Solutions for labeling and laser marking
food packaging (Trays/Skinpacks)


PREFACE

Food products packaged in shrink trays can benefit from different self-adhesive labeling solutions: conventional and Linerless – including wraparound. Both guarantee maximum flexibility while satisfying the need for product customization with variable data, but each offers specific advantages.
The new Skinpack packaging solutions are increasingly gaining in popularity as a premium type of packaging, providing a special appeal for end consumers. For Skinpacks, Linerless labeling is definitely the ideal solution.
However, where there’s a need to do away with labels and thermal transfer ribbons, which are normally employed for Skinpacks, laser markers are literally making their mark as a revolutionary and alternative solution. As a manufacturer of conventional labeling systems, Linerless labelers and laser markers, ARCA masters all of the technologies involved, providing for each an accurate and specific outline of their strong points and limitations.

A) A) CONVENTIONAL SELF-ADHESIVE LABELING FOR TRAYS

This is currently the most widely used decoration system by meat manufacturers, allowing for the application of the user’s desired labels, typically above and below the packaging (Top & Base),

or at 270°, C-Wrapping (Top Side Base)

Faced with the need to frequently change labels during the production cycle (typically for different customers or products), labeling systems can be devised with several labelers, positioned automatically and activated based on the information received by the client’s software. The labelers are all independent, and as a result the replacement of label rolls (on non-active labelers) doesn’t require a line stoppage.

SUMMARY OF ADVANTAGES

1) High resolution color decoration (captivating images).
2) Possibility of printing extended variable texts on labels (Thermal Transfer or Direct Thermal printing); typically on labels applied to the lower part (retro) of the product. To this end, Dataflex digital encoders can be used, or even Sato/Zebra print modules.
3) Possibility of applying decorations to the upper and lower sides (including partial adaptations on the sides) or on three sides – Front / Top / Base, in a C-Wrapping configuration.

However, the system presents significant drawbacks:

  • Need to purchase and manage Top and Base labels;
  • Productivity limited by the need to periodically change depleted label rolls. This disadvantage can be overcome using labelers in Non Stop configurations;
  • Labor costs burdened by the need to dispose of liner waste;
  • Environmental impact due to liner waste disposed of at a landfill or incinerator;
  • Not suitable for Skinpacks.

The following provides an illustration of alternative decoration systems, which can entirely or partially overcome the above mentioned drawbacks.

B) “STRIPED LINERLESS 500” LABELS FOR TRAYS AND SKINPACKS

This is an innovative labeling system for trays and parallelepiped products, allowing for the application of labels on paper or plastics, on the upper surface area, sides and bottom of the product (at the customer’s choice, and with maximum flexibility).
The labeler can be equipped with a Dataflex thermal transfer digital encoder (connectable to a scale managing variable weight specifications). Striped Linerless is also suitable for innovative Skinpack solutions.
A Striped Linerless labeler must be configured for application on trays or Skinpacks. As such, faced with a need to label both types of packaging, the use of two systems is certainly preferable, each specially configured; in order to avoid complex modifications to the machine’s settings, which require time and qualified maintenance personnel.

Linerless labels are also available in a transparent version.

The following are a list of performance considerations that regard productivity, and which depend above all on the “label length/pitch” (i.e. the label’s narrow side, corresponding to the product feed direction) and

surface area of the variable data to be printed:
– label length (pitch) between 55 and 70 mm (no print area) = 120 pieces/minute
– label length (pitch) between 55 and 70 mm (max. print area 53 x 20 mm) = 115 pces/minute
– label length (pitch) between 55 and 70 mm (print area 53 x 70 mm) = 95 pces/minute
– label length (pitch) between 70 and 130 mm (no print area) = 85 pces/minute
– label length (pitch) between 70 and 130 mm (max. print area 53 x 20 mm) = 80 pces/minute
– label length (pitch) between 70 and 130 mm (print area 53 x 70 mm) = 65 pces/minute
The above speeds are reachable subject to availability of variable weight specifications, which must be provided by the scale in real time.

SUMMARY OF ADVANTAGES

Linerless labels are a valid alternative to traditional self-adhesive labels; they provide the following essential benefits, making them a more practical, productive and socially responsible system:
1) High resolution color decoration (captivating images).
2) Possibility of printing extended texts on labels (Thermal Transfer).
3) Possibility of 360°/270° decorations.           
5) Can be used on both trays and Skinpacks.
6) Lower labor costs due to the absence of a liner to be disposed.
7) Just one label to manage (instead of Top and Base labels)           
Striped Linerless labels overcome all the drawbacks of traditional self-adhesive systems, except for the need to purchase and manage labels, which are reduced to just 1 and cost less than traditional labels for the same surface area.

