3 Practical Tips for Sample Tracking in the Laboratory


Standardize barcodes and naming conventions

When an automated tracking system is first implemented, it’s essential to immediately standardize which barcode will be used in addition to all naming conventions used when printing human-readable text on labels and for the databases that track and store information about your samples.

Many types of barcodes are available, so it’s crucial to identify the solution most appropriate for your lab.

  • 1D barcodes: Read in a sequence from left to right, 1D barcodes can encode between 20-25 characters. Because of the shape of these barcodes, space can sometimes be an issue. Examples of 1D barcodes include UPC code, Code 128, PDF417, and the GS1 databar. Of these, PDF417 and GS1 databar are capable of encoding the most information for a 1D barcode but often take up a lot of space.
  • 2D barcodes: These barcodes are organized both horizontally and vertically, forming a readable square. They can encode up to 2000 characters while taking up much less space than 1D barcodes and can be scanned in any orientation. Moreover, these barcodes have more built-in redundancy, making them more resilient to damage than traditional 1D barcodes. Common examples of 2D barcodes include the QR code, Data Matrix, and Aztec code. QR codes are generally considered a versatile, all-purpose 2D barcode, useful for asset tracking and inventory management. Data Matrix, with their ability to be scaled down to tiny sizes, are extremely useful for labeling smaller items, like PCR tubes. Aztec codes are specialized in that they lack a quiet zone, taking up less space than other 2D barcodes. They can also be easily decoded if their resolution is poor.

When it comes to barcode standardization, it is essential to ensure that quality remains consistent. Barcode grading allows users to verify that all barcodes are generated error-free. Devices like the TruChek Omni™ scan for multiple barcode variables, like contrast and spatial parameters, and provide a grade to each barcode, ensuring each one is of high enough quality to be used accurately and consistently.


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