think about the cab MACH4S

Benchtop Automation

Automation is a great way to speed things up—whether you’re looking to increase processing volumes, keep up with demand, improve placement precision or dedicate more time to tasks that directly validate your mission.

While facilities dealing with extremely small volumes—such as 20 or less pieces of labware on any given day—can get away with manual labeling no problem, those processing more or aiming to boost accuracy might want to consider label automation.

Here we’re going to cover two budget friendly benchtop label automation solutions for lower volume labs—one for tubes and vials, and the other for microwell plates.

4.    Tube and Vial Automation: cab Axon2

Overview:

The cab Axon2 has proven to be a game-changer in terms of tube and vial label automation. Not only is it compact enough to fit on a desktop—but it’s the most affordable tube and vial label applicator on the market to date.

Similar to higher end applicators, the Axon2 features up to 600 dpi image resolution, as well as increased application speed and accuracy.

Quick Specs:

Print Technology

Thermal Transfer

Print Resolution

300 or 600 dpi

Print & Apply Speed

4+ Seconds per tube or vial (varies by operator)

Maximum Print Width

105.7 or 108.4 mm (varies by model)

Acceptable Tube Size Range

105 mm max tube length

10-17 mm diameter

 

Limitations:

While the Axon2 has proven to perform on par with higher end automation equipment, it’s limited in its volume capabilities and range of acceptable tube sizes. In the context of a smaller facility, limited volume capabilities won’t lead to much interruption, however the limited acceptable tube sizes could be a cause for concern.

The Axon2 is only capable of accommodating tubes up to 105mm in length and between 10-17mm in diameter. If this isn’t suitable to your processes you may want to look into a more customizeable applicator like the Tube-Pro.

Summary:

As long as your tubes and vials are within the acceptable size range of the Axon2 this solution is going to be a great fit for your lab. Our customers have reported great success with this piece of equipment—and it’s compact size and budget friendly cost compared to similar equipment serve as major bonuses no matter your lab size.

Read the review to get our overall opinion on the Axon 2

5.    Microwell Plate Automation: cab S3200

Overview:

The S3200 is an optional accessory for the cab SQUIX printer that allows you to convert the printer into a benchtop plate label applicator.

With all the same printing abilities as the cab SQUIX, the S3200 applicator is able to provide high quality print alongside increased application speed and precision in comparison to hand labeling.

Similar to the Axon2 the S3200 is very reasonable in cost compared to similar equipment making it an especially good fit for facilities where demand isn’t high enough to justify the costs of a higher end model.

Quick Specs:

Print Technology

Thermal Transfer

Print Resolution

203, 300 or 600 dpi

Print & Apply Speed

150, 250 or 300 mm/s + (varies by model & operator)

Maximum Print Width

54.1, 56.9, 104, 105.7 or 108.4 mm/s (varies by model)

Limitations:

Although the S3200 is able to perform similarly to higher volume models—we mainly recommend this to lower volume facilities due to it’s limitations.

This model is not fully automated and can’t offer automated rotation or height adjustments. You can still label your plates on multiple sides and accommodate various heights, it will just require some manual intervention.

Additionally, there is a minimum label height requirement of 6mm and the label placement tolerance is 1mm—a bit higher than similar equipment but still much more consistent than manual label application!

Lastly, the applicator is designed to apply labels to the center of the plate. There is minimal adjustment allowing for left or right justification of the label placement.

Check out this blog for a more detailed look at cab’s SQUIX S3200

Summary:

If your facility is labeling less than 1,500 plates per week, the S3200 applicator should provide sufficient application abilities to meet your needs—even with its limitations in mind. It provides all the same power as the cab SQUIX printer, with the added ability to apply labels faster and more consistently than manual labeling.

 

Finding a labeling solution when you don’t have to label thousands of containers a day and have limited space to spare can seem difficult, but as you now know, these five solutions are just a few of your options. We hear from our customers that each of these solutions are reliable, economical and capable of offering productivity gains.

Contact our team if you would like to learn more about any of these solutions

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John Masica

Based in St. Paul, MN, USA, John Masica is Computype’s Technical Support Specialist. Specializing in label printer maintenance and engineering, John is the go-to person for all things label printing. Through his 24 years here at Computype, he has learned many tips and tricks to make your label printing easier and more efficient.