An adhesive label is much more than a pretty identifier you slap onto secondary packaging. It can also provide instructions for safe use, preserve brand integrity, and foster consumer loyalty.
Given how much important information can be communicated with a label, it’s vital that you account for all the factors that influence its performance.
Here are the top performance factors for commercial adhesive labels.
Quality & Type of Materials
The quality and type of materials you employ with adhesive labels is essential. Whether the substrate you’re using is plastic, traditional paperboard, or a sustainable tree-free alternative, composition matters.
For example, plastic substrates such as polypropylene and polyethylene do not bond well with acrylic-based adhesives. As a result, this may not provide the desired destructibility alternatively offered by a rubber-based adhesive.
Material texture also factors into an adhesive label’s performance. If utilizing pressure-sensitive adhesive labels, the substrate surface must be smooth enough to provide thorough contact with the label. Rough surfaces make it difficult for pressure-sensitive labels to adhere because the coarse texture reduces the amount of surface area coming in contact with the adhesive.
For instance, pebbled plastic and corrugated boxes are problematic surfaces for pressure-sensitive adhesive labels. If your preferred substrate consists of a rougher material, more aggressive adhesives can be implemented, as well, to offset the lack of surface contact.
Also, don’t overlook the impact packaging shape has on adhesive labels. When being applied, pressure-sensitive adhesive labels need a short period of time to move onto a substrate’s surface and properly adhere. If a rigid label is being placed on a curved surface, for instance, the label may bend upwards before it has sufficient time to attach to the substrate surface. This concern is compounded by using more coarse surfaces. To remedy the situation, consider using more intense adhesives or less stiff labels.
Printing quality depends on finding an experienced manufacturer that understands the process of creating effective adhesive labels—accounting for cleanliness, environmental conditions, temperature at application, and expected life use.
As you can imagine, the tidiness of a printing and packaging manufacturer’s working environment plays a big role in how well an adhesive label adheres to its substrate. Contaminants such as oils, dust, dirt, and other foreign elements can undermine the adhesion process.
If you can’t tour a printer’s facility before partnering on a project (less an issue with domestic printing partners), inquire about the cleanliness of their operations and whether you can see photos. This should give you a better idea of how seriously they take their craft. Notably, mold release agents and plasticizers, for example, are foreign contaminants that will reduce the life of the adhesive or compromise its performance.
In some cases, contaminants might be inherent in an essential manufacturing process. If that’s the case, special adhesives can be utilized to counteract the potential hazard.
Perhaps the most common environmental conditions that threaten to weaken adhesive strength is humidity or wetness. Since paper materials can absorb moisture through direct contact or from the air, manufacturers have to take special precautions to keep facilities dry. Moisture can also prevent barcodes and sophisticated inks from working properly, and cause paper to deteriorate entirely.
Again, identify a manufacturer who is serious about their working conditions.
Additionally, many labels can be laminated with a clear polyester or injected with resin or latex to enhance durability and water resistance.
Temperature at Application
Be sure to ask your manufacturer about the temperature level the substrate is typically at when applying adhesive labels because that can impact the bonding process.
For example, adhesives will quickly fall off or fail to properly attach at all if applied at temperatures below the freezing point of a given adhesive. The most common temperature range for pressure-sensitive adhesive labels is between 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, although some specialty adhesives can work well at temperatures between 10 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Expected Life Use
Commercial labels are exposed to a wide variety of environmental conditions throughout their lifetime, from the moment they are printed or manufactured to the time consumers dispose of them. You need to account for which conditions your packaging is likely to encounter when choosing appropriate label and adhesive materials.
Items that are going to be stored in cold temperatures, such as labels for outdoor winter products, for instance, might require a special adhesive that wouldn’t be considered for those stored at room temperature.
Similarly, if your label is on a health or beauty product, it will likely need to withstand the humidity encountered in a bathroom or routine abrasions from being carried in a person’s pocket or luggage, among other unique situations.
A Word on Decorative Effects
Now don’t forget the impact decorative effects have on adhesive label performance, either. As you might surmise, some specialty inks and finishes are more abrasion resistant or durable than others. For instance, strikethrough and reticulating varnish deliver a high gloss finish while offering superior rub resistance.
On the other hand, some effects, such as embossing, which involves tactile visuals that rise up from the substrate surface, are likely to make your packaging more vulnerable to wear and tear. Rather than distribute weight or contact across the entire substrate, impact ends up concentrating on the embossed elements, opening them up to greater damage.
A reliable printing and packaging manufacturer should be able to help you determine which decorative effects are most appropriate for your particular adhesive label situation.
So whether it’s the quality and type of materials used, printing capabilities, or decorative effects, they should be able to help you account for the many factors that impact adhesive label performance, ensuring your consumers stick around.