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The Basics of a Pressure Sensitive Label

labelThe pressure sensitive labels that you see on the products and cartons you use everyday may appear to be a simple device, but there is more to that label than meets the eye. Pressure sensitive labels are actually made of several layers of specialized materials sandwiched together to create a label that looks good, identifies something, and lasts as long as it is needed.

So what goes into making a label? Several materials, each with their own characteristics, make that label work the way it needs to. Starting from the bottom, the components are the Liner, Release Coat, Adhesive, Face Stock, and Top Coat.

label sandwichLiner – The liner is a critical component of any pressure sensitive label. The liner is the backing paper that carries the die-cut labels to the applicator and releases the adhesive-backed label onto the product.  The liner supports the label through manufacturing and use, protects the adhesive until the label is applied, and provides appropriate label application, either by automatic or mechanical means.

Liners come in different types to meet specific performance criteria. Typical performance and quality characteristics include strength, smoothness, density, release level, and stability. Liners are made of paper or film.

Release Coat – The release coat is a coating applied to the top surface of the liner. The release coat is designed to resist the adhesive so that the face stock and adhesive peel away from the liner smoothly.

Adhesive – Pressure sensitive labels stick to a surface with light or moderate pressure from a label applicator. The amount of pressure needed, the permanence of the label, and the surface the label adheres to is determined by the adhesive. Some factors to consider when selecting an adhesive include:

  • Permanence:  Will the label remain forever or will it be removed at some point? In some applications, the adhesive becomes permanent after a period of time.
  • Residue:  If a label is removed, what will be left on the surface?
  • Surface:  What type of surface will the label adhere to – paper, plastic, metal?
  • Texture:  Is the surface rough or smooth?
  • Temperature: What is the storage temperature of the label? What is the temperature when the labels are applied?
  • Environment: Is the environment in which the label must function wet or dry, oily, dusty, etc.?

Face Stock – This is the paper that is used for making self-adhesive labels. It is the top or “face” of the material from which labels are made. Face stock materials include plastic films, foils, fabrics and laminates.

Top Coat – This is the coating or lamination applied over the face stock to provide physical protection from abrasion or to enhance some other property of the label. Top coats can be used to improve adhesion or legibility of secondary imprints, typically used for date or lot coding.  Special UV sensitive varnishes or films can also be used, depending on the application.

Label manufacturing, know as label converting,  is a process consisting of multiple steps that include unwinding, printing, laminating, die-cutting, slitting, and rewinding.

For more information, read our Guide to Pressure Sensitive Labeling, a white paper that gives you an in-depth description of label manufacturing and application.

Creating a label is no easy task, and there are a lots of factors to consider. If you need labels that will perform effectively for the life of the product, talk to us. We are the experts in label converting and label applications. Our converting facilities can manufacture any type of label you might need, or we can help you create a custom label for a demanding application. Do you need to improve your labeling operations? ID Technology can help. Call us  toll free at 888-438-3242.  We’ll get you in touch with a labeling specialists in your area!






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  1. Thank you for a great article on the making of a pressure sensitive label. Most people have no idea of the behind the scenes manufacturing and production involved. The illustration of the different layers of a label will surely benefit those who in the market to add an identity to their product.

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