C) LASER MARKING (FRONT) + SELF-ADHESIVE LABELS (BACK), FOR SKINPACKS

In partnership with G. Mondini, Arca is currently developing a hybrid system for laser marking + traditional self-adhesive labeling of Skinpacks. The system consists of a compact stainless steel base, equipped with a laser marker for the upper part of the packaging (front), protections and suction units, as well as a conventional print apply type self-adhesive labeler for the lower part (back). The system allows for:

– C1) The laser marking of variable alphanumeric data (fixed or variable weight, price, expiry date, lot no.) on the top side of the Skinpack (previously color decorated by the paper/plastic tray printer), on the portion not covered by the product. The marking is performed on the upper transparent film, suitably provided on the Skinpack carton, which must be treated with a special laser sensitive paint.

– C2) The conventional self-adhesive labeling of the lower part (back) of the Skinpack. The barcode can be thermal transfer printed on the label; the positioning on the lower side is the most ergonomic, since it avoids the tilting over of products when scanned at the cash register. Extended texts are also possible; i.e. ingredients, allergens, etc.

SUMMARY OF ADVANTAGES

Mixed decorations on Skinpacks, using a laser marker on the upper side (front) + a print apply labeler on the lower side (back) allow for an interesting solution with respect to conventional self-adhesive labeling on both sides, compared to which the following essential advantages are provided:
1) Can be used on Skinpacks.
2) Possibility of printing extended texts (Thermal Transfer) on labels applied to the lower side (back) of the product.
3) Total product visibility (no label above the product).
4) Just one Base label (neutral) to manage (instead of two Top and Base labels).
5) Increased productivity and reduced labor costs, thanks to the partial elimination of the need to replace depleted label rolls and dispose of liner waste (which remains for the back labels only).

D) LASER MARKING FOR SKINPACKS (FRONT AND BACK)

In partnership with G. Mondini, Arca is currently developing laser marking system for Skinpacks. The system consists of a compact stainless steel base, equipped with two markers; one for the upper part of the packaging (front) and the other for the lower part (back), protections and suction units. The system allows for:

– D1) The marking of variable alphanumeric data (fixed or variable weight, price, expiry date, lot no.) on the top side of the Skinpack (previously decorated by direct printing on the paper/plastic tray), on the cardboard portion not covered by the product. The marking is performed on the upper transparent film, suitably provided on the Skinpack card, which must be treated with a special laser sensitive paint.

– D2) Barcode marking on the lower part (back) of the Skinpack. The barcode’s positioning on the lower side is more ergonomic, since it avoids the tilting over of products when scanned at the cash register.

D2.1) Barcodes can be “negative” marked on a dark colored background.  

D2.2) D2.2) Barcodes can also be printed on laser sensitive cardboard, which provides better results in terms of productivity.
Productivity is also determined by the barcode size. No applications have yet been created, but we estimate 40/50 pieces per minute

SUMMARY OF ADVANTAGES

Total laser marking, i.e. both on the upper side (front) and lower side (back) offers an excellent alternative to conventional and Linerless labeling, since it provides the following essential benefits:   
1) Can be used on Skinpacks.
2) Total product visibility (no label above the product).
3) No labels to manage.
4) Maximum productivity and maximum containment of labor costs, thanks to the TOTAL elimination of the need to replace depleted label rolls and dispose of liner waste.  

Front and Back laser marking is not currently the best solution for printing extended texts, due to speed limitations. However, we estimate that within a few years’ time, this limit will surely be exceeded (prototypes with no concrete speed/surface limits already exist).

For the moment, it can be used advantageously for printing variable alphanumeric data on the front and the barcode on the back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONNECTION TO A SCALE

Despite the market’s current preference for “fixed weight” packaging, “variable weight” packaging remains a popular option.
All of the solutions illustrated include variable data printing devices (Sato or Zebra TT print modules, Dataflex TT encoders, and the laser markers). Significantly, the variable weight is transmitted to the devices by the scale (any brand). In order to establish a dialogue between the print devices and scale, the scale manufacturer must provide its proprietary communication protocol. We have already successfully created connections with a Bizerba scale, and various connections with Digi scales have been created abroad.
In order to guarantee “data integrity” (the correct weight on the correct product), the labeler / laser marker should always be set up immediately downstream from the scale.


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