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Size, Shape, Colour and Adhesive

There are a few restrictions on label size, but hardly any on shape. Just about any shape that can be drawn by hand or computer can be made into a label. The main constraint is the possible problem in removing the matrix (i.e. the unneeded material between labels) if the size and detail of a label component is very small or intricate.

Imagine, for example, a “holiday sun” image with very fine or spiky rays. Peeling off the matrix between the rays without ripping it (and leaving some behind on the liner) could be difficult. So, something to keep in mind is that a label with the matrix left in place is only suitable for hand application.

As for the size, there are limiting factors for maximum length and width, but essentially none for minimums. In theory, a label can be as long as the roll of stock it is printed on, or several thousand feet. However, the plate cylinder that prints the label image introduces a hairline gap on each rotation (every 24 inches for the largest cylinder).

Hence, a solid line or design could not be printed on the whole roll, but a repeating pattern or text message, with spaces for the tiny break, could be. There are ways to disguise the gap – it need not be a straight line, for example – and there are special laser-engraved plate cylinders available without a seam. In practical terms, though, a standard butt- or die-cut label is limited in length to 24 inches or less, because that is all the rotating cutting tool allows.

Maximum width is determined by the web size and the complexity of a label’s printed image. Full width of the Aquaflex web is 10 inches, but this could be used only if there were no requirement for registration marks, which are standard for most jobs. Accordingly, 9 1/2″ is the largest practical width, and 9 1/4″ is more common. Within the basic 24″ x 9 1/4″ dimensions, Label Innovation has manufactured some very small labels, including a set of tiny printed circles designed for sticking on the top of golf tees.

The main factor in choosing one of the label cuts is how the label will be applied and used. Another important factor is cost, with die-cut labels being relatively more expensive.

A butt-cut label is separated from its neighbours on the label liner by a simple, straight-line cut, like a peel and stick postage stamp. It might be called utilitarian – less costly to produce than a die-cut label, and economical for application on an inexpensive product, or on one where the label will be seen only once, or thrown away. A butt-cut label will naturally have straight sides and square corners. 

A die-cut label can be produced in almost any shape, from round to angular, with various combinations of straight lines and curves being the usual. The rounded corners possible with a die-cut label are less likely to dog-ear, or peel after application, and a die-cut label generally has a nicer look than a butt-cut one.

Labels to be applied automatically need to have spaces between them, calling for die-cutting. The press removes the extra material (i.e. the matrix) surrounding each label. This unused material adds to the cost in large runs, essentially because the press is generating fewer labels per unit width and length of stock.

Label Innovation carries a variety of dies, which alone or in combination can meet most customer label specifications. The most costly option, a custom die, involves the preparation of a die-line (i.e. artwork for the die’s shape) and an added label production delay while the die is manufactured.

No, it will not, although that should not be a problem if you are happy with the proofs and are confident that colour specifications will be rigorously followed in the printing process.

While the quality of computer-generated images is very good today, laser printers are not exactly colour-faithful. Laser printers show the location and “look” of fonts, shapes and the precision of colour breaks well, but fall somewhat short when it comes to colour (tint) accuracy. This is particularly true for images rendered in process colour.

In the simplest case, when a designer specifies an ink colour for the graphics software, the shade will appear different on the printer output compared to the computer screen. There would be a further difference if the image were printed on another laser printer, and/or with another paper stock. However, by means of design software, specified colour will be transmitted to the plate maker and to the label printer’s ink management system, and you can be assured it is what will be applied on the press.

But there is another fly in the “ink-ment”: a selected colour may look different when printed on the chosen label stock. The answer to this and other concerns about your label’s printed look is to work with Label Innovation’s production team from an early stage, tapping into the available design and printing techniques to translate your expectations into an acceptable end product.

Delivering quality products to you is LINC’s top priority. For quality and speed of drying, Label Innovation uses a thin film of ink that results in a translucent colour. In order for any colour to show its true intensity, light must be reflected back from a white surface — such as a white label stock.

Of course, labels do not have to be printed on white stock only, many labels are printed on clear stock for various reasons. If you choose to print a label on clear stock though, there is no white background from which to reflect the light and the colours may appear dull. To avoid this, opaque white is printed on the clear stock first to provide the white background and then the image is printed over this. This white layer can be seen by looking at the label from the back.

In addition, it also depends what type of surface the label is to be applied to. If the clear label is to be applied to a white surface, the opaque white layer is not needed. If, however, the surface is darker, it is still needed to reflect the light and show the intensity of the colour.

There are a number of factors that dictate the choice of adhesive, and these are grouped in three categories. The first two of these – environment and special usage factors – could be combined under “performance”.

Environmental factors include things such as the temperature, humidity and physical abuse to which the adhesive will be exposed. Does it have to function in a freezer or on a hair dryer? Will it remain working on a product subject to knocks and abrasion or submersion in water or other liquids?

Special usage factors cover matters such as the required ease or difficulty of removal; the necessary staying power (e.g. one year or ten years); and the existence of any regulations or standards governing application, something particularly important with medical products. The adhesive sticking a label to a plastic blood bag, for instance, must be certified as unable to permeate through the bag to contaminate the contents.

Fundamentally, though, the type of adhesive is determined by the surface upon which it is to be used. Adhesion is the force of attraction between unlike materials, similar to a magnetic force. The strength of attraction is determined by the surface energy of the material – the higher the energy, the greater the attraction.

Surface energy is measured in units of dynes/cm. Knowing that Teflon® has a surface energy of 18, while aluminium’s surface energy is 840, for example, you can see why very different adhesives would be needed for labelling the inside and outside of a non-stick fry pan.

Label Innovation has considerable experience in selecting adhesives based on the required application, and works closely with customers to ensure they get the adhesion performance they need.

