Avery Dennison Label and Packaging Materials

Friday, February 23, 2018

Waste matrix removal in label production


Waste matrix stripping or removal in production of self adhesive labels is a very important part of label conversion and is an imperative that leads to a web of labels which can be dispensed on automatic label dispensers in high speed packaging lines. Even though it sounds to be a simple process of stripping the ladder like extra waste after die cutting of labels, yet it remains to be one of the most complex and problematic area of label converting process. A problem with waste removal, like matrix breaking or labels lifting with the waste ladder may slow down the machine or in some cases make it extremely difficult to remove it online. Converters may have to resort to removing the waste manually offline making the process unproductive and costly. A host of parameters affect the process and it is difficult to address the issue in a singular way. With so many variables that impact the waste removal process, it is difficult to predict a simple solution. It could be due to the shape of label, size of label, release liner, face stock, adhesive, die cutting process, speed of conversion, die blades or the design of the waste removal section that may affect the correct and efficient removal at the optimum machine speed. Any of these may impact the final result and slow down the machine and the printing process. No one solution can apply to all problems. The traditional waste rewinding system is gradually becoming unpopular due the fact that tension is the key to efficient waste rewind. The rewound waste matrix ladder roll has empty spaces from where labels have been die-cut and as the roll becomes bigger there is lot of irregular tensions leading to breaks. As the market becomes extremely competitive with rising prices of labelstocks printers tend to reduce the gap between the labels to 2mm making the process even more difficult. This article will dwell on most of the variables mentioned here above.

Release Liners: The most widely used base papers as release liners in self adhesive label materials are glassine, super calendared Kraft and clay coated Kraft. These are uniform caliper, densified and non porous papers that have adequate strength and accept a uniform coating of silicone giving excellent releasing properties to become a proper backing for self adhesive papers. In recent years due to possibility of recycling and reducing the tonnage of waste generated, filmic liners also are being used as backing in labels. Release liners play a major role in die cutting and in turn impact the waste removal process. The die blade has to cut through the laminate and stop at the face of the liner so has to achieve a perfect half cut or kiss cut. The uniform thickness or caliper of the liner is an imperative. If the liner has variations, it will create problems at die cutting and eventually at waste stripping. If the release gets thicker the die will pierce the liner making a through cut and exposing paper fibers to the adhesive.  This also may result in web breaks. If the liner gets thinner, the die will not cut resulting in labels lifting with the matrix. Release level of the liner is also very important. If the release level is tight the matrix will tend to break due to tension and if it is too easy, labels will tend to lift with the ladder. Uneven silicone coating or pinholes in coating may also create problems. If the labelstock prior to waste matrix removal goes through a nip roll that has excessive pressure between them, the edges may develop micronic nicks that may render the face paper susceptible to web breaks. The paper rolls may also develop these rough edges in transportation and mishandling. The web needs to be inspected thoroughly before taking up label conversion.

 Face Paper:  Paper and films are generally used as face materials. A fairly high strength paper will perform well if all other parameters are addressed. If the gap in labels is too small, 2mm or less, the matrix will tend to break repeatedly. Moisture content in paper should ideally be between 3.5% and 5.5%; sharp increase in moisture will affect the strength adversely. The tensile strength of paper at Relative Humidity (RH) up to 50% is maximum after which it moderately decreases with RH up to 65% and on further increase in RH, it drops sharply. The uncoated papers are hygroscopic, so they tend to absorb moisture faster than coated papers. Evidently weather and storage condition of paper does have an impact on waste removal. Even when using emulsion based adhesive if the adhesive is not dried properly, the face paper will tend to absorb the residual moisture from the adhesive and result in deterioration of paper and affect waste stripping. In case of filmic face stocks, weather may not impact but the condition of die and quality of die cutting does play a major role. If the die is damaged or blunt it may not cut properly resulting in label lifting or film tear.

Adhesive: Commonly available labelstocks are coated with either emulsion based or hot melt pressure sensitive adhesives (HMPSA). In both cases for a perfect waste removal it is necessary that the die cuts through the adhesive as well, as otherwise if the coated film of adhesive is not cut, labels will lift with the matrix. Emulsion adhesives have good die cut ability however hot melt adhesives for better die cutting properties have to be specially selected. In case of HMPSA if the waste is not lifted immediately after die cutting the adhesive may rejoin and lift the labels with the matrix.

