Regardless of throughput expectations, every laboratory needs an efficient solution for printing and applying labware labels.

Our sample identification and tracking experts have put together this list of five benchtop solutions we often recommend to customers dealing with lower throughput volumes or limited real estate. These models are compact, simple, and affordable compared to similar equipment for higher volumes or larger workflows.

This list details three 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 consider these models.

Laboratory barcode printers for benchtop print-on-demand workstations

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 low, volume facilities, you don’t want to invest more budget or valuable real estate than you can justify. Below are three 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.

cab EOS2 label printer

The EOS2 is a versatile and compact printer suitable for various applications—including healthcare. Despite its small size, it can accommodate media as wide as 8 inches, making it especially ideal for situations where wider label sizes 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.

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

EOS limitations

While 300 dpi is suitable for most labware labeling applications, 600 dpi is necessary to print 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.

EOS summary

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

Zebra ZD printer series

The ZD series includes three compact clamshell models with various interfaces and capabilities. Standard, each can offer 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 to ten buttons and an LED display. The 420 and 620 models can also provide 300 dpi print resolution, increased print speeds, and an optional cutter in addition to the peel option.

ZD series limitations

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

First, the cutter add-on for the 420 or 620 isn’t powerful and won’t stand up to thicker liners. Second, the highest resolution option is 300 dpi, so small barcodes will be challenging to accommodate.

ZD series summary

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

cab Mach4S label printer

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

While wide media may not be standard in the lab, small labels and the Mach4S can provide image resolution as high as 600 dpi. High resolution is beneficial 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.

Mach 4S 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.

Mach 4S summary

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

Labware label applicators for in-house laboratory 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 minimal volumes—such as 20 or fewer pieces of labware on any given day—can get away with manual labeling with 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.

Tube and vial label automation: cab Axon 2

The cab Axon 2 has proven to be a game-changer regarding 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 Axon 2 applicator features up to 600 dpi image resolution and increased application speed and accuracy.

Axon 2 limitations

While the Axon 2 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 many interruptions. However, the limited tube sizes could be a cause for concern.

The Axon 2 can only accommodate tubes up to 105mm in length and between 10-17mm in diameter. If this isn’t suitable for your processes, you may look for a more customizable applicator like the Tube Pro.

Axon 2 summary

As long as your tubes and vials are within the acceptable size range of the Axon 2, this solution will be an excellent fit for your lab. Our customers have reported great success with this piece of equipment—and its compact size and budget-friendly cost compared to similar equipment serve as significant bonuses no matter your lab size.

Microplate label automation: cab SQUIX S3200

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 can provide high-quality print alongside increased application speed and precision compared to hand labeling.

Similar to the Axon 2, the S3200 is very reasonable in cost compared to similar equipment, making it a perfect fit for facilities where demand isn’t high enough to justify the costs of a higher-end model.

S3200 limitations

Although the S3200 can perform similarly to higher volume models—we mainly recommend this to lower volume facilities due to its 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 applies labels to the center of the plate. A minimal adjustment allows for left or right justification of the label placement.

S3200 summary

If your facility labels less than 1,500 plates per week, the S3200 applicator should provide sufficient application abilities to meet your needs, even with limitations. 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.

Final thoughts

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


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