Label converters like to be in control of the process. To meet the needs of end users and brand owners, inks, coatings, adhesives, substrates and release liner have to work the way are intended – and work together. In the label printing business, with so many variables at play, being able to accurately predict how a label will look, stick and feel is crucial. To help them achieve these ends, converters have products at their disposal that can test a wide range of a label's functionality, ensuring that before a job goes to press, the label will do what it is supposed to do. The following is a sampling of the some of the testing equipment that's available to do just that.
The ChemInstruments LT-1000 for tack measurement
ChemInstruments' testing equipment has been designed to perform to the requirements of test methods established by several global pressure sensitive associations and organizations such as TLMI, ASTM, FINAT, PSTC and AFERA. "As part of the design and development of all of our equipment test platforms, they are evaluated by the A2LA accredited Chemsultants International Testing Laboratory to ensure that they meet the stringent requirements of all relevant test methods and are suitable for laboratory or production floor service," says Joe Mausar, director of marketing for Chemsultants.
In addition to being evaluated for suitability of use, ChemInstruments' test equipment is used on a daily basis by the Chemsultants International Test Lab to perform the same tests that label converters perform.
"The ChemInstruments line offers label converters an integrated family of test equipment products that are economical, easy to use, reliable and capable of a high level of repeatable results. Each piece of ChemInstruments testing equipment includes an easy to read digital display and is also capable of integrating with our EZ-Lab 3.0 data management software, thus allowing for test result graphing, data analysis, and comparison of multiple test results for product performance trend analysis," adds Mausar.
"As more and more label and narrow web converters establish formalized quality management programs, key elements of those programs are material conformance and product performance data. QC of incoming raw materials and in-process converted products and QA of finished labels and flexible packaging products have become key concerns of label and narrow web converters.
"We have seen an increasing number of converters either utilizing the testing services of our Chemsultants testing lab or establishing in-house test capabilities with ChemInstruments test equipment over the past several years. We believe that there are two basic reasons for this: A growing number of raw material shortages have led to the use of new, substitute raw materials by label and narrow web converter suppliers, and also the reality of off-shore competition with limited performance data and history has made many converters cautious," Mausar says.
The HarperScientific Phantom QD hand proofer
HarperScientific, Charlotte, NC, USA, the printing and coatings supplies division of Harper Corporation of America, offers label converters a hand proofer for color matching. The hand proofer is a precision ink proofing device that incorporates the use of a laser engraved ceramic anilox roll, a doctor blade that meters the ink and a rubber transfer roll to lay down a specific amount of ink onto a substrate. For gravure applications, the rubber roll is taken out of the equation for direct ink transfer to the substrate. Also available are constant loading pressure proofers and the option of a motor to drive the proofer over the table length, successfully eliminating another process variable.
"The advantages of using a color matching device are substantial," says Jazmin Kluttz, HarperScientific product specialist. "You will be able to correlate the rolls on the press to the anilox roll on the hand proofer device, allowing you to consistently match the color of press-ready ink and get the same results on press. A color matching tool will eliminate the guessing of what line screen and volume anilox is needed on press to achieve a specific ink density."
Kluttz emphasizes just how beneficial the hand proofer can be. "Many converters simply are not aware that using one of these devices will save them thousands of dollars in valuable production time, will eliminate downtime, and also decrease ink and substrate waste," she says.
Beta Industries, Carlstadt, NJ, USA, offers a complete range of testing tools for the labeling industry. Among the product portfolio is the Beta Color Viewer III, the Betacolor Xpress color reflection densitometer, and the Betaflex flexo analyzer.
The Betaflex Pro from Beta Industries
Betacolor Xpress color reflection densitometers help the press operator "hit the mark more quickly and efficiently," says Goldberg, and they can "gain the advantage of gray balance control with the same ease-of-use as measuring solids." The machine has a "traffic light" feature that gives the operator a quick pass/fail indicator while detailed data is available for quality control. High efficiency electronics and LED light sources eliminate NiCad batteries and the nuisance of constant charging. Three models are available to suit various budgets and applications, including code-upgrades to simplify purchasing.