Size and shape of a label: These are parameters that are customer driven based on their specific needs, so the converting company cannot request changes from customer.  Small labels have a very limited area of contact and reduced tack holding it to the release liner and with little force the label may fly off or lift off with the matrix. In such a case die makers suggest packing self adhesive foam in the die shapes so as to push the label back on the release liner. Other times printers have found limited success in addressing this problem by increasing speed of the web. Waste ladder removal of irregular and complex shaped labels with sharp corners like in a star shape, is even more complex to handle. This becomes even more difficult in substrates like BOPP where a small nick may lead to web break. Converters need to slow down the machine to a great extent to finish the labels online. Machine manufacturers have addressed this issue of handling complex shapes as explained later in this article.

Die design: The die has a definite role to play in waste matrix removal. The subject is extensive and can take a full article to dwell on the nuances. The blade angle, blade height and coating on the die are factors that lead to ease or difficulty of label conversion.  Thickness of the face materials, type of adhesive and thickness of release liners are all imperative inputs that are needed before a die is put into production. A die that is designed for paper material is not recommended for filmic materials. Blade angle for paper is kept wider so that after penetration of around 80% into the paper the rest of the cut happens by crush or bursting of the material before stopping at the surface of the liner. In case of filmic face material a sharper acute angle is needed to pierce the film as in case of a wider angle the film will stretch and not be cut. An acute angle blade appears to cut better but wears off faster than the wider angle blade dies. Depending on the materials used the die angle varies between 45degrees and 110 degrees. The blade height needs to be adjusted to cut through the face, which maybe paper or film or a laminate, and adhesive without piercing the release liner. If any of the parameters is not right, the waste matrix removal will become a challenge. If the blade pierces the liner even slightly, it may expose the release paper fibers to the adhesive and get stuck to them causing waste ladder breakage. If the blade does not cut through the adhesive, labels will lift with the matrix. In case of coated materials like direct thermal and thermal transfer the coatings on the paper are abrasive in nature and tend to make the die wear off soon. In such case laser hardened dies are recommended. Adhesive sticking and building up on the dies also results in uneven cutting and also resulting in early die wear off. This is more evident where aggressive high tack hot melt adhesives are used. For this reason special non stick, coated dies are available so that the adhesive will not stick to them. The standard gap between the magnetic cylinder and the anvil is also very important as in case of die wear off the gap increases resulting in spaces where labels are not cut and would lift off with the matrix and to get a perfect cut the die pressure is increased. This results in faster wearing off of the bearers leading to a smaller gap and over cutting. Care has to be taken in die storage and handling. Before commencing any job proper inspection of die should be done regarding cleaner blades, blunt edges or nicks. The dies need to be stored in an environment avoiding excess humidity which may result in rusting.

Machine manufacturers have been consistently making efforts to address the issue of waste matrix removal to aid faster converting. Some of the steps taken include; 1.Lifting the waste matrix immediately after die-cutting. 2. Taking the die to a larger diameter stripping roller that would support the waste ladder on separation rather than a thin diameter roll that would provide a sharp angle to waste being stripped off. 3. By rethreading the paper in such a manner that the label web is peeled off the matrix instead of the matrix being pulled off. 4. De-laminating the web and re-laminating it before die cutting as this would reduce the tension required to peel off. These measures did help to some extent but complex shapes and a host of issues and factors that impact this process have had machine manufacturers continuously researching this area to keep implementing changes. One such solution that came around some years back was suction of the waste matrix into a suction and shredding system. This does take care of the tension and also manages waste by cutting it to small pieces and compacting it, but such systems have other problems. They are expensive, large in size so difficult to be fitted on presses due to lack of space, costly to operate as they use extra motors, compressor or vacuum and very noisy to run. Yet there is a brighter side to it, there is development going on to separate the waste and recycle it inline so as to reduce the impact on environment.


The larger established press manufacturers seem to have reached a viable solution. Some years ago they have introduced a big innovation in the industry by designing a simpler contact system rewinder for waste matrix. The idea was very simple; instead of pulling only the matrix up to the rewinder, we pull the entire web up near the rewinder. Here the matrix is peeled off against an idle roll and immediately pasted on the rewinder. Basically this reduces the travel of the matrix from 1 meter to hardly 5 cm and the journey is even supported by a roll. This system has now become the standard with many label press manufacturers





“Simple solutions are invented to simplify the label converting process however It does not hold true for all jobs, when a problem comes it can be challenging and creating a solution can be another game changer”!




