Tasked with protecting a label’s properties, these products perform an unseen yet crucial role.
In a sense, pressure sensitive labels are under attack. In a variety applications the products labels adorn are exposed to elements that could compromise their integrity and function. Health and beauty labels, for example, face the stressors of a bathroom environment such as water and product handling by wet, soapy hands. Household products like kitchen cleaners are up against not just moisture, but often spillage of the powerful chemicals inside their very bottles. Durable labels – as their name implies – perhaps need the most protection, as they are exposed to bright sunlight, extreme temperatures, wind, rain, ice and snow, in addition to some rough handling by the end user.
A label serves multiple purposes. While product decoration and communicating a brand’s message is important, what trumps this is the safety of the end user. Labels contain important instructions-for-use – safety guidelines that if not adhered to can cause injury to end users. To provide this crucial layer of protection and this final line of defense against the elements are lamination films – a product containing a film and pressure sensitive adhesive layer. A lamination film’s primary function is to protect a label’s properties for a long period of time, insuring that colors don’t prematurely fade and text remains clear and legible.
The label industry acknowledges the need for label protection. What follows is leading suppliers’ take on lamination films, as well as a discussion of the lamination products offered to the industry.
Sekisui TA Industries (STA), headquartered in Buena Park, CA, USA, is a subsidiary of Sekisui Chemical Company of Japan.
“Self wound overlmination has come a long way since its early days as little more than long-length carton sealing tape,” says Karen Frascella, accounts manager - Overlamination Division “Just as the flexo printing industry has grown and evolved, so too has the technology, materials and processes of overlamination changed over time.”
An industry staple since the mid 1970s, Frascella says STA’s films perform a crucial, yet invisible and often overlooked function of adding protection, strength and durability to an otherwise fragile label construction. “It’s ease of use, convertibility and cost effectiveness make it the most versatile lamination process on the market today. Our products are available in a variety of films, finishes and thicknesses to suit almost any application,” she says of STA’s products.
Frascella notes that polypropylene film holds up exceptionally well to the moisture caused by repeated condensation and evaporation, as well as a host of other grueling conditions. “Because it is a film, as opposed to a coating, it provides an effective protective barrier that resists scuffing and protects the label from the contents of the container it identifies, which makes it a common overlaminate for caustic and corrosive products,” she says.
“Polyester (PET) film, although more expensive, provides even greater resistance to moisture, chemicals, abrasion, heat and UV than polypropylene, making it the overlam of choice for more demanding applications, especially when a label will be outdoors,” Frascella adds. “Both BOPP and PET have superior internal strength that provide additional stability and durability to whatever labelstock it protects, giving finished labels added ‘body’ and enhanced gloss and eye appeal.”
Silicone release coated self wound overlams were developed by Sekisui TA Industries to overcome two of the most common complaints about self wounds – the hard unwind and the noise. “Our manufacturing capabilities can now combine special adhesive formulations with lower coat weights and special silicone release coatings that lower surface energy and reduce unwind force to produce self wound overlams that are both ‘super clear’ and ‘super quiet’.”
Frascella adds, “Recent advances in adhesives technology have resulted in new ‘super clear’ formulations that require lower solids content and lower coat weights, producing self wound overlaminates that ‘wet out’ almost instantly and are virtually ‘fish eye’ free. Even more recent are the more aggressive, high performance acrylic adhesives that have been developed to adhere to the resinous inks used in digital printing.”
Sekisui TA Industries has over 20 different self-wound products to suit a wide range of applications.
A recent innovation from STA is its Product #1193, an ultra-thin clear BOPP launched last month at Labelexpo. “It is a new, remarkably thin BOPP that provides superior clarity and impressive tensile strength,” Frascella says. “It is perfect for dairy and beverage label applications when a low cost, easy-to-use alternative to cold glue is needed.” Film thickness is 0.6 mils and its total thickness 0.83 mil.
