The world of packaging & labeling is quite complicated and can be littered with complex terms and legalese. The origins of the USA’s current regulatory framework can be traced back to the Uniform Packaging and Labeling Regulation (UPLR) that was first adopted in 1952. The UPLR requires that consumer packaging bear a label specifying the following:
- the identity of the commodity
- the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor
- the net quantity of contents in terms of weight, mass measure, or numerical count is in a uniform location upon the principal display panel
UPLR has precise definitions for seemingly simple and straightforward terms like “package” or “label.” Select terms you may find useful are defined and explained below. For a complete list of terms along with their definitions and exceptions, please refer to the relevant section in NIST Handbook 130.
The term “package,” whether standard package or random package, means any commodity: (a) enclosed in a container or wrapped in any manner in advance of wholesale or retail sale, or (b) whose weight or measure has been determined in the wholesale or retail sale. An individual item or lot of any commodity on which a selling price is marked based on an established price per unit of weight or measure shall be considered a package or packages.
Consumer Package or Consumer Commodity
A package that is:
- customarily produced or distributed for sale through retail sales agencies or for consumption
- used by individuals for the purposes of personal care
- used in the performance of services ordinarily rendered in or about the household
- used in connection with personal possessions
A package that is a lot, shipment, or delivery of packages of the same consumer commodity with no fixed pattern of net contents.
Any written, printed, or graphic matter affixed to, applied to, attached to, blown into, formed, molded into, embossed on, or appearing upon or adjacent to a consumer commodity, or a package containing any consumer commodity, for purposes of branding, identifying, or giving any information concerning the product or the contents of the package.
Principal Display Panel(s)
The part(s) of a label that is designed to most likely be displayed, presented, shown, or examined under the usual and customary display and purchase conditions. Wherever a principal display panel appears more than once on a package, all requirements about the “principal display panel” shall pertain to all such “principal display panels.”
A package containing two or more individual packages of the same commodity, in the same quantity, is intended to be sold as a multi-unit package, but where the component packages are labeled individually in full compliance with all requirements of this regulation.
A package intended for retail sale, containing two or more individual packages or units of different commodities. Examples: antiquing or housecleaning kit sponge and cleaner lighter fluid and flints.
A package intended for retail sale, containing two or more individual packages or units of similar, but not identical, commodities. Commodities that are generically the same, but that differ in weight, measure, volume, appearance, or quality, are considered similar, but not identical. Examples: two sponges of different sizes or plastic tableware, consisting of four spoons, four knives, and four forks.
A spot label is a label clearly defined utilizing a border, indentation, or other means that cover only a small portion of the surface of a principal display panel of a package; the entire portion of the principal display panel outside the area of the label contains no printed or graphic matter of any kind. A spot label may provide all required labeling information (identity, responsibility, and net contents), but it must at least indicate the identity and net contents.
A header label or header strip is a label that is attached across the top of a transparent or opaque bag or other containers that bears no other printed or graphic material.
A package that is one of a lot, shipment, or delivery of parcels of the same commodity with identical net content declarations. Examples: 1 L bottles or 12 fl. oz cans of carbonated soda, or 500 g or 5 lb. bags of sugar.
Have Questions or Looking to Print Labels In-House?
The labeling process can be timely, expensive, and cumbersome – but it doesn’t have to be. Like with anything, the more you understand about the labeling process, the more you can work on integrating efficiencies.
When you step back and look at your current labeling process, have you considered hidden labeling costs? Do you actually know the total cost per label? Is your operation as efficient as it could be?
Stop Wasting Unnecessary Time and Money –
understand your print costs
While it’s true an estimated print job varies technology to technology, there are variables to keep in mind when it comes to the actual ink costs, regardless of the specific technology.
- Size of the image
- Ink/color coverage breakdown- what amount of coverage are you looking for?
- Price per ink/toner cartridge – and approximate number of labels printable with a full ink cartridge
It’s important to note the type(s) of material(s) are important too and will ultimately play into the total cost per label but to keep things simpler, let’s focus on ink costs specifically.
How Are Ink Costs Calculated?
When it comes to digital printing, the process of estimating ink costs is done differently depending on the technology used – inkjet vs. toner.
Inkjet: A manual process where the label image is rendered and offers a breakdown of the amount of cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y), and black (K) the image is comprised of. Based on this breakdown of colors, a cost per page (CPP) is provided along with an estimate of the expected ink costs over the lifetime of the printer.
Toner: A manual process where a PDF of the label image is loaded into a proprietary software tool which determines the percentage coverage of the area of a label for each toner cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y), black (K) and white (W). A CPP is provided with a cost breakdown for each toner and other supplies such as the fuser unit and transfer belt.
