Choosing The Right Bottle Labeling Machine
A label does more than identify a container’s contents. It gives the buyer their first impression of your product, helping you make the sale. Choosing the right bottle labeling machine will improve quality perceptions while keeping your production line running smoothly. Here’s how you can narrow down your choices based on the bottles and labels you use, as well as how the machine fits into your production process.
Labeling Machine Configurations
Bottle labelers can be broken down into basic configurations depending on how the label is applied. Three of the most common labelers are vertical wrap, horizontal wrap and front/back (but others include top labelers, top and bottom labelers and custom machines).
Vertical Wrap: Bottles pass upright through a vertical wrap machine. This option works well for bottles that have a slight taper or square/rectangular design. Partial and full labels can be applied.
Horizontal Wrap: Bottles pass through this type of machine while lying on their sides. Horizontal wrap machines work well for unstable, round containers, including bottles or vials with rounded bottoms.
Front/Back: This type of machine applies labels on one or more sides and works well with a wide variety of bottle styles (as long as the container can remain stable while passing along the conveyor).
Although the majority of labelers fit into one of those three categories, machines can be fully customized and engineered for any type of application, inclusive of multiple labeling stations (for example, having a wrap for the body of a bottle and a second labeler for the top).
Bottle Orientation for Label Placement
Label application requires a high level of precision, because now (more than ever), the packaging’s visual appeal sets the brand’s tone within its market. Even a simple horizontal wrap may have a 1/8th-inch gap between its edge and the ends of the body. To get this level of accuracy, the bottle (not the label) is moved into position for application, so choosing the right system is a matter of balancing accuracy, speed and cost.
Every situation is different. With a single label on a round beverage bottle, the only location factor is height. By comparison, labels on square and oval bottles need to be oriented horizontally and vertically. And, if labels are placed in an unusual spot (like the corner of the bottle), a more complex machine may be needed to get the placement correct.
Most round bottle machines use a single feed screw to separate bottles and push them toward the labeler at a specified rate. For non-round bottles, two screws are used for precise orienting prior to label application.
A “spin-in-place” design can orient each bottle individually before applying the label. The machine may use a pair of short screws or a spinning platform with sensors to check for proper alignment. Although this design takes longer than standard machines, it’s more accurate.
Types of Roll Labels for Label Applicators
Each bottle labeling machine feeds labels in a specific way so that they’re placed on the correct area of the bottle. Ideally, a new machine should use the same label style as other machines on-site (for compatibility), but there are many roll label attributes to consider:
Outside Peel vs. Inside Peel: Outside peel labels face away from the core while inside peel labels face the core so that the backing paper is visible when looking at the outside of the roll.
Printing Orientation: This is the direction of print as seen from the outer end of the roll. It can be top, bottom, left or right.
Label Material: A wide variety of stocks are available, from paper and vinyl to foil and UV coating.
Other Features to Look For When Choosing a Labeling Machine
Is speed the main concern? Or are you looking for an applicator that adjusts to a variety of shapes and sizes? Make sure to keep the following features top-of-mind before making a final purchase.
Flexibility: Some machines can be set up for a variety of sizes and shapes, giving you the ability to use one machine for multiple product lines. Others have fixed parts, saving on purchase costs and maintenance.
Material Compatibility: Your machine must handle your chosen label material, and rollers, tensioners and other parts will differ depending on whether you use paper, foil, film or Mylar. Pressure sensitive labels require a mechanism to push the label onto the bottle after application. After the bottle passes the label applicator, the label is wiped to ensure that it’s laying flat and wrinkle-free on the bottle. The time and amount of pressure varies depending on the label, adhesive and bottle material.
Rate of Application: Machines are rated in products per minute (ppm/min), but there’s more at play here than pure speed. Some machines are built to handle fluctuations in production speed, and can even communicate with upstream operations. This way, the labeler can halt the line if there’s a backup (like if the machine runs out of labels or if there’s an equipment failure).
On most machines, labeling has to be paused to replace label rolls. However, a redundant unwind can hold two rolls, causing minimal downtime when switching to a new roll after the old one runs out.
Core and Roll Size: The core is the cardboard or plastic insert on the inside of the roll. The larger the roll, the more labels it can hold, thus reducing the frequency of replacing rolls during production. Like label orientation, the main concern is to make sure a new machine can use the same roll labels as other machines on-site.
Coding: Printing of production dates and internal codes is usually handled by a separate machine. However, some manufacturers offer the option of adding a hot stamp or laser printer. This allows information to be printed in an exact position on the bottle.
Hot stamp printers are limited to a physically-set character limit. For this reason, their use is usually limited to lots or production dates. The machine must be shut down temporarily to swap in new characters. Laser coders can print lines of text at extremely high speeds, making a different print for each bottle, which can narrow coding down to individual serial numbers or the time and date the bottle rolled off of the machine.
Picking the Right Labeler for Your Production Needs
Getting the right bottle labeling machine depends on three things:
- Type of bottle/label used
- Label orientation (Using complex labels and odd-shaped bottles may require a slower, more expensive machine.)
- Flexibility/compatibility needed (Will multiple products utilize the same machine? Do you have other bottle labeling machines in use?)
With in-house manufacturing and engineering capabilities, CTM Labeling Systems has the unique ability to cut parts and components in order to design specially configured systems for any need.
Whether your product requires a 3 Roller Indexer System, a Front / Back Wrap for challenging applications, or our cost-conscious 360a WR Wrap System, our commitment to cutting-edge versatility will ensure you receive the finest bottle labeling machines available on the market.