Label Printing Basics

Meghan
Meghan
  • Updated

 

Label Printing with Benchling

Label Printing in Benchling allows you to take sample data from your Benchling instance, design a label with critical attributes, print your label, and paste it on containers/locations in your physical lab space. 

Benchling supports printing labels for any box, plate, container, or registered entity you track. Benchling’s label printing capabilities help you achieve complete sample and process traceability. Improve adoption and efficiency of your scientists' work by quickly associating your physical laboratory samples with samples within Benchling. Add different characteristics to your label such as tube barcode, sample name, and date created and you’ll know how the physical sample traces back to the registered entity within Benchling.

Label Printing Components

Before printing labels, you must design a label template and set up your printers. The image below is an overview of the setup for printing labels.

 

There are three components that apply to label printing using any printing method:

Component Description
Item The inventory item (box, plate, container) or registered entity you want to print a label for. This is where the information printed on the label is from.
Label template

This determines where data is displayed on the label itself. Labels are designed outside of Benchling using a third-party tool, like Zebra Designer Pro or BarTender.


When designing labels, you can use keywords that Benchling recognizes to pull in data related to the item on the label.

Printer Where the label is physically printed

 

Printing with Zebra Programming Language (ZPL)

Benchling is currently compatible with printers that use Zebra Programming Language (ZPL). The platform can support any Zebra printer that uses "ZPL" or "ZPL and EPL", but there are printers made by other manufacturers that also support ZPL.

To create labels for printing using ZPL, you need to design your label and then upload it to Benchling. You can design labels using any label design program that produces the label in ZPL format. 

To create labels for printing using BarTender Designer, visit this article.

Note: We recommend Zebra Designer Pro (V3) as it’s free and provided by Zebra. To learn more about designing labels using ZPL, visit Label Printing with Zebra Browser Print.

Printer Options

Compatibility requirements

For compatibility with Benchling's label printing capabilities, printers must:

  • Have ZPL compatibility
  • Have Ethernet (Recommended) or USB connection
    • USB is supported but not recommended

Recommended printer

We recommend the ZD400 series. This printer series can support many connectivity options in the long term, but any printer that supports Zebra's Link-OS and/or BarTender is acceptable. Ultimately, choose the printer that best suits your lab and workflow for printing your thermal transfer labels

Zebra printers

To view all of the Zebra-brand printer options, please view Zebra's printer selector tool..

Connection options

Connect your label printer to Benchling via Zebra Browser Print, a BarTender integration, or a remote print application. Below is a direct comparison of Zebra Browser Print and BarTender integration: 

Zebra Browser Print  BarTender 
  • Free
  • Single-platform label printers (i.e. ZPL-compatible Zebra brand printers only)
  • Windows and Mac compatible
  • The Zebra Designer tool requires Windows
  • Low technical requirements
  • Lowest burden on IT
  • Every computer that needs to print labels must have Browser Print installed
  • Printers must be visible on the same network as computers (if not connected via USB)
  • Additional cost for BarTender subscription
  • Cross platform printer compatible (e.g. Zebra, Brady, etc.)
  • BarTender server is Windows-only, meaning team must have at least one Windows machine (runs on local network)
  • Medium-high technical requirements for setup and configuration
  • Moderate burden on IT
  • Visual template editor and designer
Zebra_Technologies_logo.svg.png bartender_pms_137_313.png

 

Zebra Browser Print

To learn more about using BarTender with Benchling, visit the Label Printing with Zebra Browser Print article.

Bartender

To learn more about using BarTender with Benchling, visit the Label Printing with BarTender article.

Network Based Remote Print (Not Recommended)

This printing option is the highest burden for the client's IT team, but printers are not exposed to the Internet, no unencrypted traffic is allowed across the firewall. It requires a server setup to accept print jobs and forward them to the appropriate printer which has to be done entirely by the client.

Set-Up

Each printer needs an IP and port number. Printers are considered unique by the IP and port. This printer configuration is then entered into Benchling.