Written by Harveer Sahni Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited New Delhi January 2018

NOTE: This article is exclusively written for magazine Label and Narrow Web USA. Publications desirous of reproducing the article may write for permission to Steve Katz editor LNW : skatz@rodmanmedia.com 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Cosmo Films: Working their way into specialty films for labels

Ashok Jaipuria
Ashok Jaipuria led Cosmo Films Limited, headquartered in New Delhi, is one of the largest manufacturers of BOPP (Biaxially Oriented Poly Propylene) films in the world. According to Wikipedia they are in fact the largest manufacturer of thermal lamination films in the world. Ashok Jaipuria is prided with his lineage from an elite Marwari family (people from the Marwar region of Rajasthan).   Ashok is the only son of his father Late Sri Sitaram Jaipuria, who was an Industrialist and Promoter of Swadeshi Polytex Limited,  Swadeshi Cotton Mills Limited and was a member of the Upper House of the Parliament of India. Ashok started his own firm Cosmo Films in 1976 with an objective to manufacture and market BOPP films. He qualified in Business Administration and Marketing Science in the year 1973. BOPP film was a licensed item those days, visualizing growth and opportunity in this nascent area; he applied for and acquired the license to manufacture it. He setup and commissioned his first BOPP production line in 1981 at Chikalthana, Aurangabad. Being one of the first entrants to produce BOPP in India, the initial years were very tough, more so because customer awareness did not exist and educating them on the product was a challenge. Print lamination and self adhesive packaging tapes were the first target segments for this product. Once settled, there was no looking back, they commissioned their second production line at Waluj, Aurangabad in 1988 and third line also at Waluj in 1996.

Entering the new millennium, Cosmo Films was steadily growing, so was the market for
Cosmo Films Vadodara Unit
BOPP and also the market share of Cosmo for BOPP films. With a positive situation prevailing, they became bullish and registered unprecedented growth in this decade.  In 2001 they commissioned their fourth line and a year later in 2002 they acquired Gujarat Propack Limited, the Karjan Vadodara based BOPP manufacturer which became their fifth BOPP line. In 2003 the sixth line was commissioned and in the very next year in 2004 they decided to go for specialties in BOPP by adding a metalizer, an extrusion coating plant and yet another BOPP line taking their total count to seven. Expanding on coated products, they commissioned their second extrusion coating line in 2005. Encouraged by the success, Cosmo added five more extrusion coating lines. Two were added in 2006, one in 2007 and two more in 2008. Extending their footprint globally, in 2009 they acquired USA headquartered GBC’s Print Finishing Business from Acco Brands Corporation USA. Also in 2009 they enhanced their BOPP production capacity with yet another line at Vadodara, taking the total to 8 lines. 

Cosmo Films Hagerstown USA
They wrapped up the decade by installing their 2nd metalizer at Karjan, Vadodara. In the second decade of the millennium Cosmo continued on their growth path. Pankaj Poddar also of Marwari descent, a qualified Chartered Accountant, took charge as the CEO of Cosmo Films in 2011. In the ensuing years a new plant was commissioned with their existing eighth extrusion thermal coating line in South Korea. Two more BOPP lines in Aurangabad SEZ and Karjan Baroda were added in subsequent years taking the total BOPP production lines to ten. In addition, they have five coating lines, three metalizers and one CPP (Cast Polypropylene) line. When the first line was commissioned Cosmo’s capacity was only 850 tons per annum, which now has reached 2,00,000 tons from five different locations that include three in India, one in Korea and one in USA, the biggest facility being the one in Vadodara. The production in India spreads over 100 acres of land with 850 permanent employees. Even though volume growth of BOPP was coming from packaging and lamination yet the business had sometime along the way started to get competitive. To maintain their leadership and profitability, they had in the 1990s, shifted focus to specialties in films and label films for wrap around labels, IML (that had started evolving) along with limited presence in self adhesive labels.  Out of their initial endeavours, white film for Parle and production of synthetic paper was vital in their rapid growth. 