Acpo, Oak Harbor, OH, USA, provides both polypropylene and polyester in matte and clear finishes. Kevin Foos, VP sales and marketing for acpo, notes that the lamination market has greatly evolved, being that it began as a means for a less expensive alternative for label protection than using linered overlamination films. With acpo’s products there is no need to apply a press-applied UV adhesive or other type of adhesive product to hold down the film, he explains. “This gives the converter ultimate flexibility as they don’t need to use up a print station to lay down a glue. Also, our product is especially well suited to short runs as the first label is always going to look like the last label. There is no need to dial in the adhesive and insure it is cured.”
In terms of what types of labels are a good fit for self-wound overlamination, Foos says it would be prime label, meat and cheese packaging, durable goods, automotive and on-product coupons. “With prime labels, the self-wound overlamination film is used to protect the printed surfaces as it goes down the filling lines. Also, as end users such as the large CPG companies are trying to add more shelf appeal, converters are running out of press stations,” Foos says, adding that these products are offered in gloss and matte, which helps the aesthetics of the label on the shelf.
For meat and cheese labeling, the overlaminate protects the label as it goes into a freezer or refrigerator. “Since most of these labels are printed on paper facestocks, it protects the paper from taking on moisture in these environments. In the durable products space, converters are using self-wound overlamination films to replace linered overlaminate products that allow our customers to be greener. We also offer both BOPP and PET products that are thermal transfer printable,” Foos says.
“Self-wound is also the tape that holds down the booklets for extended content labeling. We’ve found that as government regulations change and more information is needed for these books, thicker films and thicker adhesives are required. We have a whole line of products available to service this market.” At Labelexpo, acpo launched the 648 LP – Clear PET overlaminate film designed for laser printing. Foos says it is ideal for labels and tags that require variable information.
“Laminating films have evolved little over the years,” states Earl Curran, vice president business development, Acucote, Graham, NC, USA. “Polypropylene self-wound products by far lead the industry volume sold. Regardless, whether polypropylene or polyester, laminating films have always provided protection to the printed message and strength for converting.”
A notable advancement in lamination protection, Curran says, is the specialized coating developed for lamination films. For example, coatings can provide UV resistance to prevent a label from fading when exposed to sunlight. Another advancement is the use of surface hardeners. These coatings improve label scratch resistance.
“Optical brighteners, such as black light enhancements, are also an effective application for lamination films. By adding an optical brightener to the adhesive of a film, a customer is guaranteed additional security measures. When exposed to black light, these products become fluorescent, verifying brand security. Optical brighteners can be added as a surface coating or blended into the adhesive,” he says.
Popular laminating films at Acucote include its 0.5 mil clear, 1 mil super clear and 2 mil clear non-top coated polyesters. The 1 mil super clear is an optically clear film with a smooth surface, high gloss and dimensional stability. The 2 mil is a strong, clear film with resistance to moisture, solvents, oils and high temperatures. Optical brighteners and surface hardeners are also available through Acucote.
QSPAC Industries, Inc. is a manufacturer of high quality self wound lamination products, along with a wide range of packaging tools. The company’s name is an acronym for Quality Service Price Accountability Communication, and it applies these words to its company philosophy.
One of QSPAC’s points of pride is in its service capabilities. Headquartered in Cerritos, CA, USA, QSPAC and has four slitting and shipping facilities located in California, Illinois, Texas and North Carolina, thus making the company strategically located to effectively and efficiently service the North American label market. Its same day/next day shipping policy allows customers to receive their material on time. QSPAC keeps an inventory of pre-slit rolls for same-day shipping.
“Over the last ten years, lamination products have become more widely used than ever before,” says QSPAC Product Manager Howard Shen. “While not every label needs to be laminated, lamination gives labels a nicer look and really adds value.”
Among its lamination products are general purpose and specialty polypropylene and polyester in clear and matte finishes, digital, thermal transfer printable, release coated and UL-recognized. The company also offers its Edge Reinforcing line, which is ideal for the office and stationary supplies markets, and Shen says there has been a recent push for QSPAC’s matte polypropylene laminate for cosmetics and beauty brand owners looking for a “softer” look.
QSPAC also offers its label customers the Compensator, a press attachment installed on the laminating station that makes the process quieter and more efficient.
