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Labels Defined

What is a label you ask? Below is a detailed explanation that will answer a lot of questions you might have concerning labels, their uses and types.

A label is a piece of paper, polymer, cloth, metal, or other material affixed to a container or article, on which is printed a legend, information concerning the product, addresses, etc. A label may also be printed directly on the container or article.

Labels have many uses: product identification, name tags, advertising, warnings, and other communication. Special types of labels called digital labels (printed through a digital printing) can also have special constructions such as RFID tags, security printing, and sandwich process labels.

Labels can be attached by:

* Heat activated adhesives: for example, “in-mold labeling” can be part of blow molding containers and employs heat activated adhesives. Hot melt adhesives are also used.
* Pressure sensitive adhesives (also called PSA or self-stick) are applied with light pressure without activation or heat. PSA labels often have release liners which protect the adhesive and assist label handling.
* Rivets used to attach information plates to industrial equipment
* Shrink wrap for printed shrinkable labels placed over packages and then heated to shrink them
* Sewing for clothing, tents, mattresses, industrial sacks, etc.
* Wet glue (starch, dextrin, PVA [disambiguation needed ], etc.) or water moistenable gummed adhesive
* Yarn or twine, so as to tie on the label

The “label stock” is the carrier which is commonly coated on one side with adhesive and usually printed on the other side. Label stocks can be a wide variety of papers, films, fabric, foils, etc.

* Litho – one of the most common base stocks
* Latex – a litho stock with some added latex allows the label to be much more flexible and form around certain curved objects more easily than standard litho.
* Various plastics such as acetate, vinyl, and PET film allow a variety of features, such as greater strength, flexibility [disambiguation needed ], transparency, resistance to tearing, etc. They typically require special equipment and printing methods (ultra-violet curing is common) as they do not normally print well with conventional ink. A bumper sticker is usually a vinyl label with a very strong, durable adhesive and lightfast inks. Embossing tape is “printed” by pressing raised elements similar to printing type onto it, which produces raised glyphs that look white due to discoloration of the plastic. A type known as ‘Destructible Vinyl’ is commonly used for asset labels. It combines a very thin frangible face stock with a very strong high tack adhesive, thus making the label impossible to remove without damaging it. Engraved multi-layer Traffolyte labels are frequently used in industrial situations due to their durability.
* Foil – has the shiny properties of a metal foil.
* Thermal – direct thermal label stock will change color (usually black) when heated. A heating element in the shape of letters or images can be used to create an image on the label. Custom labels can be easily be made on location in this way. A disadvantage is durability, because another heat source can ruin or obscure the image, or it may fade completely over time.
* Thermal Transfer for applications that cannot use Thermal (Thermal Direct) label material because of heat source proximity or short label life, a more widely used material is Thermal Transfer Label printer. This material has the advantage of a much longer readable life and does not fade with time or heat. Most major manufacturers of Thermal Printers can be used for either Thermal Transfer (TT) or Thermal (DT) labels. A thermal transfer ribbon will be required to print the labels. The cost of the ribbons + TT labels is similar to that of the DT labels on their own.

* None – labels can be printed directly on adhesive without using a substrate. Labels made in this manner are extremely fragile, however, and have been rendered virtually obsolete by other printing methods such as silk screen.
* Thermal Transfer Ribbon Types
o Wax is the most popular with some smudge resistance, and is suitable for matte and semi-gloss paper labels.
o Wax / Resin is smudge resistant, suitable for semi-gloss paper and some synthetic labels.
o Resin is scratch and chemical resistant, suitable for coated synthetic labels.

The stock type will affect the types of ink that will print well on them.

Corona treating or flame treating some plastics makes them more receptive to inks and adhesives by reducing surface tension.

Labels can be supplied:

* separately
* on a roll
* on a sheet

Many labels are pre-printed by the manufacturer. Other have printing applied manually or automatically at the time of application.

Some labels have protective overcoats, laminates, or tape to cover them after the final print is applied. This is sometimes before application and sometimes after.

Labels are often difficult to peel and apply. Most companies use a Label dispenser to speed up this task.

Specialized high speed application equipment is available for certain uses.

Ink and base stock color choices commonly conform to the Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors. The Pantone system is very dominant in the label printing industry. Additionally specialty inks such as metallic, UV ink, magnetic ink, and more are available. Ink is usually transparent however it can be made opaque. It has been known for certain companies to patent “their own” color. [1]. Digital labels use process colors to replicate Pantone solid colors.

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