With Pankaj Poddar at helm, the company became more aggressive especially in the label segment. The label segment comprising of self-adhesive labels, wrap around labels and IML is continuously growing in volumes. They supply these films worldwide with some sales also in China. Today leading Indian Labelstock and other label producers use Cosmo’s products for labels. Label films continue to become a substantial part of the company’s product offerings these are now around 15% of their total production. Cosmo has invested in creating the right products to facilitate top of the line decorative packaging. Their offerings include films that are white opaque pearlised, transparent, solid white, gloss/matt metalized, etc. Their films have a clean surface, have excellent gloss, high clarity and can be printed by different print technologies that include printing by using Water based inks, UV inks, Gravure inks, Thermal transfer ribbon printing and some Digital print processes. According to Pankaj, while the domestic BOPP market is growing at around 10 % per annum, the growth is slightly more in self adhesive labels and IML, yet Cosmo is registering a growth rate above this due to their increasing exports. They are committed to diversify more and more into the specialty segments due to depressed margins of commodity products in a competitive scenario. They will soon be launching direct thermal printable film and paper. Being firmly committed to maintain their leadership, for them delivery of quality and innovative products is a priority. They have invested more than 1.50 Million US$ in their new Research and Development/Innovation centre. The centre has capability to analyse the entire film’s chemistry viz. surface, polymer and chemical analysis.  The centre is also capable of testing all properties of the film right from its concept stage way upto its end applications.  Centre can also conduct in house  printing tests with diverse processes like Screen, UV flexo, Gravure printing, Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Printing.

Pankaj is emphatic that BOPP consumption will continue to grow at a fast pace, but he wishes to see Cosmo diversify more into specialty segments. They will also be adding a Cast Poly Propylene film (CPP) and metalized CPP film line in 2018; they will also be installing a PET film line. Both product lines will be packaging and label centric. PET will be majorly offered as label face or later for release liner applications. PET liners can reduce the adverse impact of liner waste on the environment by bringing down the tonnage of liners using thinner liners. While most of the present paper siliconised liners go to landfills, PET liners can be recycled. Capacity enhancement for synthetic paper is also on cards. Their biggest competition at global level comes from Jindal Poly films subsequent to their acquisition of Exxon Mobil’s BOPP films division and from Innovia films. However still, Pankaj says, “We will be enhancing capacities. As for specialties, we have no real competition”. Pensively and hesitantly he does agree that digital printing direct on product that will eliminate the substrate maybe a challenge but he is confident it will not affect Cosmo’s growth plans.

Pankaj Poddar
Pankaj Poddar is an alumnus of Delhi’s Shri Ram College of commerce (SRCC). After finishing his B.Com at SRCC, he completed his articles to be a qualified CA and then completed his degree in MBA from IMT Ghaziabad. He worked with Ernst and Young for 7 years, for automotive parts company Delphi for 5 years two years each with Reckitt Benckiser and Avon Beauty Products. He comes from a traditional Marwari business family, his father dealt with heavy earthmoving machinery spare parts, brother traded in air-dryers and chilling plants and sister’s husband supplies alloy metal to auto parts companies. Moving away from the tradition Pankaj preferred to be a professional executive. His wife is a dietician and they are blessed with two school going children, a son and a daughter. When he joined Cosmo, the turnover of the company was Rupees 850 Crores (130Million USD) and it has now reached Rupees 1900 Crores (300 Million USD). He was awarded as “Indian CEO of the year” by ABCI, Association of Business Communicators of India at their “Brand India Summit” in 2016.  When Pankaj took charge, Cosmo Film’s share was trading at Rs.80-90 and now it has reached Rs.350-400.

Cosmo Films is an environmentally conscious company and continues to make strides in implementing eco friendly measures.  All coatings on their films are water based and they support water based ink printing for conversion of their films. They are an ISO: 14001 certified company. The waste water in all their plants, after effluent treatment, is used for gardening. All plant sites have water harvesting. Natural lighting is used wherever possible. They plan to initiate a solar power plant at their Vadodara site as a first experiment and if found successful, they will replicate in other sites as well. Every employee in their organization has to undergo training. As a part of their corporate social responsibility, they work on supplementing basic education provided to young children in government schools in and around their plants through various sustainable programs like Computer Literacy, basic English Learning, basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. They have trained about 150 rural youth as qualified teachers to be able to execute this and till date more than 25000 students have benefitted from these programs.

Pankaj feels in 5 years Cosmo’s turnover will more than double up from the present 300 million US Dollars to 600-700 US Dollars. This he states will be just from the ongoing organic growth. However if they install more projects and happen to acquire some businesses, the turnover may reach USD 1 billion. The present share of specialty films in the company portfolio is around 40%, he hopes and wishes to increase this share to 60% so as to keep adding value to its bottom line.


Written for Packaging South Asia magazine by Harveer Sahni Chairman, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi, December 2017.

Print Publications wanting to reproduce may do so by giving credit to the author Harveer Sahni and by mentioning that it is published in arrangement with "Packaging South Asia"

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Label Predictions for 2018



I have expressed my personal views on how the Indian labels market is likely to move ahead in 2018

From being a country with predominantly rural population and unorganized retail, urbanization in India is steadily transforming the market to a mature one with consumer orientation. Products that were mostly available in loose unpacked format are now increasingly being offered from organized retail food marts in decorative and attractive packaging. 


