Outdoor Self-Adhesive Labels Continue to Enjoy increased Popularity

The market for outdoor products is enjoying continued growth. As a result, highly durable labels that can last as long as these products are also seeing increased use. These labels allow users to have access to product information like warranties, safety warnings, barcodes and lot numbers over the long term. The hallmark of outdoor labels is their ability to stay on products without losing colour or legibility, or becoming faded or scratched.

Outdoor Labelling Requirements

There are minimal requirements in place for outdoor labels, and they differ according to the industry. For example, companies which manufacture farm equipment will have different standards according to where the label will be placed on equipment, the underlying surface type they will be adhered to, and what kind of environmental conditions they will be expected to endure.

In general, most OEMs must consider three main factors for their outdoor labels: the surface onto which they will be attached, the level of weathering resistance, and the printing technology used to manufacture them.

Varnishing and Lamination for Protection

Printed outdoor inkjet labels can get adequate protection from all manner of weather when they are varnished or laminated. One method of protecting labels from sun, weather and chemicals is to place a transparent laminate film over the printed label. Adding this film can not only protect labels by absorbing and reflecting UV rays, but they also help to guard labels against damage from abrasion, chemicals, ozone and humidity and increase their overall durability. In addition to protecting labels from damage, varnishing and lamination can also protect light-sensitive inks from losing both colour and legibility.

Label Construction is Application-Specific

As stated previously, the requirements for outdoor labels are directly related to the situation in which they will be used. Therefore, no single testing method will work for all. Different labels will behave differently when affixed to particular substrates, as well as when they contain protective coatings. It is for this reason that the performance of a label’s components must be tested.

Conditioning Tests

There are several conditioning tests which can be performed on outdoor labels. Some of the most common conditioning tests include immersing labels in cleaners or chemicals, exposing them to salt spray (for labels being used in marine environments), oven and freezer ageing, and exposure to high humidity levels. Labels are also commonly tested for their response to water resistance, climate cycling and accelerated weathering.

Because these tests vary so widely according to the construction of each label, they can be expensive, taking months to complete. This is due to the fact that their resistance to abrasion, colour retention, legibility and adhesion must also be placed under scrutiny.

Lower Costs and More Success with Suppliers

Many companies choose to partner with a label supplier to help reduce their testing costs. Doing this also increases the chance of successful condition testing. Indeed, there is no substitute for an experienced supplier with the expertise to perform multiple tests across several substrates. Suppliers can also recommend those tests and materials which will most effectively meet end-use specifications. This has the added benefit of helping label converters to innovate and produce new label products.

Partnering with suppliers who can advise about better testing and materials can also lead to increased OEM investment into expanded testing facilities.

The requirements for outdoor labels continue to evolve, resulting in label manufacturers having to meet even tougher specifications for performance. In order to achieve these, OEMS must spend more on label materials that are more specialised. However, as long as OEMs continue to keep up with their understanding of different performance variables, the durability of outdoor labels will continue to increase, as will their life and cost-effectiveness.

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Work Still To Be Done On Recycling Of Self-Adhesive Label Liners

The self-adhesive label is proving to be quite successful, despite market complexity and increased competition. This kind of label is proving to have many benefits for label converters who have added a higher variety of self-adhesive labels to their ranges, including the generation of new business and the garnering of attention from end users.

Interestingly, despite the fact that other label technologies are soon to come, a large portion of brand owners were not ready to leave their self-adhesive products behind, according to a recent Radar survey conducted by Finat. The survey was just part of the in-depth report which profiles Europe’s diversified label industry using focused research and analysis conducted by market research company LPC.

Included in LPC’s research are those factors in current marketing which are having the most impact on label supply chains, including suppliers of raw material, label converters and customers. The most recent and sixth edition of the Finat Radar report focused on the view of label end users, which is both crucial and fast-changing. This viewpoint revealed the work to be done with raising awareness about sustainability and ensuring the environmental friendliness of self-adhesive inkjet labels in terms of efficient waste recycling.

Separation of Label Converters from Label Application

One aspect of the environmental friendliness of self-adhesive labels that appears to have gone unaddressed is the continued distance of label converters from the point where their labels are actually applied. It’s at this point that label release liner enters the waste stream, and precisely the point which requires more thought as to the development of regular and practical collection systems for used liner and the general waste from label production.

Interestingly, over half of end-users surveyed for the Finat Radar report stated that they were not aware of currently-available options for the recycling of release liner from labels. An even larger percentage of end users were not engaged in the recycling of liner waste. Their primary reason for not doing so was the fact that the logistics involved with the collection and transport of waste to a recycling facility were too complex.