It’s worth noting for either digital technology, the cost is calculated based on an average – not based on an individual label. This is because, over the lifetime of the printer, there’s bound to be extra ink consumption- from the automatic printhead cleanings and maintenance, ensuring optimal print quality to the toner particles that’ll inevitably stick to internal hardware to electrostatic charge. While these totals are typically insignificant, it’s essential to receive an average ink cost estimate to account for these things to ensure the best accuracy.
Want to get a better idea of your ink costs?
See how you could be saving money with a free ink cost calculation
For a free ink cost calculation, simply send us your label artwork and receive an accurate, complete cost per label – including ink and label materials. Stop wasting label materials, time, and money.
Learn more and find out how much you could be saving on ink costs and improve efficiencies and productivity today!
Once you’re aware of the different printing technologies and the pros and cons each one offers, here are some helpful tips for identifying which tabletop label printer fits your application needs.
If you’re unsure which print technology is right for you, you can find more detailed information on that here.
I understand the different printing technologies and their pros & cons, now how do I buy a tabletop label printer that fits my needs?
Now that you’re aware of the three key technologies available in a desktop format for printing color labels, how do you go about selecting the right printing technology and model for your unique application?
Start by looking at your product:
Consider its container size(s) and your favorite look and colors. Do you prefer your labels to have a shiny, glossy look, or perhaps a semi-gloss or a matte look is more appropriate? Will printing colors on white label substrate do the job, or does your product require you to print on clear or colored substrates of different textures? Nobody else knows your product or your branding requirements like you do, so only you can make that decision. This will ultimately help you arrive at the necessary label sizes that you’ll need and the vital elements of your label artwork.
Decide on your product packaging, transportation, and storage through its journey from the manufacturing location to the end-consumer:
Are there any special environmental conditions to consider? For example, does your product need refrigeration requiring labels that must withstand water droplets due to condensation? Will the product labels need to withstand prolonged exposure to moisture or sunlight? Do the labels need to withstand exposure to certain chemicals that perhaps makeup part of your product? In addition to helping you select the right printing technology, these choices may influence your material preference and the adhesive backing.
Estimate Print Volumes:
Based on the sales forecast of all your SKUs, estimate your daily, weekly, or monthly print volumes by label size. Also, consider what a typical print run would be like. For example, let’s say you print 1000 labels of 4×3 in four separate print jobs on almost a daily basis. That is useful information.
Consider Variable Data:
Do you need your tabletop color label printer to print variable data information on your labels, i.e., serial numbers, dates, lot codes, etc.? If so, you’ll want your vendor to provide labeling software that’ll help you meet these specific requirements.
How will you be applying labels?
Will you be applying labels to your product(s) by hand, or by using an automatic label applicator? Which is the most efficient option for your labeling and production needs?
Once you’ve given the above questions a thought, you’re ready to shop around for an appropriate label printer as an educated buyer. Some tips as you browse websites for printer specifications and contact label printer manufacturers or distributors:
Do they carry printers based on a single technology or different technologies?
Printer manufacturers/distributors who only carry one printing technology are more likely to push for their technology/product than look out for your needs.
Do they offer a total solution, for instance, label material supplies, software, and technical support along with the printers and ink?
If they do, they are more likely to ensure that the right printer is selected for your needs, and is functional so they can earn revenues from inks and materials. Like document printers, label printers are a very competitive segment, and hardware sales are typically made at very thin margins. By ensuring the printers, the inks, and the labels are engineered and tested for compatibility will ensure a longer lifetime of your investment.
Do they offer free remote web-based support?
Think of your label printer as a production machine that will invariably require some periodic maintenance and upkeep. Search for available support videos on the company’s website or YouTube channel, or sometimes it may be easier to call, email, chat, or have a live web-based conference call. Do they offer the kind of support you’re looking for?
Does the printer company provide labeling software as well?
If you have any special or unique software requirements now or in the future, consider how much easier it’ll be for you to deal with a single vendor to ensure software and hardware are compatible.
Questions? Let us know, we’re here to help!
At AstroNova, we offer a total labeling solution. We provide the tools you need to integrate production efficiencies into your business and keep up with industry demands from a wide variety of label printers, materials, technical support, training, and a library of support videos. Contact us to schedule a free, web-based demonstration and to speak with one of our specialists!
New to Printing In-House, Or Considering Making the Change for Your Business? It’s Important to Understand the Key Differences in Printing Technologies
While no single printing technology is perfect for all applications, it’s important to understand your specific application and the unique challenges it presents. From there, you can find the best printing solution specific to your needs.