A label or pack that had limited need earlier has become the communication tool between the seller and end consumer. Indian label market that has over the years defied recessionary trends at the global level has been growing steadily with double digit growth. Market segmentation has also been a continued process both in terms of producing labels for the commodity products and those for high end with attractive decoration. The former segment forms the bottom of the triangle, accounts for the larger volume of labels and is highly competitive with depleting margins. 

This segment will stay fiercely combative in the marketplace and will resort to heavy cost cutting to drive in margins with economy of scale. They will resort to buying traditional but low cost presses with faster speeds, lower wastage and lesser downtime. The Upper part of the triangle is which caters to the users for whom a good and unique label is an imperative to boost sales. This is the segment that drives in development with innovative capabilities to help drive in better margins. For this reason we will see growing demand for hybrid presses by leading high end printers. 

Digital printing in labels is still a segment where Indian printers are hesitant to step in even
though the journey in this direction has commenced. This is so due to the higher cost of production in this printing technology. Short runs and variable data, drive this segment and in a high population country like India, this market will grow but not at the rate at which it grows in the western world. Lower cost of printing and converting equipment may boost this segment. Digital equipment manufacturers who can address this aspect will surely make this segment to prosper. Imperative need for brand protection, communicative labels, decorative labels and relatively short run labels to aid marketing in different geographical regions in India with different languages and festivals, spells the need for hybrid presses.

India witnessed turmoil in business due to aggressive government economic policies that would aid faster growth longtime. Business slowed down a bit, but moved on due to inertia. The settling down of economy will surely create an expanded market. We envisage a better growth rate in 2018. Labels moving into different tangents like Shrink sleeves, IML, wrap around, etc. stem a larger growth rate in the self adhesive labels but as mentioned earlier, due to the sheer market size, all segments will keep growing. 



Environmental concerns are also likely to impact the Indian market scenario, it is becoming increasingly difficult to send the waste to landfills or incinerate it. 2018 will see emphatic moves to conserve the environment. How this evolves, only time will tell.







Written By Harveer Sahni, Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi January 2018. To email the author; harveersahni@gmail.com  

Saturday, December 16, 2017

LMAI: Extending membership to interiors of India!

On 9th of December 2017, Label Manufacturers Association of India (LMAI) conducted a “Technical workshop and networking session” at hotel The Lalit, Chandigarh. It was a very successful event attended by almost 100 delegates giving credibility to LMAI’s efforts to extend its membership to smaller towns that are now attracting investment in production of labels. The event besides delivering knowledge provided opportunity to printers to join the mainstream association with a platform to interact and network with their peers in the industry. The event was sponsored by Avery Dennison India Private Ltd., SMI Coated Products Pvt. Ltd., Flint Group, NBG Printographic Machinery Co. Pvt. Ltd., Provin Technos Pvt Ltd. and HP Inc. and offered an opportunity to them for making presentations to new entrants in nascent areas.

The evening’s first presentation was made by Ankur Joshi Product Manager of Provin Technos Pvt
. Ltd. He explained in detail about the Miyakoshi presses offered by them. This was followed by a very thought provoking session by Bhupinder Singh of Avery Dennison. He initially explained how Avery partnered with printers to offer the PS Label solutions engineered to their specific needs. He then spoke on ground realities and effects of competition in the label industry with emphasis on the imperative need to innovate and decorate their product adding value to the end product such that even if the margin in terms of percentage wise remains the same the quantum of profit gets bigger due to higher value of the end product. He also gave a comparison of PS labels to wet glue and suggested ways to motivate wet glue customers  to switch over to  PS labels. Shamim Alam of HP Indigo impressed upon the need for change in the label industry to achieve growth. He presented case studies in personalization with digital to achieve success and dwelled on possibilities by going digital. Harshal Mahajan of SMI Coated Products Pvt. Ltd. made a presentation to educate printers on the right selection of face paper, adhesive and liner. He also spoke on the effects of weather, ambient temperature, storage condition and service temperature on labels and label materials. Sailesh Sharma of Flint informed the gathering about upcoming trends in inks. He also explained the negative effects of migration and Flint’s support to customers for low migration printing and converting. He also spoke of Good Manufacturing Practices and benefits of LED UV inks offered by them. Finally Nitin Garg and Kishore of NBG Printographics presented details of the new indigenous full servo flexo press developed and offered by them.

