For manufacturers operating print and apply barcode labelling systems as part of their packaging line, or for those exploring the options, getting to grips with consumables at the outset can be a massive time and cost-saver. The market is flooded with options for labels and ribbons to use in thermal transfer print engines, with cost quite often being the influential factor in decision making around purchasing of consumables. However, cheap labels come with a raft of costly and time-consuming issues that can be removed or overcome by exploring the options of better-quality consumables. We’ve identified the main issues below with some advice on how to solve the problems…
Labels are produced using paper (for the labels themselves) and cardboard (for the cores which they are wound around). The label material comes in jumbo rolls which are then cut to size using dies on a press. With paper materials, a lot of dust is produced in this cutting process, as well as when the cores are cut.
At lower-cost label manufacturers, the dust produced in this process doesn’t get removed and so when the labels are wound onto the rolls, they retain this layer of dust. As the labels get used, the dust is then released into the printing mechanism, working as an abrasive material on printheads and causing premature wear. It also causes sensors to work incorrectly leading to downtime, printhead & system failures. It’s bad news all round.
You can avoid this by using premium quality label manufacturers that have incorporated dust extraction as part of their label manufacturing process. Our partners at Zebra have a production facility that utilises numerous points of dust extraction to eliminate all the issues caused by dust.
In January 2020, BPA became classed as unfit for use in direct thermal labels upon the discovery that it had a direct negative impact on human health. This has led to a large-scale search for alternative materials and unfortunately, a consequential deterioration in label quality flooding the market.
Why does this matter? Well, the new label substrates are causing print head damage. Just one roll of this insubstantial material put through a print engine can cause detrimental damage, which is costly to replace. The good news is that quality label manufacturers like Zebra have invested in extensive research and development. Zebra tested over 30 different materials before developing their BPA-free range which is equal in quality to its predecessor.
If you’re tempted by low cost labels, then consider the die-strike issues you could be heading for; the cheaper tools implemented along with low-cost labels can cause the cut to go beyond the label. If the adhesive and the silicon layer on the back are also cut through, adhesive bleeds into the silicon and the label will not dispense cleanly. This issue can stop production lines and, as we know, down-time leads to loss of productivity and higher costs.
Another big no-no in label conversion for print and apply is splicing rolls of labels. In production, if one run finishes and labels are left over, the temptation is to join (or ‘splice’) together two rolls to avoid waste. But, if the join isn’t neat, it can snap or cause feed issues which will ultimately lead to more downtime of the line.
Print and Apply labelling systems are a mission-critical piece of equipment in the production line to ensure the correct barcode labelling application at the point of packaging. When a manufacturer moves from manual generation and application of packaging labelling over to an automated process, they gain efficiency, accuracy and cost-effectiveness. Using the correct, high-quality media works with the tolerances of the equipment and gives maximised uptime.
The team at Cobalt have worked alongside many companies experiencing labelling challenges and given them the expertise and technology to overcome those challenges, so please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about how we can help your business.