Field Report

Cool (and hot) labels

November 2, 2007

American Thermal Instruments (ATI), of Dayton, OH, USA, has been in the business of manufacturing a wide range of temperature monitoring products since 1981. Included in its product offerings are reversible (liquid crystal) and irreversible temperature labels, as well as electronic temperature-tracking systems with RFID interface.

A sampling of temperature monitoring products from ATI
The most unique products in the ATI line are the ascending and descending irreversible temperature labels, and these are generally custom manufactured products. Sales and Marketing Manager Marcia Dyer says, "We have a wide array of products that can be 'preset' to activate at certain temperatures, for those applications wherein exceeding or going below a certain temperature invalidates the product, kills its effectiveness, or renders it subject to spoilage."

Current applications are all over the lot. "We manufactured a pressure sensitive/thermal sensitive sticker for a European yogurt manufacturer as a point-of-purchase giveaway. The yogurt company placed the label on the cup lid so the person buying it could peel it off and use it at home to monitor their refrigerator temperature," Dyer says. "Our label partner, Innovative Label Solutions (ILS) in Fairfield, OH, preprinted the label, then sent it to us so we could put on the liquid crystal material, then we returned it to ILS for the laminating, diecutting and slitting."

Another application in which ATI partnered with ILS involved a large US snack food manufacturer that wanted its vendors to place an irreversible temperature label on the bulk products being shipped to the manufacturing plants. "These labels are manufactured with three different individual temperature irreversible modules that span a 25 range," she says. "In use, activation of all three would be cause for receiving or quality control to reject the shipment, while activation of one or two of the three would raise caution flags."

Eric Knop, ILS sales manager, points out that many of the ATI products are far more complex than they appear. "The label for the snack food manufacturer began with us printing the copy and the various registration marks needed by ATI as well as by ILS, and then overlaminating it with 1 mil polyester," Knop says. "Then we took the material to ATI where they place the chemistry down per the eyemarks, after which they send it back to us. We then carefully laminate a silver-backed PE film over the back, protecting the crystals, and then diecut and finish it in one-up rolls."

As if this weren't complicated enough, ILS has to work closely with ATI engineers and scientists to be certain that the inks selected will be compatible with the color changing chemistry.

Another unusual product was a simple looking label used in a Jeep promotion a few years back. The label was affixed to a full page magazine ad and the reader was guided to "touch here". Upon doing so, the liquid crystals were activated and the words "ready to buy" appeared. The black ink used had to be specially formulated to work with the floodcoated liquid crystals. What appears to be a simple label was actually a highly complex operation requiring a lot of pretesting by both ATI and ILS.

Dyer jokes about the technology being derived from what was called "mood stones or rings" that were popular in the late 1960s and early '70s, but she says that is like comparing apples to oranges. "Liquid crystal technology today is employed in thermometers for drugs of abuse testing, and in forehead thermometers, which are considered medical devices by the US Food and Drug Administration."

A major pharmaceutical manufacturer, according to Dyer, wanted the consumer to know when the package reached a single threshold temperature point. "If exceeded, the label indication area turns from white to red, thus letting the user see at a glance that the product has undergone temperatures beyond a critical range," she says. "We can make accurate, dependable and cost-effective units that will work under a wide array of temperatures," she adds, "and units from 0C (32F) all the way to 210C (410F) can be formulated and customized for a client.

"Manufacturers are just beginning to see how this can help," she adds. "We recently manufactured an irreversible label with a range of three temperatures - when the first one activates, the operator is made aware that critical temperature buildup (with attendant ultimate machine failure) has begun." The indicator dots are large enough to be seen at a glance from yards away.

Dyer says that the proximity of ILS contributes greatly to their partnership, adding, "With the two HP ws4050 digital presses at ILS, as well as four flexo presses including a 16" nine-color Comco, they are well positioned to support our activities."

During a recent tour of the 50,000 square foot ILS label converting plant, VP Mike Thomas points out that the company's AB Graphics Digicon unit, positioned alongside the two HP Indigo presses, has the capability of varnishing, laminating, hot foil stamping and diecutting in a single pass.