LMAI President Kuldip Goel in his short speech impressed upon printers to invest in capabilities to innovate and create value in their products to attain continued growth. Harveer Sahni, on behalf of LMAI spoke on the path traversed by LMAI, benefits of its membership and the programs conducted by it. LMAI was established 15 years ago by a small group of printers and the association has thereafter grown to over 350 members. LMAI is recognized by global entities like Tarsus, FINAT and TLMI. It s also a part of L9, a global alliance of world’s leading nine label associations. LMAI organizes technical and networking sessions across various geographical zones of India. These include programs on cost restructuring, GST training and other important issues. Their annual conference has become a must attend event for the label industry. LMAI has partnered with Tarsus and extended their support to Labelexpo India. On the sidelines of next Labelexpo, LMAI will be hosting the LMAI label awards gala evening and the L9 meet where printer members from these global associations are expected to attend and network with Indian printers. LMAI also successfully publish their magazine, “Label Legacy”. The next LMAI Technical Workshop and networking meet is planned to be held early next year in Chennai.




In conclusion Rajesh Nema honorary secretary LMAI thanked the delegates for their presence and also acknowledged the hard work put in and support given by local printer members Aditya Kashyap and Vishal Vohra in organizing this successful event.  The evening ended with networking over cocktails and dinner.






Label Manufacturers Association of India
A-418, Mayuresh Trade Center,
Plot no: 04, sector-19, Vashi Turbhe Road,
Vashi, Navi mumbai: 400 703
Mob : 08097333995
Web: www.lmai.in 


Posted on behalf of LMAI by Harveer Sahni December 2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Labels diversifying into different tangents

Label is primarily information appended to a product or its packaging giving the brand name, information on the product, its usage, safety instructions, manufacturer’s details, statutory information, prices and now bar codes that provide a system for track & trace, price information, inventory control and logistic support. How the label or the required information has been attached to the product has varied over the ages. The earliest form of labeling was done by etching, embossing or stamping brands and information directly on glass or metal containers. Labels have been in use for hundreds of years but labels as we know today have evolved largely after the 17th century. Printing originated in China in the 11th century and was further developed in Korea in the 12th century but a wooden block printing press for mass printing was invented by a German Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century.  It was only in the earlier part of 18th century that printed paper labels surfaced as a possibility but since adhesives to affix these labels were not available, their usage started later. By then lithography had developed, so directly metal printed containers started being used for packing and canning. Many products are still packed with modern canning processes using metal cans printed with the lithographic printing process. It was only in the 19th century that printed paper based labels started being used for labeling and packaging using natural gum based adhesive to stick the paper labels to glass, metal or paper based containers and packaging. These labels in an evolving label scenario are now referred to as Wet Glue Labels.

With increasing levels of literacy, growing population and growth of packaged products, mass production in factories has become an imperative. New glass, paper, metal and plastic based packages are being developed to catch the eye of demanding consumers. The aesthetics are enhanced by affixing colourful and attractive labels. Faster labeling and packaging methods evolved as also the need to have highly decorated labels to service the need of consumers. Driven by this demand labels have evolved into different tangents. Diverse and technical labeling technologies have emerged. Listed below are some of the prominent technologies that labels have presently evolved into;
  1. Pre printed labels on metal container
  2. Wet Glue Labels
  3. Self Adhesive Labels  
  4. Self adhesive Liner less Labels 
  5. Heat Transfer Labels
  6. Direct on product screen printed labels 
  7. Contact printing and stenciling
  8. Laser  engraved labels 
  9. Metal anodized labels 
  10. Shrink Sleeves 
  11. In Mould Label 
  12. Digital: Direct on product Labels 
  13. 3D Printed labels 
Pre printed labels on metal containers: Metal containers or cans are made from tin plate (steel
covered in a thin tin layer) or of Aluminum and steel coated with a lacquer. The labeling is done in any of the three different ways listed below;

  • Metal tinplate sheets are printed by offset process and then converted into containers.
  • Preformed round metal containers are printed using a curved surface printing machine. Each color of ink is placed on a different (plastic letterpress) plate, and then transferred to a single rubber blanket which re-transfers the inked image to a can allowing all colors to be printed at a time followed by ink curing and varnishing.
  • Preprinted labels of paper, film or foil are laminated to preformed cans. These labels can be printed by, flexo, offset, gravure, or digital printing processes. These can be highly decorated on high end hybrid narrow web presses having advanced finishing capabilities. These labels can be applied as full wrap around labels or part labels with the balance surface left coated to show a metallic lustrous effect.