Ordering

Answering this is similar to answering the question how much is a car? It depends! Every customer’s need is unique. Every label is unique.

For a custom label, the estimate will be calculated based on a number of factors and specifications, including: material (paper, foil, film); size; custom die or tool equipment; quantity; number of colours; special inks; rolls, sheets or fanfolded; special adhesive; durability (varnished or laminated), and; final use (environment).

We will present your cost to you in a detailed price estimate. Since the press setup represents most of the cost for a short run, it is generally advisable to buy the largest quantity consistent with your requirements. Additional thousands on an order are relatively inexpensive, whereas a re-order will mean an additional setup cost.

Whatever the purpose of the label, the LINC Technical Team will work with you to achieve the lowest cost for your order consistent with quality.

There are a number of things that may go wrong between sending in an artwork e-file and the final proof sign-off, but the simplest answer to the question is, “just follow the LINC formula.”

Label Innovation prefers receiving electronic artwork for most jobs, and accordingly has set out guidelines to ensure the smoothest path between original art and final proof. The initial criteria cover the requirements for the basic way the design must be constructed to reflect the differences between standard offset and flexographic printing.

So, one potential “return to sender” for the artwork can be avoided by ensuring your artist is working with LINC’s Graphic Designer Guide. Anyone who uses a computer knows how frustrating it is to receive a message or a file that cannot be opened and read. If this happens with a customer’s artwork, LINC has little option but to send it back for reformatting.

There are detailed requirements set out in LINC’s Graphic Designer Guide to Flexo Labels. These guide your designer in the technical necessities for file preparing, saving or exporting, compressing, and sending to LINC. Adhering to these is a simple recipe for once-through art.

A final word of caution: nearly everyone uses a computer these days, and it may be tempting to submit what amounts to “do-it-yourself” electronic artwork. This is unlikely to meet any of the written requirements mentioned above, and will surely wind up being returned to you for extensive modification. “Make it go – use a pro.”

  1. Client Inquiry. The process begins with you, the customer, making an inquiry. Then follows an in-depth investigation by Client Services of precisely what is required, including any special needs that you may have, and how LINC can manufacture the item.
  2. Quote. This results in a custom quote, with Client Services following up with you to ensure everything is clear.
  3. Placing an Order. Placing an order for the item initiates internal records to keep the job on track. A work docket is generated, which will contain all the necessary information to produce the job. Materials such as facestocks, adhesives, liners, inks and dies (if necessary) are ordered.
  4. Artwork Received (if required). The artwork for the product is processed, then generated for plate making. The artwork is then submitted for your proofing and approval.
  5. Production. Upon acceptance of the final artwork, the plates are made and die(s) are ordered as necessary. Press time is then scheduled.
  6. Rewinding. When the job comes off the press, it is rewound (if required in rolls) and given a preliminary inspection. With packaging comes a final inspection, and then the product is shipped.
  7. Invoicing. Finally, an invoice is prepared and sent to the customer. Client Services then follows up to ensure that all aspects of the work are satisfactory.

Converting

Converters can do much more than simply print a label. Converter is an industry name for a manufacturer like Label Innovation that combine materials such as paper, adhesives, foams, rubbers, felts, rubber, liners, metals, and other materials, to create new multi-layered products or functional components that can then be delivered in rolls or sheets. The process may or may not involve printing on the end product, but the main tool used in converting is a high-speed web process. 

In the converting business, one of the simplest products is an adhesive label – a piece of material with or without printing, temporarily stuck to a liner in sheet or roll form. The precision equipment used to make this may also be employed in manufacturing component parts that customers use in the assembly of their own products.

The components are called “specialty” because they are custom designed to the specifications necessary for incorporation in the end product, making each pattern quite different from others. Contrast this with adhesive labels; where the difference between any two types may only be their shape or colour, and many may even be available “off the shelf”.

LINC has developed considerable expertise in fabricating complex specialty components using various materials. In the medical field, for example, we have produced the components of an electrode connector for a life-saving device, as well as the precision seals and gaskets in the disposable cartridge for a hand-held blood analyzer. Another health and safety product is the seal on an air filter replacement cartridge.

In the security area, LINC has manufactured over-laminates for products, including “black light” readability of invisible inks. The raw material used for specialty components takes many forms, including film and foil, as well as paper and latex rubber. It is often laminated or multi-layered, with the final product bearing an adhesive to either hold it together or use in its application elsewhere. With or without printing, the component may have a special coating applied to enhance durability or other properties.

Finally, there is die cutting, through which the final product is given not only an image or a coating, but also a shape. The die-cut specialty component may be removed from its backing or liner by hand or by machine in the customer’s assembly process. Discussion of specialty components would not be complete without mention of custom packaging arrangements to suit the customer’s particular requirements. For example, LINC ships one of its specialty components wound on movie film projector reels rather than standard wind-on cores. The manufacture of a new specialty component, particularly one that has little or no production precedent, is a welcome challenge for LINC.

Industrial tapes are laminating adhesives used in specialty applications. Most often, these types of adhesives are very aggressive and cannot be removed easily. VHB (Very High Bond) from 3M is an extremely aggressive industrial adhesive that can be used in various applications. This adhesive can be sourced in several thicknesses and converted into many shapes and sizes.

VHB is solid adhesive rather than a thin coating of adhesive on both sides of a foam. It is visco elastic, meaning once stretched, it will return to its original shape. This adhesive’s aggressiveness accelerates over time to create a bond that is virtually unbreakable. This specific adhesive is used to bond the wings of aircraft. It is also used to mount satellite communications hardware.

Do you need a bond second to none? This might be the product you require. Do you need it converted into a specific shape? Give us a call to find out more.