The Betaflex Flexo Analyzer is a newer product which Goldberg says has "brought science and simplicity to the hit-and-miss culture of the flexo plate room." 3D Topographical Visualization is a feature of the advanced Betaflex Pro model. "Topographical Visualization is the feature that supplies the critical, but until-now unavailable image and analysis of the dot structure on the plate," Goldberg explains. "Conventional dot area measurements don't provide enough information to properly optimize the newest screening techniques, such as HD Flexo and XD Digital Plate. Dot height, shoulder angle, and related parameters can now be automatically measured on the critical highlights. Ease-of-use and operator acceptance is assured through the intuitive 3D view, overlay image comparison, and pass/fail indicator, he says.
The Betaflex Xpress is another new product. It's a compact, self-contained imaging system operating at 17,000 dpi, and is capable of imaging halftone films, digital masks, and all types of transparent flexo with AM and FM screening. The Mask Stain Density Function eliminates the need to carry a transmission densitometer for imager setup.
Sensor Products, Madison, NJ USA, features nip products that are easy to use, quick and convenient. "Companies need to keep their rollers working around the clock – in good condition – and nips need to be checked through a process that is quick, convenient and accurate," says Vadim Shalyt, technical sales manager.
Pressurex is the company's most popular product. It is placed in the closed nip between rollers where it instantaneously changes color proportional to the pressure applied. "We keep getting thanked by clients who tell us it is unique in the market. You can immediately see precisely how much the pressure is varying across the nip and make adjustments," Shalyt says.
Sensor Products is also getting great feedback on DigiNip, reports Shalyt, which is a small portable spot nip width reader for narrow webs. "You just insert it into two points of the nip. Immediately you get two readings. One of our clients said it's a great unit because the gap adjustments can be made with the nip closed and you get real time results, and it's much easier and faster. The other good news is that DigiNip is very inexpensive relative to its use because it is portable, can be shared frequently and can be used for several years," he adds. "The handheld diagnosic nip tools are so easy-to-use, they are definitively replacing carbon paper and messy inks and dies."
Testing Machines Inc.
Testing Machines Inc., Ronkonkoma, NY, USA, serves the paper, plastics, packaging, and printing industries with testing equipment. Among its products for the labeling industry include the Digital Ink Rub Tester, The Lab Master Release and Adhesion testing system, and the RK Flexiproof 100.
The Digital Ink Rub Tester is designed to measure scuffing or rubbing resistance. Several tests can be performed, including dry rub, the amount of transfer ink from one dry surface to another; wet rub, the amount of ink transferred from one wet surface to another; wet bleed or transfer, ink transfer to a water-saturated blotter; wet smear, similar to wet bleed with the addition of rub cycles; functional rub/wet rub, smear or transfer tests using a liquid other than water; and hot abrasion, where an optional heated weight provides a uniform test for evaluating "hot abrasion" resistance of printed cartons and labels.
The Digital Ink Rub Tester has three speeds. The standard speed (42 cycles per minute) and two higher speeds (85 and 100 cycles per minute) allow users to decrease the testing time for samples requiring a higher number of rubs. The Large character LCD displays count up, count down, and shows test status and configurations.
The Lab Master Release and Adhesion testing system operates with Windows based software, and features the ability to create user-defined test setup, individual test speed selection, user-definable default areas for analysis, exporting graphs or data to Microsoft Excel and SPC programs, and enhanced calibration, which verifies existing and new calibration, and keeps a calibration log for ISO record keeping. In addition, test data visually represents the characteristics of the peel.
The RK Flexiproof 100 offers a high speed, operator-friendly machine for the production of proofs using water, solvent or UV flexographic inks. It is designed for all those involved in the manufacture and use of flexo inks and is ideal for quality control, presentation samples, R&D and computer color matching data. For printers, this eliminates press downtime by color matching off press. In regard to inks, it features computer color matching, database and sample preparation. The sytem also eliminates the need to use a production line printing press for pilot runs, as the company touts the Flexiproof 100 as being a scaled down but exact version of a full sized flexo press. It can be used to determine performance properties such as wear resistance, scratch resistance, flexibility, durability, and gloss, and will print on all typical commercial substrates including paper, film and foil.