Think of the relationship of ink to substrate as you would shampoo to scalp. If the wrong type of shampoo is used, it could result in dandruff. Likewise, if the wrong ink is being applied to a substrate the ink can fail with the result being the ink flaking off, much like dandruff. Fortunately, there are tests that can help identify both issues.
To test your scalp for flakes you can perform the scratch test. For the most accurate scalp scratch test results wear a black t-shirt and use a black light to identify debris while scratching. Signs that indicate this test is necessary are failed pickup lines that are obviously irresistible, kids walking behind you in the summer singing "its beginning to look a lot like Christmas," and other similar scenarios. When experiencing ink flaking, with uncured, or easily ablated inks, performing ASTM F2252-03, the tape test can determine if ink to substrate adhesion is acceptable. Poor ink or coating adhesion can affect the readability, functionality, and even cause contamination. The last thing any company wants is a label in-line or in the field with potential of failing inks. Whether there is a possibility for that ink to flake and contaminate an OR environment, make a critical instruction unreadable, or cause a cosmetic malfunction, the ASTM F2252-03 tape test can help identify these risks upfront.
There is much more behind the ASTM F2252-03 test than just a piece of tape and a mini tug-o-war contest. To avoid poor results it is necessary to be as consistent as possible in performing the test. The ASTM F2252-03 test only requires 0.75-1.0" wide 3M #610 tape for testing water based inks, 3M #810 tape for testing UV inks, and a mutual understanding of how to use the tape when testing. Having an understanding at both the printer and the end user about how the test is performed and how to interpret the results is critical in making this an effective and valuable test method.
Developing that standard conditioning test is important. Typical things to consider are as follows:
- An adequate sample size to be tested should be determined
- Conditioning consistency of the sample; ambient temperature, moisture exposure, ink cure time, amount of time tape is applied, etc.
- The substraight age and properties remains constant. (Note; the same test on a one year old material has potential to vary significantly from a three year old material. Surface energy treatments can diminish over time.)
Here is how to administer the test:
I suppose your question now is what to do if your tape looks like it just picked up half of the confetti from Bourbon Streets Mardi Gras celebration after the Super Bowl? If this occurs be sure to communicate that all possible variables have been standardized. Then it will be in the producer's hands to provide the user with an adequate solution. This could be one of any of the following things:
- Increase the allowable cure time for the inks prior to performing the tape test.
- Increase the surface energy (AKA Dyne Level) of the material by using Corona treatment, material primer, a different manufacturer's raw material, ect…
- Check the inks being applied. Resins for film substrates are usually softer than those used on paper to enable better adhesion. Be sure the right one is being used.
- Switch the inks being applied. For example, Water based to UV
Switching shampoo's to get rid of dandruff seems simple, but just changing the shampoo doesn't necessarily mean the dandruff will go away. It's important that the right switch is made to eliminate the flakes. This is very similar to ink adhesion issues. There are a lot of variables and because the issue has been identified doesn't mean there is a clear cut solution. Use the ASTM F2252-03 tape test as an indicative measure and, if there is a failure, work closely with the printer until the test is passed.
Questions #3, #4 and #5 that will help keep you out of trouble!
Question #3: How are these labels going to be applied?
Out of all 5 questions, this is probably the most overlooked. At the very least, just determining if it is hand applied vs. auto applied will go a long way. Hand applied doesn't need much altering, but if auto applied then one needs to start asking the following questions:
- Equipment details. Make and Model of the label applicator, label presenter (peels back a label for one at a time manual application) or any other related equipment i.e. Surface Mount Technology (SMT) that automatically picks and places the label in the desired location.
- Label size –vs. - equipments min/max label requirement. Does it fit what your equipment can handle? You need to be sure the label fits within your applicator equipment's capabilities.
- Label orientation on the liner. How do you want your label to peel off the liner when it will be applied by your auto applicators? This matters because if your label doesn't have a straight edge sometimes this can pose issues with the applicator's method of identifying when the label begins on the roll and where it ends. Applicators typically have optical sensors and when the label comes along its optic path then it knows it needs to peel it off and apply. I find that we typically want the label to come off the liner from a side that has a straight edge. If no side is perfectly straight, then leading off with the side closest to being a straight edge.
