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Everything You Need to Know About Microwell Plate Labelling Part 2: Microwell Plate Label Automation

Everything You Need to Know About Microwell Plate Labelling Part 2: Microwell Plate Label Automation

Research & Diagnostics, Labware Marking, Labware Automation, Price & Planning | 16 October 2019

Posted by Dave Harris

Everything You Need to Know About Microwell Plate Labelling Part 2: Microwell Plate Label Automation

In part 1 we covered a few microwell plate labelling strategies, including manual application, automated application, or purchasing pre-labelled plates.

So, for this second part of our series we’re going to take an in depth look into automated microwell plate labelling. We’ll talk about what it is, what it can do, where you can get equipment and how much that equipment might cost.

What is a Microwell Plate Labeller?

Automatic Microwell Plate LabellerIn the simplest terms a microwell plate labeller is a piece of automated equipment designed to apply a label to at least one side of a microwell plate.

A wide variety of microwell plate labellers exist, varying in their placement accuracy, automation abilities, real estate and more.

Some feature print and apply automation, some scan for verification of readability, some turn plates automatically to label multiple sides and that’s really only the beginning.

With so many options available to you, it’s important to research what’s out there. There are options for labs of all sizes and throughput levels, so it’s important to look at the features of each available option and analyse which set of features is most beneficial to your processes. This step is especially important if you have existing automated processes you need your plate labeller to integrate with.

Learn 9 Ways You can Increase Efficiencies in the Lab

What Can a Plate Labeller Do That Can’t Be Done By Hand?

A lot can be achieved with a plate labeller that can’t be achieved manually, but since such a wide variety of labellers exist it’s difficult to create a concise list that applies to all. There are three major benefits automation can consistently offer that manual labelling can’t:

  • increased throughput
  • automatic scan verification
  • precision placement

Let’s discuss each in more detail.

Increased Throughput

Automated plate labelling offers increased speed of label application in comparison to hand labelling. Applying labels by hand can take upwards of ten seconds per label, while most automated microwell plate labellers can apply individual labels in as little as 3-5 seconds.

By increasing the speed of your labelling process you can also increase your throughput volumes. Downtime can be decreased with improved accuracy and reduced wait time as labels can be applied nearly twice as fast reducing hold ups related to lack of preparation.

Automatic Scan Verification

Some plate labellers include integrated scanners to ensure labels are readable and accurate prior to application. Most manufacturers offer these scanners as an optional feature, but some offer integrated scanners as a standard feature.

Additionally, there are two ways they can work. Some equipment, such as the Eclipse series offered by Computype, scans the label prior to application to ensure usability. If a label is deemed unusable (unscannable)  the processing will stop so a nearby operator can dispose of the faulty label prior to it being assigned to a plate.

Other labellers scan the label post application and alert the operator if a label is determined to be unusable. In this instance, the operator can remove the plate with the faulty label and either apply a new label or dispose of it.

Integrating scanners directly into the equipment is significantly more effective at securing sample integrity than manually scanning or not scanning at all. Utilising automated scanning as part of a labelling strategy ensures all labels are scanned and that samples aren’t lost to unscannable or inaccurate labels.

Precision Placement

Accuracy of label placement can be tricky when it comes to microwell plates, since not only is space limited on the plate, but the labels are long and thin, making them difficult to place by hand, especially when latex gloves are added to the mix.

As automation grows in popularity, accurate label placement grows increasingly important during downstream processes. Automated diagnostic equipment relies on labels being placed in a precise location for proper functionality. If a label is placed crookedly on a plate and that plate is placed in an automated testing device the scanner might not be able to recognise the samples, potentially compromising their integrity.

microwell plateThis image represents the precision of placement that is possible with some automated microwell plate labellers

Where to Buy a Microwell Plate Labeller?

A number of suppliers offer automated microwell plate label applicators. Here we’re going to talk about a few suppliers who we feel are worth checking out along your research journey:

Agilent

Agilent is an innovative solutions provider and supplier of lab related instruments, consumables and more. They offer two automated microwell plate labelling solutions, the Microplate Barcode Labeller and the BenchCel Workstation.

Scinomix

Scinomix is a provider of laboratory automation, specialising in their niche for over 18 years. They have a standard product line that includes two microwell plate labellers, the Sci-Print MP2 and the Sci-Print MP2+. Both of which are able to be altered to better meet customer needs.

Analytik Jena

Analytik Jena provides analysis devices and automated laboratory equipment, for labs in a variety of fields. Their line of microwell plate labellers includes the CyBio QuadPrint L and the CyBio QuadPrint M

Hudson Robotics

Hudson Robotics is a New Jersey based leader in laboratory robotics. They mainly focus on providing equipment to labs in the life science fields including drug discovery, clinical research and pharmaceutical development. Among their line of robotic equipment is one microwell plate labeller known as the Hudson PA1000.

