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Understanding Labels: Label Components - What Makes Up A Label?

Understanding Labels: Label Components - What Makes Up A Label?

Understanding Labels: Label Components - What Makes Up A Label?

Each component of a label's construction plays a critical role in it's overall performance.  We'll explain each component, what it does, and why it's important.

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Hi – I’m Carrie Myrick – I’m part of the account management team here at General Data.

I’m here to talk about labels.  We all know what labels are, and what they are used for, but today I want to talk about what makes up a label. Each component of a label’s construction plays a critical role in its overall performance.  I’d like to briefly explain each component, what it does, and why its important.

Think of a label as being made up of different layers, with each layer having its own specific purpose and function.  In general, a label is made up of three layers:

  1. The facestock – which receives the printed text, image or barcode.
  2. The adhesive – which is applied underneath the facestock, and enables it to stick to the surface its being applied to,
  3. And the coatings or topcoat – which goes on top of the facestock, and can perform various functions, including enhanced printability and resistance to moisture, chemicals, and other environmental factors.

Let’s start with the facestock. 

Paper is the most widely used, as it is the least expensive and most friendly to the various printing technologies, including direct thermal, thermal transfer, laser and inkjet.  You find paper labels everywhere – most common are the 4 x 6 shipping labels you see on UPS or FedX shipments.  But paper does have its limitations.  Its not very durable, it has very little moisture resistance, and it can tear easily.  So paper is generally recommended for short term applications or in controlled environments.

If you are looking for more durability, then you want a film-based facestock.  There’s a lot of different films out there that are used in labels, and each is suited for specific applications and environments.

There’s polyethylene, which is a tough, stretchy plastic film that offers good chemical and moisture resistance, as well as resistant to tears and punctures. 

Polypropylene takes that resistance to chemicals and tearing one step further.  It also is better suited for outdoor applications.

Polyester and Vinyl are the toughest films available, and are the most expensive.  They provide the best resistance to tearing, chemicals, temperatures, and UV exposure.

Now let’s talk about adhesives.

The most important thing to know about adhesives is that how they perform is entirely dependent on the surface that they are applied to.  Many people make the mistake of seeing a label with a “removable adhesive” and think that it can be cleanly removed from any surface.  Not so!  An adhesive that is designed to remove cleanly from a glass surface will not do the same when applied to corrugated, for example. 

Adhesives run the gamut from general-purpose permanent or removable to those designed for specific applications, including freezer-based applications, direct or indirect food contact, high-tack adhesives, and those specially designed for harsh or extreme applications or environments.

Again, always know what surface the label is being applied to so you can make sure you have the right adhesive for the application.

Topcoats or other coatings are applied to the top of the facestock and perform many functions, including print receptivity and resistance to moisture, solvents, and UV.

A label can have more than 1 coating or topcoat, and often do.  In addition, a label can have a clear film overlaminate that provides even more durability.  There’s a wide variety of coatings, topcoats, laminates, and combinations of them for virtually any application.

Finally – I need to briefly mention the liner.  Though not technically part of the label itself, it serves as a carrier for the label and controls how the label is released.  There are different types of liners for different purposes, and there are also “linerless” labels – labels that are self-wound and don’t use a liner, eliminating the waste of discarded liner.

So that’s an overview of what makes up a label.  If you have any questions, or would like to take a “deeper dive” and know more detail about any of these areas, just let us know and any of our account managers would be happy to help.

I’m Carrie Myrick, and thanks for watching!