Questions #3, #4 and #5 that will help keep you out of trouble!
Question #3: How are these labels going to be applied?
Out of all 5 questions, this is probably the most overlooked. At the very least, just determining if it is hand applied vs. auto applied will go a long way. Hand applied doesn’t need much altering, but if auto applied then one needs to start asking the following questions:
Equipment details. Make and Model of the label applicator, label presenter (peels back a label for one at a time manual application) or any other related equipment i.e. Surface Mount Technology (SMT) that automatically picks and places the label in the desired location.
Label size –vs. – equipments min/max label requirement. Does it fit what your equipment can handle? You need to be sure the label fits within your applicator equipment’s capabilities.
Label orientation on the liner. How do you want your label to peel off the liner when it will be applied by your auto applicators? This matters because if your label doesn’t have a straight edge sometimes this can pose issues with the applicator’s method of identifying when the label begins on the roll and where it ends. Applicators typically have optical sensors and when the label comes along its optic path then it knows it needs to peel it off and apply. I find that we typically want the label to come off the liner from a side that has a straight edge. If no side is perfectly straight, then leading off with the side closest to being a straight edge.
Liner Material – You might say “why does this matter? I can remove it with my hand easily so why can’t my equipment do the same?” Actually some liners just flat out do not work with certain types of auto apply environments. Some liners such as a standard Kraft paper liner do not have the required amount of release to work well in an auto apply environment. This is due to the paper’s rougher surface in combination with the standard amount of silicone liner release added by raw material suppliers standard silicone isn’t a fit. For instance, a PCB board build application that is using label auto feeder/presenter equipment that will integrate with an SMT applicator. The SMT applicator places labels and all of the tiny little electronic pieces via a nozzle and suction. It actually sucks the label off the liner and then places on the board release suction and places with pressure. If the liner doesn’t have enough release designed into it, then what can potentially occur is label misplacement, non placement and then without fail the labels will jam up and the line will stop and you will have to fix a messy pile up of labels that would rival any LA Highway car pileup during rush hour traffic.
The goal is to get enough release that will work in your auto apply environment and avoid painful label jams and line shut downs. I can also tell you that your process engineers will be very grateful of this. Or give us a call and we can help you avoid those messy traffic jams.
Question #4: What is the Temperature and Environment the Label will be exposed to?
First of all, it is important to understand what the environment temperature is and the surface temperature the label will be exposed to. When looking at the Surface temperature it’s important to remember that you have different temps to consider:
- Application temperature – Temperature of the product surface at the time the label is applied.
- Resting temperature – When the equipment isn’t in operation or idle.
- Service Operational temperature – What is the temperature of the surface when the product is being used?
Why is this important? Well, let’s take an electric motor as an example. If you put a label on a electric motor, the label will work just fine at its environment and surface’s resting temperature, but once the motor is turned on and running, it’s going to get a heck of a lot hotter! We don’t want to have your good looking label come sliding off your product due to the adhesive’s inability to handle the heat.
Finally, what is the overall environment the label will see? Is the label going to be used in an indoor or outdoor application? If outdoor, find out what weather elements it will be exposed to as we will take a vastly different design approach if the label will face an extreme environment. For example, if your label has the unfortunate luck to spend its life on an oil rig platform off the Northern Coast of Britain facing off against the regular battering of salt spray, high winds, rain and cold air. A label that was designed to be a decorative label affixed to the top of a data cabinet living it’s lifespan within the confines of the comfortable controlled indoor environment of a data center, will not fare well.
Question #5: Does the label require UL/CSA or any other specific certifications?
Before we go through determining what material will work best, understanding any agency certification requirements is important. Knowing if UL/CSA is required the beginning of the project and not close to the end will help you avoid any potential delays in product launches. Going through any UL or CSA material certification can take a LONG time. What is a long time?? Well I could finish an Iron Man triathlon (and I don’t think I could ever finish one) before the label part would be certified by UL. Okay, maybe that’s not the best analogy. I find that six weeks seems to be about average.
Just because you have a UL requirement doesn’t necessarily mean you will face the long lead-times. I have some good news for you! Many times we already have suitable materials that have been tested and certified to the UL/CSA and the various agencies or specific industry testing criteria. This will save you from being at the mercy of UL. So to avoid product launch delays due to an agency certification, please be sure to factor in potential 6 weeks lead-time when facing UL and try to make material selections at the front end and avoid any last minute material change.
If you take the time to carefully answer these 5 questions… (Or simply contact one of our trained professionals) you will be saying to yourself “I have a grip on these darn little labels” in no time.