  1. Set up a server to receive traffic from Benchling.
    • This could be a DMZ Server or some other application already setup to receive external traffic.
  2. Set up a mechanism to authenticate if a request is coming from Benchling.
    • Options are username/password or signed certificate.
  3. Route print requests to printer.
    • Take an inbound print request from Benchling, format it, and send it directly to Zebra Printer.

Selecting a Label Printing Method

Specify Zebra Browser Print or Bartender as your printing method:

  1. Go to your Label Printing Settings (User icon > Feature Settings > Label Printing Settings)
  2. Click the pencil icon under “Print method”.
  3. Select your print method and click ✓ to save.

Keywords recognized by Benchling

Keywords are all formatted as benchling.<item type>.<property>. For example, benchling.container.barcode or benchling.entity.Cell Count. The table below lists what properties we support for which items.

Property

Entity

Container

Box

Plate

Location

name

x

x

x

x

x

registry_id

x

 

 

 

 

barcode

x

x

x

x

created_at

x

x

x

x

x

current
_datetime

x

x

x

x

x

schema

x

 

 

 

 

creator

x

x

x

x

x

creator
_initials

x

x

x

x

x

quantity

 

x

 

 

 

concentration

 

x

 

 

 

location ²

 

x

x

x

x

location_path³

 

x

x

x

x

location_with_coordinates

 

x

x

x

x

position5

 

x

 

 

 

coordinates6

 

x

 

 

 

restriction_status

 

x

 

 

 

restricted_sample_users

 

x

 

 

 

sample_owners

 

x

 

 

 

<schema field>7

x

x

x

x

x

1. The barcode for a registered entity is its registry ID.

2. The location property prints the name of the direct parent location of the inventory item.

3. The location_path property prints the full location path of the inventory item.

4. The location_with_coordinates property prints the immediate parent location name, but when the container is in a box or matrix plate it prints coordinates instead of a numeric position. For example, Box A:B2 instead of Box A:12.

5. The position property prints only the position of a container in a box or plate without the parent location name. This property uses a numeric position for a container in a box and coordinates for a container in a plate.

6. The coordinates property prints only the coordinates of a container in a box or plate without the parent location name. This property is similar to location_with_coordinates but only the coordinates are included.

7. To print the schema field value, use the display name of the schema field. Depending on whether you are using ZPL or BarTender templates, you will need to format them differently. In ZPL, copy the display name exactly, including all spaces, punctuation, and capitalization. For example, benchling.entity.Cell Count. For BarTender, use the display name with all spaces and punctuation, but convert all text to lowercase. If this field isn't found on the entity, the value stays blank.

Note on entities in containers: You can use benchling.entity.<property> when printing container labels to print information about the entity stored within the container you selected to print a label for. If a container contains multiple entities, only the data on the first entity will be used.

Barcode Scanners in Benchling

Barcode scanners come in all varieties. Scanning a barcode will serve the same function as typing in the sample or container name or ID.

Barcode scanners can be used to populate columns within a Search bar or a table in a Benchling notebook entry. From a hardware perspective, the computer connected to the barcode scanner interprets it as a keyboard input. Scanners/wands take a barcode and turn it into a text string, which text string is then brought into Benchling. With the right barcode scanner configuration, the content the barcode encodes for will be translated into Benchling as text. You will still need to submit your table for the data to be recorded in the Benchling Registry or Inventory. 

The big distinction for barcode scanners is whether they are able to scan 1D (regular) barcodes and 2D (QR code style) barcodes. RFID scanners also work in Benchling; however, some may require the installation of additional software/driver. For scanning into worklists, any barcode scanner should work as long as it can be configured to have a CARRIAGE RETURN after each scan. This is something to take into account when buying a barcode scanner but is not restricted from the Benchling side. 

Brands like Honeywell and Zebra Technologies make great barcode scanners that have worked well with Benchling. We recommend choosing a scanner or wand based on your own lab's needs.

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