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Innovative New Machinery at PACK EXPO: Labeling

PMG editors fanned out across PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2023 in search of packaging innovation. Here's what they found in Labeling.

Fox IV
Fox IV

Labeling isn't the only area of interest at PACK EXPO. Click the links that follow to read more about innovations in:  Cartoning  |  Case and Tray Packing  |  Coding and Marking  |  Conveyors and Material Handling  |  Inspection and Detection  |  Form/Fill/Seal  |  Food Processing & Packaging  |  Sustainable Packaging  |  Robotics  |  Pharma  |  Controls

While linerless labels have been successfully commercialized in other parts of the world, notably Europe, they’ve never really caught on in the U.S. Fox IV set out to change this with the PACK EXPO Las Vegas launch of the L3904E all-electric, linerless label print-and-apply system featuring a Sato print engine.

Linerless labels, as the name so clearly suggests, are decidedly unlike pressure-sensitive labels in that they have no release liner. Also setting them apart is that label size need not be fixed. A brand owner could run a batch of 1,000 3-in.-long labels and then switch to a batch of 5-in.-long labels by entering new data at the menu-driven HMI. The idea is to eliminate labeling waste, reduce energy usage, streamline inventory, and make the print-and-apply labeling process more efficient.

The social, cultural, and regulatory landscape of the U.S. has never created all that much demand for this kind of sustainability-driven technology. Another reason that linerless has lagged, suggests Fox IV director of sales Craig Preisendefer, is that there really hasn’t been an off-the-shelf linerless label print engine module readily available to OEMs like Fox IV. “What we’ve done on the L3904E is take a desktop thermal transfer printer and build it into our printer/applicator,” says Preisendefer. The print engine he refers to is the CL4NX Plus from Sato. Though capable of both thermal transfer and direct thermal printing, in this case thermal transfer wouldn’t make much sense from a sustainability standpoint because there’d still be a roll of ink ribbon to dispose of, which wouldn’t be much of an improvement over having to dispose of a release liner. The print engine thermally prints onto continuous, direct thermal, linerless label stock. Then a reciprocating blade cuts the stock to size and automatically applies it using a servo-driven application cylinder and pad. Labels up to 4.65 in. wide can be printed and applied to products, cases, pallets, and other items—eliminating release liners, label matrix waste, and ribbon waste while reducing operating costs.

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