What about Computype?

Computype is not only a label supplier, but a supplier of complete labelling solutions—including automation. We offer 3 microwell plate labelling options: the Eclipse 100, the Eclipse 200 and the Eclipse 250. All three of the Eclipse models can be tailored to accommodate any special requirements your lab might need. Take a look at the standard features of all three Eclipse base models:

Eclipse 100

The Eclipse 100 is capable of precisely placing labels onto microwell plates as they are manually presented to the applicator. This equipment utilises print and apply automation to accommodate the printing of variable information on-demand. Prior to application, an integrated barcode scanner verifies that the barcode is readable and encoded information matches what was entered.

ECLIPSE 100

Eclipse 200

One step up from the Eclipse 100 is the Eclipse 200. Like the Eclipse 100, the Eclipse 200 also features print and apply automation in combination with scan verification to ensure accuracy. Additionally, the Eclipse 200 features a rotation nest that allows for hands-free application of microwell plates to multiple sides of the plate.

ECLIPSE 200

Eclipse 250

In addition to all of the same features that come with the Eclipse 100 and 200—including scan verification and plate rotation. The Eclipse 250 is able to automatically adjust to the height of any plate after it’s been placed in the nest. This makes labelling plates of various heights extremely simple as no manual adjustments are required between plates.

ECLIPSE 200

Microwell Plate Label Automation

Eclipse 100

Eclipse 200

Eclipse 250

Presentation Method

Manual

Automated

Automated

Automated Plate Rotation

No

Yes

Yes

Automatic Height Adjustment

No

No

Yes

Accommodates Time Sensitive Information

Yes

Yes

Yes

Label Scan Verification

Yes

Yes

Yes

Label Placement Tolerance

±0.35mm

±0.35mm

±0.35mm

Check out our microwell plate labeller page for more information >

How to Get the Most Out of Your Microwell Plate Labeller?

In order to ensure your microwell plate labeller stays in the best shape possible we recommend you purchase engineered for purpose labels from a trusted supplier.

What many laboratories don’t know, is that not all labels are engineered for use in automation equipment, so it’s important you purchase labels from a trustworthy source who is not only familiar with manufacturing labels for automation, but your specific automation equipment and your processes.

Microwell Plate Labels

How Much Does a Microwell Plate Labeller Cost?

Microwell plate label automation ranges greatly in price, typically costing between $30,000 and $100,000. This range in price is due primarily to the varying capabilities of microwell plate labellers. From labellers that require the operator to place a plate in front of the applicator one at a time, to equipment that automatically labels multiple sides of the plate before handing it off to stacking equipment.

That being said, since the features determine the cost—so will your needs. The more needs you have the more features you’ll need and the more you’ll spend. Adding additional integrated components will further increase the size of your investment.

Typically, higher throughput operations require more features than smaller operations, and smaller operations won’t find value in many of the features necessary to larger facilities. This means it’s very important for your facility to find the most suitable equipment for your processes to ensure you’re getting the most possible value out of your investment.

A high value investment will always lead to the highest and fastest ROI.

How much does a plate labeller from Computype cost? Visit our product page to  learn more

As automation grows more popular throughout sample processing, precision and speed grow in importance early on—so your labelling strategy shouldn’t be holding you back. In any high throughput analysis situation, not only do you need microwell plates, but you need them to be labelled and utilising an automated labeller is one way you can get the job done—(we look forward to telling you about another way to get your plates labelled in part 3!)

We hope this part of our series was able to give you a better idea of what microwell plate automation is, what it can do, where you can find it and what goes into the cost and value of this equipment.

Our goal in this series is to cover everything you need to know about microwell plate labelling, from what it is to your options when it comes to getting it done. Next time in part 3, we want to tell you everything there is to know about pre-labelled labware!

For now, we hope we were able to answer your questions about automated microwell plate labelling, but if you have more please leave them in the comments below!

If you have any specific questions regarding Computype’s microwell plate labellers, give us a call!

How can I improve accuracy & efficiency in my labware labelling strategy?

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Dave Harris

Based in Chicago, IL, Dave Harris has been with Computype for over 23 years in a variety of sales & leadership roles. As our Vice President of Strategic Accounts, Dave works with customers all over the globe to ensure tangible & consistent business benefits are realised. Focused on cost savings, operational efficiencies, and process optimisation, Dave’s role is to help customers get the most value from their automatic identification investment. In his spare time, Dave likes to golf, watch movies, and spend time outside with his dog, Yukon.

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