Education Needed

Finat also recently released a study focused on the recycling of used label release liner. The study recorded the current practices in the EU’s ten largest member states surrounding waste management and recycling legislation, as well as the level of understanding of the differences between incineration, landfill and recycling. The study also included EU practices for end-of-life options.

The results revealed that more education was needed about not only the importance of recycling used label liner, but also the economic benefits of doing so, across the entire value chain.

If the expectation of brand owners in the survey is correct, label demand in 2017 will increase by a whopping three percent or more. Although this comes in below their expectation for last year, it still indicates the strength of this business sector. Regarding digital print solutions, brand owner expectations were to offer five percent more of these solutions in 2018 than they do this year.

Brand owners not only plan to produce increasing volumes of products, but the trend is toward reduced label print runs and just-in-time delivery and personalisation. All of these only speak louder to the importance of better label waste recycling and increase the urgency for education on the proper recycling procedure for used label liner and other label waste. In countries like the UK where specific directives and goals are in place to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2020, it will be especially important to educate the end user about their recycling options, as well as have procedures in place for the efficient collection of used label liners.

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Understanding The Construction Of Self-Adhesive Labels

Self-adhesive labels are already incredibly versatile. However, with advances in technology, more can be done with the self-adhesive label than ever before. Today’s labels are available in a wide variety of formats, each with their own set of advantages. However, all self-adhesive labels still contain the same components: a facestock, a film and a liner.

The Right Facestock is Crucial

The facestock is the material which is bonded to the adhesive layer of inkjet labels, and is the functional portion of the label. Without the right facestock and adhesive, a label will not be suited to its application. A wide range of facestocks is available.

Uncoated Facestock

Vellum, or uncoated paper, is the simplest facestock available. It is also the most cost-effective. Ideal for most general purpose applications, vellum has a non-gloss finish and is porous, making it suitable for water-based adhesives.

Coated Facestock

Coated paper contains a layer of specialised coating for the purpose of improving a label’s appearance and performance properties. The heavier the layer of coating, the smoother the label’s finish and the higher its rigidity. Coated papers are ideal for multi-coloured labels as well as those labels which will be used in dry environments.

Coated facestocks are available in three varieties; which are – light weight, high gloss and primecoat. The lightweight variety has a semi-gloss appearance and increased flexibility. The high gloss variety features a thicker and shinier coating and is both rigid and water resistant. The primecoat variety has a thin coating and smooth, semi-gloss feel and appearance.

Thermal Facestock

Thermal facestock is coated with heat-sensitive chemicals which require the application of heat-activated ink from the ribbon of a thermal transfer printer to be transferred to the substrate. Examples where thermal facestock is used include sales receipts, food labels and industrial bar codes. This facestock allows quality barcodes to be produced for a low cost whilst being able to be printed relatively quickly.

Thermal facestock is available in two qualities; coated and uncoated. The coated variety, designed to protect the label from solvents, grease, fats and condensation, may have coating on both sides and is used primarily on frozen products, as well as on pre-packed meats and cheese. The uncoated variety is used for situations where short-term and well-controlled labelling is required, and is usually seen on fresh produce.

Label Films

The film on a label is that opaque or transparent material made from a wide variety of plastics that can appear on a range of commercially-available products including shampoo bottles and plastic food containers. Three kinds of label film exist: polyester film (PET), polypropylene film (PP) and polyethylene film (PE).

Polyester film is used on labels for the automotive, security and medical industry, to name but a few. It can resist heat up to 150°C, as well as resist moisture and chemicals. PP film, derived from petroleum is seen on rigid bottles and packaging like beverages and spirits. It offers high clarity and higher strength than its PE counterpart. PE film is the most environmentally-friendly of the three. It has very low stiffness, and can resist both moisture and UV light making it ideal for personal care products as well as industrial labelling.

Release Liners

The release liners on labels are largely paper-based, and must be smooth and dense in order to provide a uniform surface. Glassine liners are translucent and very strong. Resistant to air and water, glassine liners can be found on virtually all roll labels, and are used in special applications as well as photocell and automatic dispensing systems. Kraft liners are coated with clay on one side for added rigidity. This paper is made from unbleached wood pulp, and typically used for manual dispensing of labels. It is also used with heavy facestocks and on sticker sheets.

In understanding the differences between facestocks, films and liners, a more informed choice about labels products for your particular application can be made.

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