There are a variety of printing technologies on the market today, but which one is the best fit for your business or personal needs?
What are the different fundamental printing technologies used in desktop color label printers?
There are three fundamental printing technologies used in desktop label printing: Water Based Inkjet (WBIJ), Electrophotographic (EP), and Thermal Transfer (TT). Let’s take a deeper dive into each one and examine the attributes that make each of them unique in the world of printing:
Originally a photocopying technique, EP technology (also called laser or LED printing) provided a way to do higher volume document printing at faster speeds and lower maintenance frequency. Instead of using light reflected from an original document as in the old photocopiers, a laser (sometimes an LED) was used to translate computer data into light pulses that would expose a light-sensitive, photo-conducting drum or belt. The coloring agents used in electrophotographic systems are called toners. They come in two forms – dry and liquid. Dry toners are used in all desktop and office printer/copier systems. Both dry and liquid toner systems are used in electrophotographic digital presses. Dry toners consist of pigments or dyes embedded inside polymer beads. The fusing process melts the polymer beads to the surface of the paper. In addition to the colorants within the polymer beads are “charge agents” that allow the toner to be charged opposite to that of the photo conducting drum. EP technology provides a unique capability- EP allows you to print with White ink (toner) along with traditional CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black), so these printers can offer a 5-color format – CMYK + White. With water-based inkjet (WBIJ) printers, you’re largely limited to printing on white substrates using just CMYK coloring. However, the availability of using white toner with EP printers opens a huge world of possibilities in label printing, especially on colored and clear substrates. The black matte Castle Vineyards label shown here displays the branding possibilities using white toner provides.
Water-Based Inkjet (WBIJ):
While this technology has been powering our small home and office printers for a long time now, it has matured and become robust enough for the desktop label printing segment in just the last decade. It revolutionized this segment by allowing people to rethink how to best fulfill their needs for short-run prime labels without the constraints of hiring a third party, where long lead times, high minimum order quantity, and outrageous label costs are typically the norm. As this technology continues to improve and advance, its appeal continues to attract new customers in different segments. An inkjet printer creates an image by firing tiny droplets of ink onto the paper. The complete image is built up from many small dots and it’s important to note the quality of an image is determined by the number of dots per inch (DPI) and the range of colors possible. A few different colors of ink can be combined to produce virtually any color (except for white). Cyan (C), Magenta(M), Yellow(Y) & Black(K) are commonly used colors, referred to in the industry as CMYK. The liquid portion of the inks used in these printers is predominantly water, hence “water-based inkjet”.
These water-based inks have color components that can be either dye-based or pigment-based, the ink chemistry and properties differ accordingly. In dye-based inkjet inks, the colored dyes are chemically bonded to the liquid portion of the ink, forming a “solution.” In contrast, pigmented inks are “suspensions.” That is, particles of coloration are suspended within a liquid and held between water molecules. Dyes seep into the paper substrate more easily than pigments, which primarily sit up on the surface of the paper. Ultimately, dye-based inks are brighter and have a wider color range than pigmented inks. Also, they can typically print on a wider variety of label substrates.
Pigmented inks have a longer life span and are more color-fast than dyes. If prolonged exposure to sunlight or other elements of nature is expected, dye-based inks will need some protection like lamination or varnish to prevent color fading over time while pigmented inks can withstand the elements for longer without fading. There are important niches like chemicals or even other consumer labels or packaging applications for which printed labels must withstand exposure to sunlight or moisture for extended periods of time. However, protection may still be required for pigment inks if continuous outdoor exposure over several weeks or months without any color shift is expected.
Thermal Transfer Printing is the oldest print technology around, the printers based on this technology are ubiquitous in space of monochrome or one-color printing. These printers are fast, economical, easy to maintain, and generally do a good job when the objective is to put on simple information like product manufacturing/expiry dates or bar-codes near the point of sale. At resolutions of 300 or 600 dpi, the labels out of thermal transfer printers are generally not suitable for most prime label applications. However, there are a few niche labeling applications that still favor thermal transfer technology over competing technologies, which is why you’ll still find some manufacturers making 4-color thermal transfer printing systems. There are niche labeling applications that still favor thermal transfer technology, which is why AstroNova still manufactures its QLS 4100Xe printer. A few advantages of Thermal Transfer Printing technology include:
- Availability of CMYK process AND spot color ribbons such as metallic gold, silver, white, signal red or blue, and many more
- Ability to print on low-cost substrates of varying thicknesses with a very high level of durability and resistance to solvents, moisture and UV exposure
- Low maintenance requirements & can easily handle dusty, dirty, manufacturing environments
There are several unique applications calling for thermal transfer technology. For example, many electronic applications require that the labels applied are UL recognized, which means they have been tested and proven to withstand a battery of tests as detailed in the UL 969 standard (for example). Or perhaps you’re looking to produce multi-layer flexible electronic circuits in short runs on high-temperature PET substrates. Thermal Transfer is the technology of choice for such demanding applications.