American Thermal Instruments is ISO9001-2000 certified as well as FDA registered. In October 2007, it moved into a much larger facility in Dayton. Company President Randall Lane says, "We now have plenty of space for further expansion," pointing out that "ATI has enjoyed 15 to 20 percent growth over the past five years."

Resonance Vineyards

Resonance Vineyards of Carlton, OR, USA is one of 20 farms that took up Governor Ted Kulongoski's challenge in 2006 "to minimize carbon footprint". Co-owner Kevin Chambers and his wife, Carla, have been the stewards of the vineyard for more than 17 years, selling their production to some 10 wineries. They have recently begun divesting their ownership of two other wine related businesses, selling their Oregon Vineyard Supply company and a vineyard development and management company to the employees, so they are free to concentrate solely on the vineyard and winemaking.

Describing themselves as "stewards of the land" is appropriate since their vineyard is a certified biodynamic property, operating under Demeter certification. (Demeter is the very first organic certification organization, begun in 1927 and has now spread to 40-plus countries and covering nearly 4,000 producers.) The farm is located on a slope in Yamhill County, which is home to some 200 vineyards and some 80 wineries.

Further proof of Oregon's growing importance in the wine world is the International Pinot Noir Celebration, held in McMinnville, just a few miles from Resonance Vineyard. The IPNC held its 21st annual festivities in 2007 and hosted nearly 70 wineries from Chile, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere in the United States, as well as 15 vineyards from France, home of the pinot noir grape.

Chambers' own description of the biodynamic agriculture operation at Resonance is "organic on steroids" or "uber organic". Having been in the wine industry for 28 years, Chambers says, "Winemaking is not a simple concept. You have several ways of 'skinning the cat' and you just have to pick your own way and go for it." Until last year, Resonance (formerly known as Reed and Reynolds, composed of Kevin's family name and Carla's maiden name) did not actually make wine, but instead sold their production to wineries, which won a host of awards due to the excellence of the Resonance-grown grapes.

Resonance now is selling its grapes to only one winemaker (Peter Rosback, owner of Sineann Winery in nearby Newberg), and uses nearly half the crop for its own production. Chambers says, "We are growing only two grapes now, a pinot noir and a gewurztraminer. While the harvest season was rainier than normal, we're really happy with the quality. We have already barreled down half of the pinot, and it's a classically styled vintage, more refined in structure and body, yet lower in alcohol content than other years."

Production in 2006 was 933 cases of pinot noir, according to Chambers. "We had such positive feedback on it that we let it go to distributors in October rather than wait until the end of the year. Our wine label material was an easy choice - if you are going to be a biodynamic cultivator, it just makes sense to use a label made from material that doesn't require cutting down trees since they are very effective in reducing greenhouse gases."

Chambers says, "We worked very closely with Tom Talarico and Ardie Rabanal at LabelOne Connect Inc. in Beaverton, OR (formerly Dana Label). Our designer, Clare Carver, felt that the Fasson Tree Free from Avery Dennison would give us the viability to accept saturation of black ink, as well as to resist scuffing. Label One Connect did very significant testing of the material prior to approving it for our label production, and we've been very happy with it, including its performance on our automatic labeling line." According to Avery Dennison, the Fasson Tree Free material is manufactured from bamboo shoots, ditch reeds and cotton lintners.

One of the hallmarks of Resonance's agricultural practices is that it makes as small a footprint as possible - little tillage is done, and for the past four years the company has incorporated biodynamic practices using low impact chemistries. Wine labeled "biodynamic" has to be made with hand-harvested grapes, something Resonance has been doing all along. Mother Nature also provides an assist, with daytime temperature swings of up to 40 F during the final ripening, just after the autumnal Equinox. The vineyard also benefits from its location, being just 50 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Mild, wet winters combined with warm, very dry (usually) summers benefit the harvest.

Larry Arway worked in sales, marketing and product management at Standard Register for 35 years. He was involved in product design and development, and has worked with major consumer and industrial products companies in North America. He can be reached at