First things first, a label consists of five elements, and each element must be considered when choosing a label.
These elements are:
- Release liner - a ‘carrier’ for the label, protects the adhesive from dust and debris.
- Pressure sensitive adhesive - affixes the label to the surface.
- Facestock or film - the backbone of the label, provides a surface for adhesive & topcoat.
- Printable topcoat - provides background for printing.
- Printing - text, codes or images that appear on the label.
STEP 1: Know Your Application
Ask yourself…How will the label be used? What is its purpose? Identifying the application for the label is a great place to start, because it provides context for the other four factors to consider.
- Do you need the labels for asset tracking, component identification and tracking, or printed circuit board (PCB) identification?
- Do the labels need to be permanent, removable or repositionable?
- Will the labels be applied manually or automatically?
STEP 2: Environmental Considerations
The next factor to think about is the environment in which the labels will be used. This step is critical to label material selection. The label’s elements — adhesive, face stock and topcoat — must be able to withstand the environment for the label to perform successfully and continuously.
- Will the labels be used indoors or outdoors?
- Will they be exposed to extreme heat or cold?
- Will the labels be exposed to chemicals or abrasion?
STEP 3: Surface Properties
Next, consider the surface to which the labels will have to adhere to.
- What is the surface material? Is it glass, plastic, powder-coated metal or stainless steel?
- What are the surface characteristics? Is it smooth or rough? Flat or curved? Low surface energy or high surface energy?
STEP 4: Regulatory Requirements
After you have identified the surface elements that will influence your adhesive choice, the next factor you need to think about is the regulatory requirements for the labels.
There’s an alphabet soup of regulatory agencies and requirements out there, so consider:
- Are there any regulatory requirements for the label, such as, UL, CSA, RoHS, REACH, MIL-SPEC or SAE?
- Are there military, industry or customer specifications that identification must meet?
STEP 5: Printing Technologies
The final factor to consider when choosing a label is the print technology. To achieve the best results, it’s important to match the print technology with the application and environment.
First, you must determine whether to purchase pre-printed labels or to print in-house as needed. For the latter, most common in-house printing methods are Thermal Transfer, Laser, Inkjet, Dot Matrix or Direct Thermal.
Selecting the best label materials for your application needs can be overwhelming. These five steps are a great way to identify the most important elements that will affect your label’s success. We have addressed all these elements when grouping our most popular label materials into Label Brands by their specific performance features making it easier for you to choose the product best suited for your application needs.