Now that you’re aware of the three key technologies available in a desktop format for printing color labels, you can start identifying the right printer and label materials that fit your needs. When buying a label printer for the first time, it’s advised to consider professional installation and a training package. This is not only to ensure the label printer is installed and works properly but to also ensure that you or any employees who will be using the printer are trained to use it properly and perform essential maintenance on a periodic or as-needed basis.
Have any questions on which label printer, inks, or materials will best suit your business and printing needs? Contact us today, we’re here to help!
These 7 Tips Will Help you Evaluate Any Color Label Printing Solution
Whether you’re currently printing your own product labels, or you’re considering printing your labels in your facility, you want to ensure you’re making the right decision and best investment for your business. Many companies consider their first or additional systems for several reasons – keeping up with demand, looking to reduce total cost of ownership or cost per label, or improving operational efficiencies. But, currently, the biggest reason is that people want to control their labeling under their own roof.
While there is undoubtedly a breadth of benefits labeling in-house and on-demand provides, there are several factors to consider before making a decision. Considering label printing systems for your business is more complicated than evaluating a standard at-home desktop printer.
Here are some tips to make this process easier for you:
This is vital. It’s important not to rely on “canned” printed label samples or a video from the manufacturer. Witnessing the labels print will expose any technical shortcomings in the printer. Ultimately, you’re the expert on your labels and how they should look. If print quality and color-matching is a priority, you’ll get the best demonstration of a printer’s capabilities by seeing your label artwork printed. So, before committing to a purchase, it’s advised to schedule a demonstration and request to watch while your labels are printed in real-time.
2. Ask to see your label format printed
You can evaluate your own labels better than a sample or pre-printed label
To ensure you see all the capabilities of the printer, provide digital label artwork to your printer salesman prior to the demonstration. It’s important to note that if your artwork was designed for a different output device, whether it’s your office inkjet or a commercial flexographic press, your salesperson may need to adjust the colors to match expectations.
3. Compare “how long it takes to print”, not just “print speed”
Time the print job while you watch
When evaluating “print speed,” it’s natural to assume that you are evaluating “how fast it takes to produce a print job.” However, there are many technical reasons why this is not the case. Factors such as pauses for maintenance procedures, processing time delays, and the time it takes to load a printer with blank labels and inks all have a significant impact on throughput. These are all factors your production department needs to measure when evaluating.
4. Compare “print quality”, not just “print resolution”
Be the judge
All label printers list a specification for “resolution”, but this does not necessarily imply “print quality”. “What resolution should I be looking for?” is a notoriously difficult question to answer, given there’s often some trade-off between print quality and print speed. In addition to the physical dot size produced by the label printer, the halftone printing algorithm, substrate material, and ink set each has a tremendous bearing on the appearance and color gamut of the printed label. So, when comparing 1200 dpi to 1600 dpi to 2400 dpi, your own perception of quality is much more accurate than the technical specification.
5. Ask how much it costs to print your roll of labels
Request a quote
Importantly, after the full role of your label designs is printed, ask your salesperson to calculate the cost of the printed label roll, including the costs of the ink and the label material. This will give you a realistic estimate of the finished cost per label, so ultimately, you can extrapolate how much you’d be paying each time you print your own labels.
6. Determine where you’ll purchase your labels
Select a substrate and a provider
If you have a special performance or print quality requirement, the odds are that you will want to “spec in” a particular label material that works well with your printer. So, determine who offers labels created from the material and whether the delivery timeframe and cost of the die-cut label is in line with your expectations. Be advised, a good label solution provider should be able to offer a variety of compatible materials in a range of different price points. AstroNova’s GetLabels division offers the widest variety of premium label materials for all of your labeling applications.
7. Ask who will maintain and repair your printer?
Who will service and fix any problems?
Regular on-site maintenance of a printing system is necessary to prevent breakdowns due to wear. So, don’t be afraid to ask who will be available to provide on-site maintenance service (or whether you are expected to do this yourself). Because a label printer is a critical part of the packaging process, it’s essential to find out whether on-site repair service and 24-hour telephone support are available. These things may come at an extra cost or may be included as part of the warranty – find out!