Liner Material - You might say "why does this matter? I can remove it with my hand easily so why can't my equipment do the same?" Actually some liners just flat out do not work with certain types of auto apply environments. Some liners such as a standard Kraft paper liner do not have the required amount of release to work well in an auto apply environment. This is due to the paper's rougher surface in combination with the standard amount of silicone liner release added by raw material suppliers standard silicone isn't a fit. For instance, a PCB board build application that is using label auto feeder/presenter equipment that will integrate with an SMT applicator. The SMT applicator places labels and all of the tiny little electronic pieces via a nozzle and suction. It actually sucks the label off the liner and then places on the board release suction and places with pressure. If the liner doesn't have enough release designed into it, then what can potentially occur is label misplacement, non placement and then without fail the labels will jam up and the line will stop and you will have to fix a messy pile up of labels that would rival any LA Highway car pileup during rush hour traffic.
The goal is to get enough release that will work in your auto apply environment and avoid painful label jams and line shut downs. I can also tell you that your process engineers will be very grateful of this. Or give us a call and we can help you avoid those messy traffic jams.
Question #4: What is the Temperature and Environment the Label will be exposed to?
First of all, it is important to understand what the environment temperature is and the surface temperature the label will be exposed to. When looking at the Surface temperature it's important to remember that you have different temps to consider:
- Application temperature - Temperature of the product surface at the time the label is applied.
- Resting temperature - When the equipment isn't in operation or idle.
- Service Operational temperature - What is the temperature of the surface when the product is being used?
Why is this important? Well, let's take an electric motor as an example. If you put a label on a electric motor, the label will work just fine at its environment and surface's resting temperature, but once the motor is turned on and running, it's going to get a heck of a lot hotter! We don't want to have your good looking label come sliding off your product due to the adhesive's inability to handle the heat.
Finally, what is the overall environment the label will see? Is the label going to be used in an indoor or outdoor application? If outdoor, find out what weather elements it will be exposed to as we will take a vastly different design approach if the label will face an extreme environment. For example, if your label has the unfortunate luck to spend its life on an oil rig platform off the Northern Coast of Britain facing off against the regular battering of salt spray, high winds, rain and cold air. A label that was designed to be a decorative label affixed to the top of a data cabinet living it's lifespan within the confines of the comfortable controlled indoor environment of a data center, will not fare well.
Question #5: Does the label require UL/CSA or any other specific certifications?
Before we go through determining what material will work best, understanding any agency certification requirements is important. Knowing if UL/CSA is required the
beginning of the project and not close to the end will help you avoid any potential delays in product launches. Going through any UL or CSA material certification can take a LONG time. What is a long time?? Well I could finish an Iron Man triathlon (and I don't think I could ever finish one) before the label part would be certified by UL. Okay, maybe that's not the best analogy. I find that six weeks seems to be about average.
Just because you have a UL requirement doesn't necessarily mean you will face the long lead-times. I have some good news for you! Many times we already have suitable materials that have been tested and certified to the UL/CSA and the various agencies or specific industry testing criteria. This will save you from being at the mercy of UL. So to avoid product launch delays due to an agency certification, please be sure to factor in potential 6 weeks lead-time when facing UL and try to make material selections at the front end and avoid any last minute material change.
If you take the time to carefully answer these 5 questions… (Or simply contact one of our trained professionals) you will be saying to yourself "I have a grip on these darn little labels" in no time.
Underwriters Laboratories or UL is an independent product safety certification organization that has been in business since 1894 and is headquartered in Northbrook, IL. UL has developed numerous standards and test procedures for products, materials, components, assemblies, tools and equipment, mainly dealing with product safety. UL also evaluates and certifies the efficiency of a company's business processes through its management system registration programs.
UL is one of several companies approved for such testing by the U.S. Federal Agency OSHA. OSHA maintains a list of approved testing laboratories, known as Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories.
Most OEM companies have pressure sensitive labels on their parts that require UL approval or must meet the UL standard. If so, the company will be required to follow the UL969 standards. These requirements would cover any adhesive based material applied to the product. This would also include any unprinted label materials, laminates and inks used by label printers that produce the finished pressure sensitive label.
The Canadian Standards Association or CSA is a not-for-profit membership-based association serving business, industry, government and consumers in Canada and the global marketplace with a history dating back to 1919. CSA marks mean a product has been tested and meets applicable standards for safety and/or performance, including the applicable standards written or administered by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), NSF International (NSF), and others.
UL tests products to the Canadian Standard, CSA C22.2 No. 0.15, "Adhesive Labels". Since the CSA Standard includes test methods that differ from UL 969, additional testing is necessary to grant a Canadian Recognition. Once approved UL will mark the product as C-UL approved.
If you are not familiar on how to submit product to UL for testing, please visit www.ul.com and click on Product Submittal Process FAQ under "New To UL". This will answer any questions you have regarding the submittal process.
UL costing is determined on the amount of work required for the test. Pricing is determined by number of surfaces, constructions, etc. involved in the test. Testing can take anywhere from 12 – 25 weeks to complete depending on the amount of work required for the test.
