By Leon Minnie, manager, production print, at Konica Minolta South Africa
Label technology has become one of the mainstays of the contemporary printing industry, with established printing businesses as well as manufacturers investing in label presses to deliver on the packaging and labelling needs of the modern consumer.
It’s crucial to also understand that labels are more than an add-on, or an optional extra for consumer products. Labels are vital, and in many instances, labels save lives. It is therefore non-negotiable that labelling use the highest possible quality of ink, adhesion and substrate, to ensure that consumers are accurately informed of the contents and usage directions of products.
Food products need to include contents labels, as well as warnings for possibly allergenic ingredients. The volume of the contents must be indicated, their sell-by and use-by dates, as well as preparation instructions to avoid food poisoning and other health risks.
Not only must this information be printed on the product labels, it must be legible for consumers, and it must remain legible well beyond the expected life span of the products themselves. For instance, once a product passes its expiry date, it’s important that the label remains in place and readable, so that no one consumes the expired contents and becomes ill.
Ensuring this kind of longevity involves sophisticated ink, substrate and glue solutions. These must be long-lasting, and durable, throughout transport, display, purchase and exposure to the elements. They must also not be damaging to the environment once they eventually biodegrade.
The most sustainable labelling solutions will be those using environmentally friendly toners and ink, media and glues while also retaining their integrity for months and even years.
To ensure this is the case, a sophisticated testing industry has sprung up, testing and certifying the labels that are used in the packaging of many food products, as well as potentially hazardous materials.
In the shipping industry, there is also a requirement that goods have labels that can survive immersion in seawater and remain legible. After all, if goods are washed overboard during shipment, anyone who recovers them must know what the contents are and how they should be handled.
To ensure this is the case, internationally recognised standards have been established. Companies like Smithers Pira and others test labels for exposure to the marine environment, and certify the products accordingly. At Konica Minolta, for instance, our AccurioLabel 190 and the bizhub C71cf presses recently attained a global quality certification after their labels passed Marine Immersion Test BS5609, Sections 2 and 3.
Labels provide a window into a package’s contents. They provide safety messages, but also marketing communication, information and usage directions.
Modern barcode, QR code and augmented-reality technology also opens up vast new possibilities for expanded messaging. Labels can now present information, advertising and even entertainment content, and it’s no longer limited by what can physically fit within the borders of a label.
Label printing is not only indispensable. It saves lives, and it is now one of the most exciting areas in the printing industry. Technology is constantly advancing to better deliver on the numerous roles that product packaging plays.
Manufacturers and producers cannot afford to ignore the vast possibilities that label-printing technology now offers – as safety mechanism, marketing tool and business driver.
While printing companies are well positioned to deliver on these labelling capabilities, label printers are now compact and versatile and can easily be incorporated into a company’s manufacturing set-up. This obviates the need for an external printing supplier and has significant efficiency and cost advantages for manufacturers.
With its wide range of abilities, labelling also relates to a company’s health-and-safety, marketing as well as its sales function. Labels are no longer simply cosmetic, they are an integral part of doing business.
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