Abcam and Cambridge Design Partnership develop innovative labeling solution

  • New approach automates labeling and verification of our vials

A breakthrough in labeling technology will lead to quicker service for Abcam customers.

The innovation, developed by Abcam and Cambridge Design Partnership, enables each tiny plastic vial of product to have a unique identifier and have a label automatically applied, removing the potential for human errors and accelerating our order fulfilment process. A novel tube labeling system rapidly applies and prints freezer-proof labels in a fraction of the time it takes by hand. The device includes an integral barcode reader which verifies the identity of the product within the Abcam database and prints this information on to the tube in a single step.

Fast, accurate labeling is crucial to ensure researchers can order from our online catalog of over 58,000 protein detection and regulation tools. Adam Cleevely, Business Intelligence and Opportunities Manager explained the problem:

‘We needed a system that was capable of applying a human readable label to each tiny plastic tube of product, cross checking it with the 2D barcode and verifying it against our database. At present this is a manual operation, performed thousands of times each week, that requires considerable time, dexterity and accuracy. We wanted to automate this process to speed up our operations and eliminate any possibility for labeling errors.’

Dr Jez Clements, Senior Engineer and Project Leader at Cambridge Design Partnership, was tasked with finding a solution. ‘Part of the problem was that the labels had to withstand freezing at up to -190 °C and to potentially be applied to frozen vials. We discovered an ultra-thin material that would meet this requirement, not jam Abcam’s automated tube storage and retrieval systems and still allow their customers to see the contents of the tube. The challenge then was how to apply it automatically. To achieve this we invented a new way of peeling the labels off the backing material so that they are wrapped around the tubes effortlessly.’