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You want the label how small??

Here at ID Technology, one of the areas we specialize in is producing durable labels for the electronics industry.

Yello Kapton ESD Symbol Label Winco IDOne thing we have found is that as electronics become smaller and the need for information increase, the demands for smaller pressure sensitive labels and printers capable of handling them has increased in recent years. We regularly produce labels for our clients that are 0.25 inches square or smaller – made in polyester or polyimide materials to meet the demands of the industry. A good example is this polyimide label that we printed with the Common Point Ground symbol for one of our customers.

This label is quite small, about 0.375 of an inch square, but since we have many years of experience with this kind of label we can convert them routinely and our thermal transfer printers (in this case a 600 DPI Datamax H-Class printer) are able to print this label size with no problems.

Recently a customer came up with a really interesting challenge – to produce a pressure sensitive durable label that would measure 0.200 inches x 0.050 inches and provide a printing system that would be able to print a variable code in readable characters. The operator was currently printing the data onto larger labels then cutting them to size with a knife and steel rule – a painfully slow and frustrating process.

We love a challenge so really wanted to take this job on.

Label Die for very small labels Winco IDThe first task was to come up with a way to be able to convert the label on one of our label presses. Because of the very small size, we didn’t think we would be able to produce the label in the conventional way – after diecutting the label, there was a danger of the actual label being taken away with the waste material. Working with the company that produces our label dies, we came up with a solution that we thought would work nicely – as shown in the drawing.

The idea was to embed the tiny labels into a larger parent label – this would eliminate the risk of the labels being stripped away with the waste. 20 individual labels would be embedded in each label.

Special die for very small labels Winco IDNext, using the design, a magnetic die was produced.

When the job was run on our press, everything went really well. Because all the cutting was done in a single operation, the position of all the small labels relative to their parent would never change. This was really important to be able to maintain print accuracy.

Thanks to the imagination and skill of our converting team, we now had some rolls of tiny labels ready to deliver to our customer. The next question was how to print them?

There are a lot of excellent high resolution label printers on the market, but most are not able to index small labels with the level of accuracy needed for a job like this. Indeed, there is just one printer model available that we were confident would meet the demands of this application – the Intermec 3240. (I posted a review on this printer here).

On the whole, I’m not a fan of the 3240. The design is old and clunky, it has limited connectivity and it isn’t available with 600 DPI – it is also way overpriced! It does have one thing going for it though – it is the most accurate indexing label printer I’ve ever used. This attribute made the 3240 the printer for this application.

Printing small labels Winco IDThe design for the label was made in Seagull’s Bartender software which was very straightforward – with a little care in getting the margins right. The print format used 3 pt font size (Oh how I wish this printer offered 600 DPI!!) and the final code was a combination date and serial number which is simple to program.

The 3240 printer needed a little fine tuning but was able to print the blocks of tiny labels in good registration and with good quality (did I mention that I wish for 600 DPI?).

After printing, the result is a block of 20 tiny labels ready to be fixed to the customer’s product.

Instead of having to cut each label, the operator now just removes the outer border and can use tweezers to remove each individual label and apply to the part. Much easier than the old way.

Since I wrote this, the Intermec printer has been discontinued. Other printers claim to be able to print very small labels, but I think the 3240 is still the champion.

Do you need to be able to print tiny labels for your products? What’s the smallest you have to deal with?

If you want to get started with upgrading your coding systems?  Contact us today – 888-438-3242 Option#3 or you can contact me directly at dholliday@idtechnology.com. We’ll get you in touch with one of our ID Technology specialists right in your area.

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Comments

  1. Paul Duncan says:

    Hello

    Have just read your article regarding printing small labels:
    http://www.labelingnews.com/2011/02/you-want-the-label-how-small/

    I have a somewhat similar need; to produce (most cost effectively) labels with consecutive numbering, measuring approximately 6mm x 12mm.

    I’ve been searching for sheets of printable labels, but haven’t found any with labels that small.

    I’d be interested to hear if you have a solution that I might use? I’m in New Zealand.

    Thanks

    Regards

    Paul Duncan

  2. David Holliday says:

    Hi Paul, if you look around you’ll find sheets of labels that come close to what you need – these for instance

    For printing small labels, we prefer to use roll labels on a thermal transfer printer – these can give more accurate registration and more durable print than a desktop laser printer. The printer with the best registration accuracy at the moment is the Intermec PM43, although something like a Datamax M-Class would also work for your label (at less cost), since the labels are not too tiny.

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