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Steam shrinking shows it's more than just hot air

Using hot air to shrink full-body labels to containers is fairly common. An alternative method, however, seems to be gaining steam. In the past month, Packaging World editors have heard of several applications where steam is the preferred method to shrink-apply labels to containers.

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In the May issue of PW, and soon on this Web site, we'll report on how steam-shrunk labels benefit Celestial Seasonings' Mountain Chai® teas and Clearly Canadian Beverage’s Tré Limone sparkling lemon-ginger drink. Steam technology is not new itself, but as far as we know, its commercial use in packaging applications has rarely been reported in the packaging trade press, particularly when it comes to plastic bottles. What advantage does steam shrinking offer? "With steam, [the result is that] you get a very soft wrap and the colors on the label stay brighter," believes Tom Uhl, owner of Ally Labeling and Packaging (Hamilton, OH). Ally applies Boulder, CO-based Celestial’s 1-qt Mountain Chai polyvinyl chloride labels to the empty polypropylene bottles. To do the job, Ally uses a new 10'-L steam tunnel from Fuji Seal Europe bv, part of American Fuji Seal (Bardstown, KY). The unit includes 10 copper tubes containing hundreds of pinholes that direct steam at specific spots on the label. British Columbia, Canada-based Clearly Canadian’s new 14-oz glass bottles of Tré Limone receive labels from a PDC (South Norwalk, CT) sleeve applicator and steam shrink tunnel. Steam delivers an even and consistent shrink for the label, according to Jonathan Cronin, vice president of marketing at a U.S. affiliate of Clearly Canadian Beverage. Ally’s Uhl also tells PW that steam is being used for two new applications involving liquor. Time will tell whether these applications represent a trend, or are merely coincidental. PWis open to your opinion, including hearing from you if you know of an application involving labels that are shrink-applied with steam. Contact us via e-mail: editors@packworld.com. Ally Labeling and Packaging Phone: 513/682-5906. American Fuji Seal Inc. Phone: 800/533-3854. www.afseal.com PDC Intl. Corp. Phone: 203/853-1516. www.pdc-corp.com

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