How to choose a pressure-sensitive labeling machine

Pressure-sensitive labels (PS labels) are the most used labeling solution in New Jersey and the rest of the United States. Across multiple industries, many companies choose PS labels to identify and decorate their products since these are quick, easy, and economical to produce. PS labels can also be applied onto most types of containers and can withstand extreme environmental conditions. Given these reasons, some businesses opt to buy their own pressure-sensitive labeling machine

With the sea of PS labeling equipment on the market, it can be difficult to select the one that best fits your company. To help you decide, this blog will discuss the factors that you should consider before purchasing a PS labeling machine. 

Functionality: Apply only vs. print and apply

In terms of functionality, there are generally two types of PS labeling machines: label applicators and print and apply label applicators. 

Label applicator

Instead of applying thousands of PS labels by hand, you can use a label applicator to speed up the application process to mere seconds per label. For example, the Herma H400 Vario has a variable labeling speed of over 2 feet per second. 

Label applicators automatically apply PS labels onto packages — you just need to load them with pre-printed rolls of labels. This makes them ideal for processes for purposes such as:

  • Primary package decoration
  • Promotional labeling (e.g., coupon or discount labels)
  • Security seal (e.g., tamper-evident seals)
  • Theft security (e.g., Sensormatic ™ or Checkpoint ™ labels)
  • Product display (e.g., hang tabs)

Print and apply label applicator

Just as its name suggests, a print and apply label applicator has an additional printing capability. Instead of drawing from a reel of pre-printed labels, this machine pulls blank or partially printed labels through its print engine. It prints directly onto labels that are then automatically applied onto products. 

With the printer and applicator in one machine, there is greater accuracy in that critical information is placed in the same spot every time. And since print engines are designed for assembly lines, they’re faster, more reliable, and easier to repair than stand-alone printers. A good print and apply label applicator is the CTM Labeling System 3600a-PA Series, which can use either a Sato, Zebra, or Datamax print engine.  

Businesses usually choose print and apply label applicators for purposes such as: 

  • Primary package decoration
  • Package identification and tracking (e.g., shipping and warehouse labels, travel luggage tags)
  • Detailed printed information (e.g., labels with ingredients of a product or nutritional information)

Location of labels

There are different types of PS label applicators in terms of where these place labels. 

  • Wrap-around labelers – Used for some medicine and beer bottles (e.g., CTM 360a Series Wrap System
  • Top labelers – Used for some margarine tubs or salad containers (e.g., ELF-20 Tabletop Top Labeling Machine)
  • Top and bottom labelers – Used for some cupcake boxes (e.g., PL-501-NL)
  • Front and back or side panel labelers – Used for some milk jugs (e.g., Aesus Premier Pressure Sensitive Front and Back Labeler)

There are also flexible PS labeling machines, such as the CTM Labeling System 3600a-PA Series, that can apply labels to the top, sides, or bottom of products. 

Machine size

PS label applicators generally come in two sizes: smaller tabletop applicators and larger stand-alone models. 

Tabletop PS labeling machines are ideal for businesses that have small products, like ampoules and vials as large as regular cans of soda, and only produce small batches of such items. Because these machines are portable, they can be stored away when not in use. Examples include the AutoLabe Model 390 Automatic and the AutoLabe Model 550 Semi-Automatic.

If you need a larger labeling space or produce large quantities of products, then you should go for a stand-alone PS labeling machine such as the Kirk Rudy 545D Tabber and the Kirk Rudy 540 Tabmaster Tabbing System. These stand-alone machines have a modular design, enabling easy integration into just about any production line. 

Application speed

Your choice of PS labeling machine must have an application rate (i.e., products per minute) that matches your production time targets. For this, you can either choose a semi-automatic or a fully automatic machine. 

Semi-automatic label applicators like the AutoLabe Model 550 Semi-Automatic can increase your labeling speed by as much as 500%. These machines require an operator who will load the containers and labels first and then use a foot pedal, switch, or sensor on the machine to apply the label. 

If you require a much faster application and have a bigger budget, then a fully automatic labeling machine like the AutoLabe Model 390 Automatic will be the better option. After its initial setup, this applicator will only need little oversight since it doesn’t need an operator to apply labels one by one.

Manufacturer credibility

While there are plenty of PS label applicators to choose from, you’re better off sticking to those made by manufacturers that have a good reputation, such as AutoLabe, CTM, and Herma. To ensure you’ll get excellent service and maintenance, ask critical questions about the manufacturer’s quality control, sales process, and technical support.

Return on investment

The best PS labeling machine is the one that can help you reach your production targets while allowing a high return on investment. For example, there’s no point in purchasing the fastest fully automatic labeling machine available if the rest of your production process is not fast enough to keep up with it. Instead, pick a label applicator that meets your current needs, leaves you with plenty of room to scale up, and doesn’t drain your finances. 

Still confused about which PS labeling machine to purchase? Pro-Motion Industries has you covered. Just tell us your labeling needs and budget, and our experts will help you select the right label applicator for you. Contact us at 856-809-0040 today. 

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