Abcam plc and Cambridge Design Partnership Solve a Vial and Sticky Problem  
1/5/2010 12:51:27 PM

Jan 05, 2010 – The innovation, developed by 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 the fulfilment process.

Adam Cleevely is Head of Business Intelligence and Opportunities at Abcam plc, which provides the global scientific community with over 57,000 different biological materials. He explains that fast, accurate labelling is crucial to the business.

“We needed a system that is 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 labelling 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.”

The two companies worked together to design a novel tube labelling system that 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.

Jim Warwick, Chief Operating Officer of Abcam plc, sees huge commercial potential for the technology which can be used in a wide range of applications in the healthcare sector.

“We are delighted with the labelling technology that we have developed in collaboration with Cambridge Design Partnership. It provides an elegant solution to a logistic issue, and delivers a major efficiency improvement to our operation. Collaborative research between a product design consultancy and an end user is an interesting business model that has benefits on many levels. It has resulted in a highly innovative product and an interesting commercial opportunity.”

Dr Clements agrees. “We believe that this technology has many applications, for instance in labelling patient samples at point-of-care and in high throughput diagnostic laboratories, and we are now seeking routes by which the technology can be commercialised.”

About Abcam PLC

Abcam is a producer and distributor of research-grade antibodies headquartered in Cambridge, UK, with offices located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, Tokyo, Japan and Hong Kong. Abcam was admitted to AIM in November 2005 and trades under the ticker symbol ABC. The Company produces and distributes its own and third party produced antibodies to academic and commercial users throughout the world with product information provided and ordering available through the Company's website. The antibodies are sold under the Abcam brand name. The Company's vision is to build the largest online antibody resource in the world while also ensuring that the antibodies are of high quality and commercially viable.

Abcam now has an online catalogue of over 57,000 products, most of which are antibodies, from over 250 suppliers supported by up-to-date and detailed technical data sheets, which are created by the Company. The Company currently employs over 250 staff in its four operating companies.

About Cambridge Design Partnership LLP

Cambridge Design Partnership is a successful research and development consultancy focused on creating value for our clients by converting ideas and technology into commercial success. Our clients come from medical, industrial and consumer industries and they have one thing in common: they see investment in innovation as fundamental to growth and competitive advantage. Working as an integrated team, we operate ahead of market change with a dynamic, flexible approach that leads to enduring client relationships, anchored by high quality work and excellent customer service. Our staff of engineers, scientists and designers has grown rapidly to establish a world leading reputation for technical excellence, astute project management and, above all, thinking differently.

Abcam PLC

Jim Warwick, Chief Operating Officer

330 Cambridge Science Park

Milton Road

Cambridge, CB4 OFL

United Kingdom

t: +44 1223 696000



Cambridge Design Partnership

Mike Beadman, Director

Church Road, Toft

Cambridge, CB23 2RF

United Kingdom

t: +44 1223 264 428