Cassette Labeler Synopsis

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From:Victor Tobias <>
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Here are the results. These are unedited comments, but the sender's
identity has been deleted. There were a total of 11 responses with the
edge going to TBS. I have been told that Shandon will release a new
labeler in March that is comparable to TBS. After the 11 comments, I
have included some responses from TBS to some of my questions. Thanks to
all who replied.

1. We use the TBS labeller and it works very well. They now have
hoppers of cassettes that you just plop on and go (It used to be that
had to manually load each cassette individually into the hopper). I
think it
works really well. It's great to have well-marked cassettes.

They have the software to connect to an AP system and give instructions
many different scenarios. What it comes down to, however, is that you
to have the AP system programmers set up the interface. At least they
built in the ability to import info and give you the software
you need to do that. I wish the autostainer folks would allow that!

2. We have had a CasMark- Shandon for many years unfortunately when it
was time to get another one it was not an option due to  price,
availability and custom print head. We currently have both Surgipath
cassette marker and TBS cassette marker. Surgipath takes up little room,
prints the number clearly and is easy to
use. Price was reasonable. Drawback: It is not computer literate, it
will not interface at this point with a computer software program and it
goes through ribbons like crazy. TBS cassette marker: The company
adjusts the head to the cassette you are
currently using. Great for high volume marking, more versatile, it can
print the type of tissue real small on the cassette as well as the
number. The hopper can hold alot of cassettes and it easy to change
colors. Drawbacks: You have to have a PC with the software close by the
unit to print the cassettes so it takes up more room. We have had
trouble using different vendor cassettes on the machine so there isn't
much versatility there. Both of these machines have problems with
"greasy cassettes".  This
system claims it is interfacable with CoPath software but, it is only in
Beta stage and is now being  tested on the Client server version. Hope
this is a help.

3. we use the Shur/Mark, and like it. We do not have it hooked up to a
software system. It does have some idiosyncracies, mostly in the
software, although my unit is about 6 years old, and they probably have
worked out these bugs. It runs on and on, without any trouble. We've
never had to have it serviced. the only thing
that has to be replaced is the roll of "tape" in it, and that isn't very
often. I would suggest demoing several units prior to purchase.

4. We have the CassMark by Shandon.  It is very simple to operate, the
reason we puchased it.  Our pathologists make their own cassettes on the
weekend.  Enough said.  There are limits to the configurations
available. Don't believe them if they tell you that you can have a
custom one made.  We went through months of back and forth "stuff" and
ending up with a non-custom unit.  The unit is a cassette labeler but it
is not really automated.  Semi-automated is still being generous. If you
have any questions please feel free to contact me.

5. We have had a Cassmark for years.  It is a good machine, but not very
flexible.  It does imprint the number which is good.  I am not sure what
their new one is like.

We currently have a Surgipath.  We have a lot of problems with the head
breaking and the ribbons drying out.  The numbers can be wiped off,
however if you let them dry sufficiently they are fairly stable.  The
biggest problem with numbers that become  too light as the ribbon ages.
If you increase the pressure the head breaks.  We have replaced 2 in
less than 2 years. We liked the TBS, but it had a hefty price tag that
the hospital did not approve.  Now we find out it would have integrated
with Co-Path which we are in process of installing.

6. We have had good experiences with the TBS ShureMark cassette labeler.
is a real trooper, I cant imagine most labelers putting up with our
workload. We have six labelers that knock out about 2500 cassettes per
The labeler is integrated with our AP system (such as it is) and I've
seen any problems with the labels washing off.
    Problems to look for may include the cassettes not feeding into the
labeler properly, after the cassette is printed the catcher occasionally

misses (but then again so do many major league catchers haha). Most of
problems can be solved by having a lab assistant babysit them and give
some TLC (and an occasional kick). Overall they work well.

7. I have been using the shandon cassette labeler at my present job, I
like it
but only because I do research work and can take the time to fool with
When I was working at a hospital with a work load of 250-350 blocks  on
average a day there iI would not have been able to keep up with a
that is where the good old marker came in handy. And yes in research
just the
other day the pathologist wanted me to make the cassette with  R  for
and L for Left and the abc's on the machine wouldn't go up that far. I
personally wouldn't want to deal with it in a hospital lab where you are

pushed to the limit on every second.

8.We use the TBS labeler which is sold through Fisher and perhaps other
vendors.  It is computer controlled - we have it connected to an older
computer.  You program in your own format for different situations (our
in mostly research and consultation) and it will increment both numbers
letters.  The only disadvantage I see is that you have to use the TBS
cassettes, none of the other brands we tried would feed through the
properly.  But the cassettes are available preloaded in a cardboard
or loose for hand loading into a hopper with about a 50 cassette

9. We use the TBS cassette labeler.  It is fairly flexible, and allows
the user to set up different formats.  However, it is NOT (and I used
caps on purpose) truly user friendly/idiot-proof.  Users have to not be
computer phobic, and setting up formats and protocols requires the user
to exit Windows, use DOS to type in strings and commands, save, exit,
and reboot to Windows.  If you have one person who does
the setups for formats and protocols, then the setup can give you a
screen that requires entering only the cassette specific info, e.g.
study number, cassette number, etc. (and this can be set up to do
sequences either in the DOS protocol definitions or format editing

10. The TBS cassette/slide labeler is worth considering, but its design
is ahead
of its time.  We bought an early model and have had nothing but trouble
the cassette labeler.  Our experience with TBS in terms of service was
poor.  After five years of use the unit is beyond repair and needs to be

replaced.  The slide labeler worked pretty well.  Maybe their newer
model is

11. TBS makes a cassette labeller that is pretty user friendly. You need
to have an IBM compatible computer to operate it.

Q We are in the market for a cassette labeler. I have heard stories
yours only working with your cassettes, any truth?

A That would definitely be a false rumor. With over 700 units in the
TBS has found that most manufacturer's cassettes will run with the
labeler. The labeler is also adjustable for different size cassettes.

BTW, I'm working on a project with TBS to make it much easier to hook
labeler to an LIS system. So if you intend to hook the labeler to an
let me know and I'd be happy to work with you and your  LIS vendor to
it work.

Q Has the adjustment feature been around for awhile? Some of my
have had your unit for 6 years.

A The adjustment feature (which has been in the labeler since it's
is designed to make small adjustments for different manufacturers'
 “standard” cassettes. Extremely big or small ones won't work. Keep in
there’s no set standard size for cassette manufacturing, so they can
vary by
manufacturer. Most problems are with customers who buy and use cassettes

from a number of different suppliers for the instrument, so it helps to
standardize with one manufacturer. A couple of manufacturers also use
stringent QC and some defects in a cassette can jam the instrument.

Q We just went with a new LIS system this past summer called PowerPath
2000 by Tamtron. Have you worked with them at all?

A Yes, I am currently working with Todd Frech, Tamtron’s VP of
Operations, on
a solution that eliminates the need for expensive, custom programming
on-site by Tamtron. It should be available within a couple of weeks.

Q I heard that you will be coming out with a Windows version soon. Is
this available yet?

A The basic Windows 32-bit software is currently being released. Some of
advanced feature sets we are still working on (like connecting to an

Q The integration into our LIS system is an important aspect in our

A I agree. Histologists are already in short supply and overworked. It
no sense to have to double input data for the labeler. You may have
a number of customers posting messages to Histonet over the last year
this issue with very few replies. That is why I have made it a top

Victor Tobias
Histology Supervisor
University of Washington Medical Center
Seattle, WA

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