Questions? Let us know, we’re here to help!
Interested in how bringing label printing in-house can provide you with significant cost and time savings?
Contact us to schedule a free, web-based demonstration and to speak with one of our specialists!
At AstroNova, we understand right now with current events, depending on the industry, keeping up with demands may be more critical than ever. As part of AstroNova’s commitment to our customers in maintaining a safe and hygienic workplace, we’ve provided an outline that includes recommended disinfection materials and procedures you may find helpful when cleaning your printer. Studies show that frequently disinfecting commonly used surfaces is essential in preventing the spread of germs and viruses, which may remain viable for days on a variety of surfaces. Whether you own a QuickLabel or TrojanLabel printer or not, we hope you find this information helpful.
Recommended Procedure for Disinfecting and Cleaning Your Printer
The CDC recommends the following disinfecting products:
- Diluted household bleach solutions (5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water)
- Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol
- Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective
- Disposable gloves
- Disinfectant solution
- Cleaning cloth/towel
- Wear disposable gloves and ensure disposal of them after completion of this procedure
- Turn your printer Off
- Clean the exterior of the printer
- Apply disinfection solution on the cleaning cloth ( Do not apply the solution directly on the printer)
- Thoroughly wipe the exterior of the printer and the most commonly touched surfaces, such as media guides, ink doors, and handles
- Wipe the surrounding area where the printer is installed
- Wipe the shelves where your label material is stored
- After completion dispose of the gloves and cleaning wipe
- Wait for the surface of the printer to dry then turn it ON
- Repeat this procedure at the start and end of your shift
In conclusion, preventative actions like these are necessary to stop the spread of any type of viruses to protect your health. Ensure taking your time when following this procedure and repeat it as often as needed.
If you have any printer or printer supply-related questions, feel free to contact us. From medical device to chemical, sanitation, nutraceutical, food and beverage, and everything in between, AstroNova has all your hardware, software, and material needs for labeling.
An AstroNova partner recently shared an interesting story detailing how a small commercial printer in the Mid-West fell in love with a TrojanLabel® T2-C digital mini-press. While the commercial printer already owned a few smaller printers, they wanted something that could run wider widths (up to 8.5”), print multiple labels across, and produce faster printing throughput. Unlike their desktop printers, they were looking for a machine that was sturdier and built for professional printing.
Originally, they were considering Muratec’s PLS-475i when the TrojanLabel T2-C was introduced to them. While both machines are based on the same fundamental Versapass technology by Memjet, with a quick feature comparison, the commercial printer was undoubtedly interested in the T2-C after a trial showcasing:
| TrojanLabel T2-C
| Muratec PLS-475i
|Ink Tank Capacity*||2-Liter CMYK Ink Tanks||250 ml CMYK Cartridges|
|Maximum Roll OD**||11.8” (300 mm)||9.8” (250 mm)|
|Digital Front End***||On-Board PC with Touch Screen||N/A|
|Slitting***||In-line Slitters (up to 8 across)||N/A|
*8 times more ink per, savings in volume
**20% wider maximum roll diameter
***Additional user benefits
It’s All in the Details
A perfect combination of a smaller footprint, larger roll capacity, and efficiency
Right at the outset, the customer loved the job library built into the on-board PC that stores previously run print jobs. The additional abilities to print multiple labels across with perfect registration and put on a semi-rotary finisher later was also extremely beneficial to them. Additionally, the T2-C has a much smaller footprint, about half that of the PLS-475i, so it takes up substantially less space in the print room.
The wide variation in the types of labels printed typically results in a lot of artwork editing and color adjustments. So, the Wasatch RIP combined with the T2-C comes in handy as it allows them to make those changes quickly and efficiently, while the bigger roll capacity on T2-C allows them to do longer runs.
Enjoy a 40% Cost Savings
Equally important for them was the print economics: the T2-C is a tank-based system, including four (CMYK) 2-liter ink tanks versus PLS-475i’s 250 ml cartridges, resulting in a 40% cost increase for Muratec’s inks. Also, the PLS-475i was priced 33% higher than the T2-C despite the missing features and obvious disadvantages.
With Service and Support Included, the T2-C was a Clear Winner
This customer concluded that it was more economical and sensible to invest in a TrojanLabel T2-C instead of the PLS-475i for their growing needs. Investing in an AstroNova Service Plan for any service or support needs in the future was an additional benefit providing the customer with ultimate peace of mind.
Interested in How the T2-C Can Provide You with Significant Cost and Time Savings?
Contact us to schedule a free demonstration to speak with one of our specialists!