Wet Glue Labels: These labels are also referred to as glue applied labels. These formed the mainstay
of product labeling until well into the middle of last century. Labels initially printed on letter press machines and later on offset presses, were gummed manually and applied to the bottles or containers.  In 1880 De La Rue came up with a machine for gumming labels but this had a problem as paper labels would curl as soon as they would come out with gum applied on it making it difficult to handle.  From my personal experience I can cite example of how our company adapted to manual gumming of labels. Our parent company was established in 1939 to produce fountain pen inks and office adhesive that were packed in glass bottles. To achieve optimum level of production we devised an interesting method of applying glue and labeling. Those days the final packing was done in wooden cases, corrugated boxes came much later. We took a wooden crate and turned it upside down, spread a full roll of surgical cotton on it and then covered it with a thick cotton cloth that was tightly fixed by nailing it all around. This was then dipped into water overnight with its face downwards. In the morning we would squeeze out the water and our gumming pad was ready. A thin solution in water of natural gum (Gum Acacia) that grows on trees was applied on the pad and then labels spread on it. We would have the unlabelled bottles on one side of this pad and with a little gum on the finger, which made it a little tacky, lift the evenly gummed label off the pad and place it on the bottle without any curl and put on the other side for further packaging.  Subsequently with development of high solid faster drying Dextrin based adhesive automatic machines to apply gum and dispense labels to the bottles were developed. This made large scale production on automated production lines possible.

 
 Direct on product screen printed labels: Screen printing saw growth in the Indian label scenario in the middle of last century. A lot of consumer product that shifted from glass to plastic packaging also opted for screen printed containers. However this did not last for many years as self adhesive labels with the high end decoration they offered soon became the preferred option. However screen printing on container is still in use but has limited application.


Self Adhesive Labels: In 1935 “Ray Stanton Avery” developed the self adhesive label also referred
to as Sticker or Pressure Sensitive Label. This label revolutionized the way how the world branded and labeled their products. The label basically consists of a face stock which could be paper film or foil, coated with a tacky non drying adhesive and protected with a backing also referred to as release liner. The label after printing and die cutting just needs to be lifted off the release liner and placed on the product achieving instant bond on applying pressure, unlike the wet glue labels that need drying after application otherwise they would shift and look bad. The self adhesive label industry has over the years evolved to offer a diverse range of labels catering to various industries and applications that include fmcg products, lubricants, cosmetics, food, Pharmaceuticals,  variable information, logistics, brand protection, etc. In the initial years these labels were printed and die-cut on slow flat bed letterpress presses and with time they are now printed on high speed flexo rotary or combination label presses with capability to decorate and finish the labels in line in a single pass delivering finished labels at the end of the line. These labels are used on high speed label dispensing machines adding to production volumes for end user.

Self adhesive Liner less Labels: Self adhesive labels as described above have an issue as regards the
environment. The release liner and waste matrix after die cutting is not generally recyclable, though efforts are being made in this direction. This waste goes either to the landfills or is incinerated impacting the environment adversely in both cases. Moreover if the liner can be done away with while converting this type of label, it will amount to cost saving and become eco friendly. Considerable amount of work has been done in this direction and various options are now available. The simplest one being to make a tape like product printed, and siliconised on one side and adhesive coated on the reverse and self wound. However these labels that can be cut with sharp corners, cannot be die cut and dispensed in regular labeling equipment. Many European and US based food companies are already using such liner less labels. There is development being done to overcome the challenges of die-cutting complex shapes and dispensing cost effectively.

Heat Transfer Labels: PET film that is precoated with special release lacquer is reverse printed by flexo, offset or gravure to form labels in roll form. The image is transferred onto the container or product using heat and pressure. The labels are a composition of inks and lacquers selected so as to perform to customer’s specific needs. On transfer these labels are just the image and no substrate is transferred. Many years ago Mumbai headquartered Paper Products Limited (now Huhtamaki PPL) commissioned this technology known as “Therimage” with help of Avery Dennison. Later with self adhesive label emerging as  very decorative in presentation, this technology lost its popularity. In recent times it has resurfaced. It is extensively being used by the pen industry.It is now being extended to garments and other product segments.


Contact printing and stenciling: In present times even the corrugated shipper cartons bear self
adhesive labels needed for identification, inventory control and logistic requirements. In earlier days as I mentioned, wooden cases were used as shipper cartons. People would write on them using marker pens but when need for aesthetics became important stencils were made of tin plate. They were placed on the wooden cases and ink brushed over them to imprint the required information. Later when corrugated boxes started to be used for final packaging, roller contact printers with changeable rubber types and foam ink rolls were available to print the information that could be changed by changing the type faces as per need. Once corrugated cartons replaced the bulk of outer packaging, these cartons started to be printed and self adhesive labels applied, if needed. Stenciling is still used where wooden crates are required for final packaging.

