August 1, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 14)

Lab managers know all too well the wear and tear that instruments are subjected to in a laboratory environment. Exposure to chemicals, high and low temperatures, and other extreme conditions are routine in the lab, so it’s crucial to not only select the appropriate instruments and labware, but also to consider a number of factors when choosing a labeling solution.

The use of permanent markers or laser-printer imaged paper labels is not ideal for many reasons, according to Eric Isberg, marketing manager for Computype Laboratory.

“First of all, many solvents, or even water, can cause ink used on vials, tubes, plates, or slides to smear or bleed, leaving an unreadable mark,” he explains. “Additionally, paper labels can be easily damaged, stained, or misshapen, and laser-printer imaged labels often do not offer a high enough image resolution for barcode technology.

Isberg points out that these common issues can be avoided when you consider the following key criteria when selecting labeling solutions.

  • What label material is best? “Lab managers most often find that polymer is the best label material because it is resistant to chemicals and performs well in hot, cold, and even wet environments,” he says. “Also, polymer labels offer unique resistance to tearing and other physical damage.”
  • What are your imaging needs? For barcode and other high-density data storage images, Isberg maintains that thermal transfer printing is the optimal choice. Thermal transfer images use a heat-activated ribbon material in the label printer, which allows users to select the image durability and clarify which is best for their application. “These images are the most durable option for labs, as they will not smear after printing,” he continues.
  • What adhesive should be used? This depends on the surface finishes, material chemistries, and usage environments of labware. Adhesives used for plastics are often different than those used for glass, and there can even be different adhesives for different types of plastics. Also, adhesives used for cryogenic applications are unique.

“Be sure to share specifics about your lab equipment and conditions with your label provider to ensure you get the right adhesive for your needs,” says Isberg. “By selecting engineered labels that are customized to your material, imaging, and adhesive needs, you can rest assured they will withstand your unique laboratory environment.”

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