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Image of microplates and barcodes for article on automated barcode labeling.
Published On: June 29th, 2021
The use of barcode labeling is not just helpful when using automated laboratory equipment. It’s essential when your laboratory technology is designed to increase productivity, improve experimental and testing precision and accuracy, and keep costs under control. Scientific labels with robots like microplate readers allow a more hands-off approach which limits technician’s exposure to potential biohazards and ensures consistency in executing experiments.Read on to understand the importance of barcode labeling and how to select the barcode labeling device that will best meet your particular needs.

Barcode Labeling: What is it?

Very simply, a barcode is a pattern, usually of different length parallel lines, that a computer can read.

The barcode may contain specific information necessary for the computer to know what a particular laboratory sample is and what needs to be done, or it can simply be a unique identifier that the computer references to a database, in order to determine the correct processing for that unique sample. In a laboratory automation system, the computer dictates the steps needed to perform an ELISA or PCR or any other process.

By using 96 well microplates, with scientific labels attached, the computer can pull a plate from a large stack, read the barcode, and know all of the correct laboratory procedure steps to perform.

Barcode Labeling: What can it do?

In a typical 96 well microplate, every 6 of 8 wells may contain a different sample. It is critical to keep track of each well and what sample it contains. This may not seem too difficult with a single plate, but it gets considerably more complicated with dozens of plates. Just 30 plates, for example, means that you have 2,880 wells to document and for a technician to record what is in each well by hand can take hours.

Benefits of Barcode Labeling

Introduce barcode labeling to the picture, and your technician is free to do other tasks. The barcode labeler will attach a label to your microplates automatically, and sequentially. It will typically contain a unique identifier to allow the computer to look up all the information necessary for your automated equipment to perform the necessary steps of the experiment or test. This includes obtaining your sample prep data with your results from a microplate reader that measurea each well with either fluorescence, absorbance, luminescence, or other technique.

So what can barcode labeling do? It allows the precise steps of your scientific protocol, which is easily put into a computer using user-friendly software to be know in relation to every microplate. This means you will never have to tell any of your automated equipment what needs to be done. Your instructions are now carried out automatically.

As the technician, you are now free to review the results from two hours ago or plan your next experiment later in the day.

Choosing a Barcode Labeling Machine

Many companies sell barcode labeling machines for the laboratory environment. But not all labeling machines are the same. Consider all of these factors when choosing a barcode labeling machine for your laboratory:

  • High-quality printing resolution (a blurry barcode can spell disaster for your experiments);
  • Ability to handle hundreds of microplates (or you and your technician will be reloading the machine too often);
  • Flexible printing formats to match your existing style;
  • Ability to apply barcodes to 1, 2, 3, or all 4 sides of a microplate;
  • Able to print labels with regular text readable by humans;
  • Compatible with every type of barcode format;
  • Accurate positioning of the label every single time; and
  • Rapid label printing and application, so the labeling machine doesn’t delay your experiments.

As long as you choose wisely and consider all of the important criteria, your barcode labeling machine will be an asset to your lab for years into the future. Regardless of how your laboratory, procedures, tests, and samples change over the years, your automated equipment will change effortlessly with you.

Contact Hudson Robotics today to request a consultation, learn more about our Barcode Labeling Systems, or see how we can help you with a host of automation options to meet all of your laboratory needs.