Advanced Web is a leading supplier to the OEM industry and has one of the broadest ranges of UL/CSA approved materials in the industry. Through compliance with UL testing, certification standards, and follow-up audits, we are able to ease end-user concerns about the safety and quality of thousands of hi-performance products.
You can find a list of all of Advanced Web's UL approved materials at www.ul.com. To locate the listing, click on the "certifications" tab on the home page and enter Advanced Web in the search box. Then choose the link to the file that is most appropriate for your application.
Advanced Web offers over 40 UL Certified constructions that are suitable for various applications such as:
- Warning Labels
- Branding Labels
- Emissions Labels
- Cord Labels
These labeling constructions are each uniquely equipped to function in various environments:
- Indoor Only Labels
- Indoor Only – Thermal Imprintable Labels
- Indoor/Outdoor Labels
- Indoor/Outdoor – Thermal Imprintable Labels
By partnering with Underwriters Laboratories Inc., (UL®) Advanced Web is able to provide assurance that the materials we source through our supply chain meet the performance requirements of OEMs, retailers and most importantly – end-users. Through compliance with UL testing (test methods UL969), certification standards, and follow-up audits, we are able to ease end-user concerns about the safety and quality of thousands of high-performance products.
During World War II, a significant consideration was made to be sure that critical equipment was properly marked and color coded according to parameters designated at that time. To help avoid the risk of “friendly fire”, aircrafts were marked with distinctive colors or stripes so they could easily be recognized during intense military operations. This was only the beginning of the need for standardization!
As we all know, workplace safety is critical to the manufacturing industry. To help prevent accidents, standard color codes have been developed for manufacturers and machinery that provides a standard message to all workers. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and has served as administrator of the US private sector standardization system for over 90 years. What began as the “American War Standard” published in 1945, the ANSI standard ensures that the characteristics and performance of products are consistent. It requires companies to use the same definitions/terms and that products are tested the same way.
How many ANSI/OSHA Safety Colors are there out there and what do they represent? Listed below are the primary Safety Colors currently used in the OEM market today:
- Red – Designates “danger”, “stop” and the location of fire protection equipment and apparatus.
- Yellow – Designates “caution” for making physical hazards such as: striking against, stumbling, falling, tripping and “caught in between”.
- Orange – Designates “warning” and dangerous parts of machinery or energized equipment which could cause injury.
- Green – Designates “safety” and the location of first aid equipment.
- Blue – Warning against starting or moving equipment under repairs.
- Purple – Designates radiation hazards.
- Black/White – Designates traffic and housekeeping markings.
The OEM industry must follow these designated safety colors under ANSI Z535. This standard was developed to provide the specifications and requirements to create uniformity of safety color coding, environmental/facility safety signs, and communicating safety symbols. It also enables the design, application, use, and placement of product safety signs, labels, tags and barricade tape.
The word "audit" has been tied to our beloved IRS since I can remember. When one typically thinks of this five letter word, I would assume a little fear comes to mind.
People are accustomed to linking audits with men who have shiny jet black hair, sunglasses darker than Guinness beer and nicely pressed black suits. Do Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones from Men in Black come to mind? Now that I have digressed, let's go to the reason I am actually writing this lovely article, shall we?
Many of you may not know that Advanced Web offers a very unique service to our customers and/or prospects. This value added service is more commonly known as a Label Audit. In short, the end goal of performing the audit is to help us deepen our understanding on the specs of each label. By doing so it enables us to analyze the data and recommend solutions which will help streamline customer ordering patterns for better economic decisions.
We break down the audit into five different categories. They are design elements, materials, secondary operations, procurement process and workflow process. If I included all the things we look for within each category, you'd be reading this until you retire. Anyway, here are a few key bullets inside each.
- Determine which software is used for artwork creation
- Do common plates/colors exist for any parts
- Any known restrictions which would keep the label from being printed Flexo
- Material the label is being applied to (polyester, polyethylene, etc.)
- Face stock properties (paper or film, gloss or matte)
- Adhesive properties (permanent or removable, application temperature)
- Liner (hand or machine applied, lay flat requirements)
- Durability needs
- Sterilization methods
- Final packaging process
- Forecast and release quantity
- Supplier Managed Inventory (SMI)
- Shipping methods/terms
- Label documentation and Rev level system
- Proofing type and signoff process
- First Article requirements
In ending, this service is yet another integral part of what differentiates us from the competition. It allows us to use our experience and expertise in the industry. By doing so, we earn credibility and it demonstrates that we truly have the customers' best interest in mind. Now you'll have to please excuse me as I need to run to the dry cleaners to pick up my freshly ironed suit.