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.
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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.
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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!