Laser engraved labels: Steel or other metal auto components, like bearings need to be branded, they cannot be labeled with paper or film labels. Only the secondary packaging can be branded, this can amount to duplication and counterfeits. For this reason laser engraved branding is preferred. A laser beam which is a very small, focused point of laser power effectively superheats a tiny point of a surface and removes part of the surface, creating a permanent engraving. This beam of light is controlled and moved to create a brand name or permanent design.




Metal anodized labels: These labels are used in applications where permanent product identification
is critical such as equipment nameplates, signage, safety/warning plates, machine control panels, etc. Abrasion and corrosion resistance anodized aluminum labels are produced by chemical etching on photo sensitive anodized Aluminum. These are mostly riveted on to the equipment or panels as they are required to last most of the life time of the equipment.

Shrink Sleeves: Shrink sleeves offer 360 degrees space for decoration and product information. They are made of either of these materials; Polyester, PE, PVC or PP. Pre printed film is welded to form a tube, cut to desired size of the bottle or container and applied over it. It is then exposed to a heat gun or passed through a heated shrink tunnel for the tube to shrink and attain the form of the bottle or container providing all around decoration. Shrink sleeve labels originated in 1965 and invented by Fuji Carpentry shop that were later named as Fuji Seal. The actual large scale usage of these sleeve labels commenced in the mid 1980s. According to Suresh Gupta Chairman of Huhtamaki PPL, shrink sleeves were brought to the Indian market in 1991 when Paper Products Limited (now Huhtamaki PPL), set up the plant with help from Fuji Film to make these in India. This segment continues to register a steady growth rate. Global growth is 6-7% but in India it is slightly more, given the size of the market. In India these are largely printed on gravure printing presses. However in recent times, in an effort to cater to short run customers who maybe large customers doing special editions or small and medium enterprises, printing is also being done on flexo presses and in some cases on digital label presses.

In Mould Labels: Paper or film printed labels (mostly filmic) are placed inside the moulds during
the molding process. After placing the label, molten plastic is injected into the mould. On cooling the label is fused with the resin, takes the shape of the so molded container and becomes an integral part of it. The labels referred to as IML can be printed and decorated by any of the processes i.e. Offset, Flexo Gravure or digital. The end result is a highly decorated container. These IML applied containers are used for Ice cream, butter, paints, food packaging, etc. According to research firm MarketsandMarkets, the global in-mold label (IML) market is projected to grow from $2.58 Billion in 2015 to $3.23 Billion by 2020, at an estimated CAGR of 4.54%. It is the fastest growing segment amongst the various label segments.



Digital, direct on product Labels: Digital printing has made its presence in all variants of label
printing and converting. From wet glue to self adhesive and in mould labels, digital printing is making inroads everywhere. Some years ago when I was interviewing Helmut Schreiner, the former Chairman of Schreiner Group, I asked him, “What do you see as the biggest threat to self adhesive label industry?” He became pensive and after deep thinking said, “It will be digital printing direct on the product”! It makes a lot of sense as we see the market slowly evolving in that direction. This will open up a whole lot of opportunities for the brand owners. No paper, no silicone, no adhesive, no dies, no tooling and yet the option to indulge in personalization and creativity! According to AlexanderWatson Associates, “It may, indeed, be a disruptive technology”. Direct to digital has been around for some time printing on textiles and ceramics. It is commonplace to see digitally printed fabrics and ceramic tiles. It has started to make inroads into the consumer product market and we need to wait and watch where it leads to.

 

3D Printed labels: This is another technology which may see computer controlled 3D characters and images on products and labels. It will make the imagination go wild on what all can be created. It is a process in which layers of material are formed under computer control process to create an object that can be of almost any shape formed by deposits of binder material onto a powder bed with inkjet printer heads layer by layer.




The evolution of labels has created a whole bouquet of technologies which still keep coming up in new avatars. No one technology can become the predominant one for label production. With labels diversifying into different tangents, label printers need to select the way forward so as to stay innovative and ahead of time. It is surely time to emerge out of the crowd and create a separate visible entity.

Written Exclusively for Label and Narrow Web magazine USA by Harveer Sahni, Chairman Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi November 2017. The article may not be reproduced without the magazine's or the author's permission.