Lynn Wei, marketing manager for Univacco, Taiwan City, Taiwan, playfully points out that lamination films are not the main character in the story, but the best supporting actor. “These products are used to provide a perfect substrate surface for following printing effects like cold foiling and varnishing,” she says.
For Univacco’s label customers, Wei says, generally speaking, the company’s silver lamination film (Univacco LP3.0) is most common because it offers solid-area metallic gloss which label designers can take advantage of. “Holographic lamination film (Univacco LP4.0), on the other hand, offering 2D/3D effects, would be taken into consideration when label designers pursue stronger visual impact. In such cases, excellent over-printability decides if lamination film can play the supporting role well.”
Wei says there are several ways label designers can utilize Univacco’s lamination films to create distinctive labels, including highlighting specific designs by using partial glossy lamination film uncovered with inks covering the majority of a label’s surface; or, a majority of lamination film uncovered and drizzled with inks on the surface. Another option is a combination with other effects such as cold foiling and varnishing.
“Take Univacco CF4.2 Holographic Cold Foil Label for instance, where silver lamination film-finished paper is used as the base, then, holographic cold foil (Univacco CF4.2) and matte varnish join the process. Three layers of visual combination contribute to a vivid ‘security effect’,” she says.
When it comes to specific markets, Wei adds that personal care and alcohol labels on store racks both have responsibility to let product customers make purchase decisions immediately. “Lamination film revealing gloss or 2D/3D effects fits personal care and alcohol labels very well,” she says.
“Any printed or blank labels can use lamination film,” states John Mulhollen, president, Self Adhering Products, Cincinnati, OH, USA. “You want to use it to protect the label from the elements, to add a glossy finish, to protect the label from tearing or fading, or simply for cosmetic reasons. Some examples of this can be a polyester overlaminate to protect from acids and corrosion, battery labels, tire labels, labels for tools (ladders, saws, etc.) All of our products are coated with a UV resistant adhesive which will not yellow under the sun or inside under fluorescent lighting.”
Mulhollen emphasizes that many lamination products have been developed over the last decade for specific usages. Examples include products for bar coded labels. “A Matte finish film was developed so the scanners can still read the bar code printed on the label, but it is still protected from fading or tearing. Another good example is certain applications call for the finished label to be printed using thermal transfer technology, so our industry developed a lamination film that can be applied to the label but and then be printed on using a thermal transfer printer. There are many different thicknesses of film and adhesive coat weights needed for different applications, so at this time there are films from .95 mil thick to 3.0 mil thick to be used for many different purposes.”
For its label customers, Self Adhering Products’ most common used lamination film is a 1.05 mil thick polypropylene (product SA450). “This is used for your standard paper labels. We also sell a matte finish polypropylene lamination (SA454) that our customers use for bar code labels and some that use it because the end use application calls for the dull matte finish. Our SA451 polyester lamination is used mainly for a stronger finish on the label when the end use application calls for exposure to the elements or an extra shiny finish.”
In response to the changing demands of its customers, Self Adhering Products created its product line and converting capabilities to cater to the just-in-time and Lean Manufacturing programs in place at many label manufacturers. The company also carries a full line of splicing, core tabbing, packaging and platemount tapes so it can service all of its customer’s needs, just not one type of tape that they may use. “We place their needs at the forefront of our business philosophy to accomplish what other suppliers cannot. As we say in our ads, ‘Your one stop source for all your tape needs’.”
Since 2001, ACHEM, in Cerritos, CA, USA, has been supplying the label industry with an extensive line of self-wound overlamination products. ACHEM’s Clear Advantage products are constructed of clear or matte polypropylene or polyester films in a number of thicknesses, matched with various adhesive systems (primarily emulsion acrylic) designed to address the broad range of requirements of label manufacturers.
A short roll program has recently been established in order to provide a reliable source for quick delivery and consistent pricing to commonly required products for less than standard length rolls, including many digital presses.ACHEM also offers the Paybacker, a press attachment, which provides consistent unwind tension allowing for faster speeds, tighter registration, less label curl, and less noise than normally associated with self-wound products.