Outdoor labeling solutions | A definitive guideApril 27 '23
“Those instructions were vital, and they helped me to regulate the flames. If not, the scenario would have been different.”
A layman followed the instructions labeled on the gas grills to avoid an explosion. Labels are so influential that they are attached to every piece of equipment either one way or another. In this case, instruction labeling for an indoor gas grill.
Likewise, indoor and outdoor applications use different labeling solutions. Materials are chosen based on the factors influencing the application environment.
Indoor vs Outdoor labeling solutions
Indoor labeling applications require minimal considerations, whereas it is different for outdoor applications. Indoor applications are not exposed to the varying aspects of nature. Thus, finding a suitable material for manufacturing is easier than outdoor labels.
Imagine the labels on the speakers placed on the deck of a ship and another one inside the cabin. The labels on the outdoor speakers are constantly having a battle with moisture and salt water. For indoor speakers, they are comfy with less exposure – minimal problems with fading and peeling.
For the outdoors, a UL969-certified label will be a perfect solution. The reason for this particular label is that it has certain criteria to follow and ensure the label is perfect for the underlying conditions. Polycarbonate layer printing protects the inks from exposure to ocean air or moisture. Proper adhesives adhere to the surface well with speakers.
The indoor labels were easy to install. There arose no concerns about the above situations. A white semi-gloss paper material with general adhesives was enough for labeling indoor speakers. An interesting case study about outdoor labeling solutions will give you more details about the use-case application scenario.
Let’s learn more details about outdoor labeling solutions and the factors influencing them.
For production, manufacturers use resistive materials based on the outdoor settings of labeling applications. Outdoor labels need to withstand the odds of environmental conditions. Many questions and concerns need answers before installing a suitable label material like,
- Is the label permanently exposed to outdoor conditions?
- The geographical location of the label application
- What kind of outdoor conditions are we talking about?
- Whether the temperature is constant or fluctuating?
For instance, a label compatible with high temperatures may not be suitable for low temperatures. A common material choice resistant to the rise and dips of temperature is the key to such labeling settings.
Environmental conditions affecting the labels
- UV rays break down chemical bonds in inks
- Bleaching & fading of useful bright colors especially yellow, orange, & red making information unidentifiable
- Wear & damage
- Labels fall off, curling or puckering
- Changes in adhesives because of hot/cold conditions
- Adhesive oozes during extreme temperatures
- If thermal printed and exposed to heat, the labels fade and become unreadable
- Labels will extract and expand due to frequent temperature changes, which leads to stretching
- Causes ripping and tearing due to the breakdown of chemical bonds in paper labels
- Label disintegration
- Printing problems arise – smeared, smudged, or dripping ink
- Adhesives to fail as in temperature variations
- Scuffs & scratches due to direct reaction or bumping of two applications against each other
- Causes wearing away or deformation of the surface
- Physical damage to label surface when reacting to chemicals
- Chemical reactions with oils cause fading and damp
- Cause multi-faceted threats
- Labels contract and expands due to rapid changes
- Leads to the warp or ripping of labels
All these conditions can cause issues with the composition of the label. With certain considerations, labels will have a long life. Before going into the ways to ensure it, let’s understand the basics – the label composition.
The Label DNA | Composition of labels
A label consists of three components.
Facestock: It is the material that is being printed on
Adhesive: The sticky component on the back of facestock
Liner: The material on which the adhesive is applied initially
All these three components complement each other to create a suitable label. The labels will peel or fall if the adhesives and liners don’t match the facestock. For this reason, we should now understand the best material choices available to meet the label constraints.
The definite ways to ‘durable’ outdoor labels
Facestocks come in three formats,
Standard: Susceptible to water damage. Affordable ideal for indoor labels.
Direct thermal: Exposure to heat and light may cause the label to turn black over time.
Semi-gloss/High-gloss: Resistant to UV lights, environmental damage, tearing, and abrasion. It also holds an extra layer of protection at the top to protect the inks. But this extra layer will stop the manufacturer from adding more layers to the ink.
Semi or high-glossy facestocks are the best choices for outdoor labels. Now, let’s turn the page to the next chapter, where we will explore the material choices available to improve the lifespan of outdoor labels.
- Synthetic materials like polyester, polypropylene, or vinyl are way better than paper facestocks.
- These materials can withstand abrasion and temperature variations.
- The labels will expand and contract to support changes occurring due to sunlight or abrasion changes.
Among the three options, Vinyl is the best choice.
- Vinyl is multi-dimensionally stable, meaning it can expand or contract in multiple directions without cracking or peeling.
- It is best under strain, long-lasting, strong, and flexible.
Yet, industrial vinyl is expensive but serves up to decades.
Polyester, the next choice, performs very well under extreme temperatures but has low UV resistance. It comes with a matte or glossy finish like vinyl.
- Polycarbonate materials are soft and hence, vulnerable to scratches. If hard-coated, the polycarbonate surface will become scratch-proof, achieved using second surface printing.
- The hard coating can be applied multiple times with various gloss levels for glare attenuation.
- Comparatively thicker than other materials
- Require to formulate for UV resistance or else it will turn to yellow color.
So, which material is an alternate option for vinyl – polycarbonate vs polyester? Polyester may not be the immediate alternative to vinyl and that’s why we should go for polypropylene.
Polypropylene materials are durable and a good choice, but not as good as vinyl. The verdict- vinyl, though an expensive choice, is the best facestock. The material is highly resistant to solvents and oil, thus helping to repel water.
Due to the simple structure of polypropylene, the label may degrade under direct sunlight.
Using these inks will increase the lifespan of prints. Adding a special coating will increase the span evermore.
Lamination and varnishing over these prints will prevent degradation due to UV rays. Also, it acts as an additional barrier from scratches and scuffing. These coatings will provide the label to become water resistant.
Apart from these material choices, care must be taken to use the right adhesive material. Adhesives used for hard surfaces may not work well under smooth surfaces like glass.
Short Life for outdoor labels is an old tale
Leveraging technology and science, labeling solutions have become favorable to unpredictable weather conditions. Tested over time, these labels stay alive for decades, making them recognized and readable.
Think of labels used on snow plows. It is continuously exposed to cold conditions and is still recognizable after the season ends. The labels used in control panels are supposed to withstand stringent temperature changes – and it does! What about warning labels? If it fades, the purpose is in oblivion.
Warning labels are a must for equipment, and if it fails to display, the company may face legal penalties.
Considering the conditions where it applies – always choose the material wisely. If required, consider approaching experts, as it will help a lot. Label manufacturers will have a team of design engineers, quality control, and support teams to ensure delivering the best. Leverage the experience and in-depth knowledge of the manufacturers for a durable labeling solution.