Thermal shipping label misconceptions

There are many important considerations when bringing your product to market – but one area that is often misunderstood is the thermal labelling used on both the shipping units or 'outers', and the SSCC (pallet) labels. It can sometimes be overwhelming to get your head around what label is right for your application, and the myths surrounding thermal labels don't make that any easier. We've consulted our in-house experts to see if we can bust these myths wide open!

Any kind of label will do

Consider the application and expected life of the label when evaluating the type of label to be used. Thermal direct labels suit applications requiring a shorter shelf life where the labelled item will be stored away from direct sunlight or heat. Conversely, the technology behind thermal transfer label printing creates a permanent, crisp print, and can also withstand temperature extremes. This makes thermal transfer labels ideal for long-life product labelling, and for labelling products stored outdoors or under direct sunlight.

Environment is irrelevant

Both the application and storage environment are crucial considerations for the life of your label. It's important to take into account the application temperature (temperature in which the label is being applied) and the service temperature (temperature range in which the label will be used).

For example, is the label being applied to a product or carton in an ambient (room-temperature) environment, and then stored in a cold environment? Are the labelled items or rolls of labels going to be stored indoors or outdoors? Will moisture or condensation be a potential factor? Will the labels need to be tamperproof?

All labels 'stick' the same way

Believe it or not, there are varying degrees of 'stickiness' for labels, as this can be designed to suit the application and end purpose of the label. It's important to think about how the label will be used and its end purpose – whether its 'stick' (adhesive) needs to be permanent, removable, pressure-sensitive, or repositionable.

Similarly, whether the label will be applied by hand or by machine will also be a consideration for the type of adhesive used on the label. For example, a machine-applied label would benefit more from a pressure-sensitive adhesive than a repositionable adhesive due to the method of application.

Economy labels mean economy performance

A common misconception is “you get what you pay for", but this is not always the case. Whether it's imported or locally sourced stock, always check that the label has been manufactured from quality raw materials as this will have a direct impact on the quality and life of your printed label. It's important to ensure that the labels are fit for purpose; whether they will be labelling units which will be shipped directly to the end user; labelling units being shipped internationally; or held in storage for a long periods of time.

I can use any ribbon to print on my labels

It's important to consider the type of ribbon used to print the labels; wax, wax/resin, or resin ribbons all offer different benefits for printing onto different types of labels.

  • Wax ribbon is best suited for printing onto paper labels, which makes it ideal for carton labelling applications.
  • Wax/resin ribbon helps to print a finer image on very smooth or coated paper labels and the printed image is more durable than wax which provides excellent resistance to scuffing or rubbing which can be a common problem for freight.
  • Resin ribbons are designed for printing onto label types such as vinyl, polypropylene, polyester, and non-adhesive tags, and are ideal for labelling under demanding applications such as chemical-resistant identification or endurance under high temperatures.

Failure to match the ribbon to the label (and updating the label printer settings appropriately) will affect the print quality of the label.