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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Archive for the ‘Bumper Sticker Printing’ Category

Custom Label Printing Options

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Custom label printing is sexy. No, really. Here are two quotes from LabFax.co.uk (from “Resilience Shown by Label Industry As Positive Signs Predict Growth in 2012-2013”):

“There are few industries which are showing positive signs of growth and the label industry is one of them. With a 2.5 percent growth predicted for 2012-2013, the American label sector is continuing to thrive due to constant innovation and methods to improve quality and quantity with reduced costs.”

“The newspaper printing business might be going down due to readers following more technological advances, but due to a huge food and beverage market in the United States, label printing continues to drive the economy.”

Bottom line? Businesses need labels to market their services and products and to operate their facilities. And labels are physical, printed objects that can’t exist exclusively on a tablet or smartphone.

I think this is exciting, and I think it’s supported by the dynamic growth in digital printing. While flexography and screen printing had been the technologies of choice in prior years, new digital presses (both inkjet and laser) can now print one label, or thousands of labels, while adding variable data information to each item, without the set-up charges of the older printing methods. Infinitely variable digital die cutting can even bypass the expensive step of creating metal dies to cut the exterior border of the custom labels.

And should the job require a long run without variable data, flexography and custom screen printing are still viable options and can potentially be more cost-effective than digital printing.

A Plethora of Options for Custom Labels

Here’s a short list of some of the label products available:

Property Identification Labels: These identify equipment, furniture, and other business assets. They can be numbered or barcoded sequentially, and they can be printed on plastic or metal foil substrates.

Bumper Stickers: These are actually custom labels as well. You can buy bumper stickers on a more durable, weather-resistant vinyl material, rather than on paper, and you can even laminate them for increased protection.

Dome Labels: These are custom labels with a raised polyurethane dome over each label. The dome gives a 3D appearance to the artwork on the label.

RFID Labels: These require an integrated system of labels, “readers,” and software, but they allow wireless transfer of data (without physical contact) using radio-frequency electromagnetic fields.

Wine Labels: With or without metallic foil treatments, these custom labels are unique in their requirements. The adhesive must stick to cold, wet bottles, and the ink cannot bleed or smear.

Food Labels: Similar to custom bottle labels, these must not contaminate the food within the packaging, so issues of toxicity must be carefully considered and controlled.

Window Decals: These include adhesive labels and static cling labels (which attach to windows and mirrors with only a static charge and no adhesive). Window decals must not degrade when exposed to sunlight and moisture, so color-fastness of inks and durability of substrates are a consideration.

Tamper-proof Security Labels: Some of these custom labels include holograms. Their goal is to deter tampering or even to self-destruct when an attempt is made to remove the labels.

Some Things to Consider When Specifying Labels

  1. Label Shape (round, oblong, rectangular, or rectangular with rounded corners). A good way to save money is to choose standard shapes and sizes using pre-made, rather than custom made, dies. Or ask your commercial printing supplier about laser die cutting.
  2. Label Ink Colors (one-color, two-color, process color). Some vendors will offer a limited color palette but will provide any PMS color for a surcharge. Ask about the printing method: screen printing, flexography, or digital printing.
  3. Material (plastic or metal foil). Think about durability. Will the labels be used outside, in heat or in cold?
  4. Special Finishing Treatment (embossing, die cutting). Do you want a special treatment for a seal used on a certificate, for instance?
  5. Numbering of Labels (consecutive, random, with added barcodes). Accuracy in numbering is crucial, so make sure your vendor can handle this aspect of printing.
  6. Adhesive (removable, permanent). Some labels will even stick to metal engines or cold, wet wine bottles.
  7. Presentation (rolls, sheets, fan-fold sheets). Think about how the custom labels will be applied. Any kind of automated application equipment may require a particular presentation of labels on a roll or sheet.
  8. Intended Use (inside, outside, in extreme temperature conditions). This pertains to the adhesive, the substrate, and potentially the coating (such as a laminate).

As with any printed product, ask for samples and test them. Talk with your commercial printing vendor about the intended use and ambient conditions, as well as the presentation of any variable-data information. Labels need to be functional first and attractive second.

Sticker Printing and Label Printing: More Options Than You Might Think

Friday, August 5th, 2011

What do you need to know about printing custom stickers? It seems this would be a fairly straightforward genre of printing, but there are actually a number of things to consider when buying custom stickers (or labels).

Consider the intended use of the sticker.

For indoor use, such as a name badge or a label for a large envelope, 70# matte or gloss label stock should be fine. (This is often referred to by its brand name, “Crack’n Peel,” since you bend the paper to break the backing away from the label, and then just peel away the backing sheet.)

Crack’n Peel labels are ideal for light-duty uses, since you will not be exposing the paper to moisture or scuffing. Of course, you would also need to specify the number of ink colors and the size of the custom sticker. Most printing companies start small with uniform sizes, such as 2” x 3/5” and go up incrementally, although you can also specify a custom size for sticker printing.

More durable substrates exist for demanding uses.

For more demanding uses, you will need more durable label stock. A wine bottle label, for instance, would require a stock that can adhere to a cold, wet bottle. A label used on food packaging may need to be printed on a similar stock for the same reasons. So in addition to the press run, ink colors, etc., describe to your business printing vendor the final use for the custom sticker or label.

Custom stickers used outside, such as campaign and political stickers, may be printed on vinyl substrates rather than paper. This material will withstand sunlight, moisture, etc., particularly if laminated.

For really demanding uses in extreme conditions, such as for labels in factories, you might even choose matte anodized aluminum coated with an acrylic adhesive, which will bond to plastic and bare metal surfaces. These labels resist abrasion, solvents, and extreme temperatures.

You can also specify that the custom stickers be printed on a clear vs. white substrate, and you can have them printed within diecut circles, ovals, squares, or rectangles. Also consider whether you want the label or sticker printing run to be provided in sheets or rolls. If you choose rolls, be sure you specify your preferred unwind position (the orientation of the custom sticker on the roll) on the quote requests you send your printing companies.

You can even add numbering or bar coding. Let’s say you need sequentially numbered stickers for bags of platelets in a blood drive. More than likely, such labels will need to have a metal foil backing adhesive to stay put whether the bags are in the lab or the refrigerator.

Printing Methods

Prior to the advent of digital printing, printing companies produced labels and stickers on flexographic presses. That is, rubber plates attached to press rollers printed the images on the label stock. This was a relief process (raised lettering and graphics on the rubber plates). You could often identify the flexographic printing by the thicker ink “stroke” around the images and letterforms (offset printing would not have this outline around the graphic elements). But recently, printing companies with laser imaging equipment (including high-end xerographic presses such as the HP Indigo) and inkjet presses can produce custom stickers for their clients as well.

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