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?

There are numerous automated microwell plate label applicators on the market from various suppliers. For this reason, it’s incredibly important you do your research to not only ensure you choose the best equipment for your application, but a supplier who’s knowledge and support capabilities match your needs.

Ideally you would single source your labels and applicator from this supplier to ensure compatibility throughout your entire solution.

You’ll also want to make sure you compare service and support capabilities between suppliers. While forgoing a service contract might reduce your upfront cost—it could lead to major losses in the long run. Look for a provider who is dedicated to ensuring the longevity of your equipment through long-term service and support.

To help you narrow down your search, we’ve compiled this list of microwell plate label automation suppliers. Check it out!

What about Computype?

To serve as an example of what a suppliers offerings might look like—let’s take a look at our own plate automation line.

Computype is not only a label supplier, but a supplier of complete labelling solutions—that includes automation! We work with cab and Analytik Jena to bring you trustworthy automated solutions and carefully pair them with our labels and ribbon, proven to perform well with the equipment.

We offer three automated systems to accommodate various process requirements in terms of real estate, processing volumes and budget. Let’s take a look:

cab SQUIX S3200

cab’s SQUIX S3200 uses the SQUIX label printer as its base, widely appreciated in healthcare environments for its high quality printing and user friendly interface.

The S3200 applicator quickly and precisely places labels onto your plates allowing for increased efficiencies and reduced waste. It’s capable of incorporating important variable data and integrating easily into your existing processes. The equipment is also relatively compact making it a great fit for labs where space is limited.

cab Hermes Q

cab’s Hermes is also capable of offering precision placement, increased efficiency and incorporating variable data. In addition it offers two application orientation options to accommodate a broader range of processes. It’s compact and features a user-friendly interface.

Analytik Jena CyBio QuadPrint

The CyBio QuadPrint offers hands free operation—automatically applying labels to your plates quickly and precisely. Plate templates can be stored within the software for a quick transition between different dimensions. Variable information can be easily accommodated and you even have the option to add scan verification.

Clearly, this is a very capable piece of equipment, which is why it’s mainly recommended for facilities with high processing volumes and floor space to spare.

Microwell Plate Label Automation

Squix S3200

Hermes Q

CyBio QuadPrint

Plate Presentation Method




Capable of Integrating Automated Presentation




Adjusts to Saved Plate Templates




Accommodates Time Sensitive Information




Barcode Scannability Checkpoint




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.