Purchasing microwell plates already labelled is an often overlooked and little known option for label application. We want to tell you more about it in case it might help your lab overcome some plate labelling challenges.
What is Pre-barcoding?
Pre-barcoded labware is exactly what the name would suggest, labware that arrives at your facility with barcode labels already applied.
Pre-barcoded microwell plates will be prepared one of two ways. The first way your pre-barcoded plates might be prepared is by a labware supplier. The labware supplier will simply add a generic barcode label during the manufacturing process.
The second way it might be prepared is by an outsourcing partner, most of the time outsourcing partners are label suppliers. In this case your outsourcing partner can source microwell plates, or other labware you might need from trusted suppliers, apply barcode labels and send it off to you or your end users.
Some labs will utilise a combination strategy, where they will purchase plates from the manufacturer with barcodes already in-tact, then apply a secondary barcode label. Typically in this case the manufacturer barcode is used as a license plate for general identification and the second label may include additional internally relevant information.
What Can an Outsourcing Partner Do that You Can’t in Your Lab?
Depending on who you choose to partner with, a variety of options become available to you that just aren’t practical in the lab. In addition to precision label placement and convenience, new marking technologies and additional services might also be available to you.
Whether your outsourcing partner is utilising a manual labelling strategy, or more likely automation, they should be able to ensure precise label placement to work with your downstream processes. Additionally, they should have a team dedicated to ensuring the quality of product before it is shipped.
By choosing pre-labelled labware you remove the task of identifying and disposing of plates with poorly placed labels prior to processing and ensure no samples will lose their integrity due to unreadable labels.
With pre-barcoded labware, ordering and preparing both your microwell plates and labels can be done in a single step, bringing convenience to your lab that can’t be achieved by manual labelling or automation.
The convenience of pre-barcoded labware can be transferred to the lab through time and labour savings. Employees no longer need to spend time labelling microwell plates and can instead focus on more value added duties. Through time and labour reallocation you can even increase throughput!
Certain pre-labelled labware suppliers can offer unique marking technologies (like direct mark) that might not be practical to implement in the lab. These marking technologies might offer increased durability or improved colour and branding opportunities.
In addition to special marking technologies if you’re working with an outsourcing partner, they may be able to perform additional services for you. A few examples of services we offer in our outsourcing program include preparation in a nase-free environment, kitting, sorting and custom packaging.
Which Labs Should Consider Pre-barcoded Plates?
Pre-barcoded plates are reasonable for nearly any lab really, whether you’re labelling a plate a week or thousands per day. The only factor that might prevent a lab from purchasing pre-labelled labware is if that lab needs time sensitive or patient specific information that isn’t known ahead of time printed on their labels.
Pre-labelled labware requires the information printed onto the label be known ahead of time. Since the labels will be printed and applied before they arrive at your lab they are only meant to carry static or incrementing information.
If your lab is facing challenges related to efficiency or accuracy and you need labels that require information that’s known ahead of time, it might be time to start researching your pre-labelled microwell plate options!
Who Can I Partner With to Get Pre-barcoded Microwell Plates?
We previously mentioned there are two ways your facility can receive pre-barcoded plates—directly from the manufacturer or through an outsourcing partner. There are several manufacturers that offer generic pre-barcoded labware and outsourcing partners capable of more customised options.
Since sample labels often require special engineering to withstand extremely cold temperatures it’s very important you work with a supplier who is familiar with your specific application. Do your research to ensure you choose a supplier whose knowledge, offerings and experience align with your needs.
What about Computype?
As an outsourcing partner ourselves, we want to provide an example of what a custom pre-barcoding service can look like. Let’s take a look at our program, READY Labware Services.
Through READY Labware Services we offer customised, pre-barcoded labware based on your unique specifications. Our program features two marking technology options suitable for microwell plates:
- Pressure Sensitive Labels: We offer all of our standard label options to our READY Labware Services customers, including those intended for use in harsh environments.
- Direct Mark: we offer ink based direct mark print technology that uses specially cured inks to print directly onto the surface of your microwell plates. The cured inks are extremely durable and can be exposed to a wide range of chemicals and temperatures without damage.
One of the main appeals of direct mark is the ability to add colourful designs to the markings. This makes it particularly useful in cases where brand logos or colour coding systems are necessary.
Additional Features of the READY Labware Services Program:
- Nase-Free Environment: If needed, your plates can be prepared and labelled in a nase-free environment to ensure usability in DNA testing.
- Custom Kitting, Sorting & Packaging: You decide how you want your containers to arrive. If you want pre-prepared kits ready for your technicians to use, we can send you that. If you want your plates sorted and stacked numerically, we can do that for you. Want them packaged in a specific way? Let us know and we’ll try to accommodate your needs.
How Much Do Pre-barcoded Microwell Plates Cost?
Estimating the cost of pre-barcoded microwell plates is a lot more involved than one might initially think. The cost of pre-barcoded microwell plates varies greatly based on a number of factors, the main ones being where you source from, the quantity of labware you purchase, which marking technology you choose and if you opt in to any additional services.
Your Source: Depending on who you source from and what they have to offer your prices will range. Typically, price ranges are based off of the offerings available. Suppliers with limited offerings will have a smaller price range than those who offer a wide variety of offerings.
Quantity: as quantity increases, so will the overall cost of your order, it really is as simple as that.
Marking Technology: The differences between a generic barcode label and a colourful logo direct mark print will be reflected in the price. This is because things like durability and branding are valuable to some customers, but not to others. If samples have a short lifespan before disposal, why should you pay more for a durable label? While on the other hand, if colour at-a-glance identification and durable marking will improve your downstream processes of course you’ll need to invest!
Additional Services: If your lab is working with an outsourcing partner who offers to perform additional lab tasks, they will cost extra if you choose to opt into them. This is because these services might normally be performed in your lab, so you receive the value of decreased labor, increased space and convenience in return.
So, hopefully this part of our four part series was able to give you a better idea of what pre-barcoded microwell plates are, where you can find them and whether or not sourcing pre-barcoded plates is right for you.
In part 4, we want to help you through the process of choosing the best labelling strategy for your facility by listing out the steps, and what’s involved in each one.
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. We hope we were able to answer your questions, but if you have more please leave them in the comments below!