Packaging aficionados and consumers alike will appreciate the pressure-sensitive label that adorns Fisher-Price® toothbrushes for kids. For consumers, the label provides graphic appeal, tamper evidence, an easy-opening pull tab and product information. Packagers will likely find label application to be an unusual and intriguing process.
Individual Fisher-Price toothbrushes are made and also packaged by Kutztown, PA-based Radius Corp. Radius labels them on a new Flexline Model 60 p-s labeler from Mateer Burt, a div. of GEI Intl. (Exton, PA). For its Radius-brand toothbrushes, the company uses an Axon (Garner, NC) shrink-band labeler.
“We brought in the GEI labeler last September, and it gives us some versatility,” notes James O’Halloran, a co-founder of Radius. “Before, we only had the one shrink-band labeler.” He’s quick to point out that the Axon people have been extremely helpful. “We will always use the shrink labeler for our buy-one-get-one-free promotions,” says O’Halloran.
The new p-s labeler applies and wraps the Fisher-Price label around three sides of a polyvinyl chloride case that is injection-molded by Radius. The 4½-mil labels, supplied by Meyer Label (Englewood, NJ), are reverse-printed polypropylene with a clear PP overlaminate. Labels are decorated in a combination of flexo and screen printing in four to seven colors.
After printing, Meyer die-cuts a convenient pull-tab opening perforation from the material. Once the label is applied, the tab is visible on one side panel of the case. The structure’s overlaminate provides scuff resistance and adds rigidity, making it more “machinable” on the GEI labeler. Meyer die-cuts the web, stripping off the matrix so that only the labels themselves remain on the backing web. Meyer and GEI worked closely together on the label application. Labeled cases are then bundled in film (see Packaging World, August ’00, p. 56 or packworld.com/go/radius).
How it works
In operation, an infeed conveyor carries the toothbrush in an open case to the labeler. The labeler is positioned between parallel infeed and discharge conveyors. A gating system is used to ensure the cases enter the machine single-file. A photoelectric sensor detects the presence of the toothbrush case, then signals the labeler to index a label into position.
While operators manually close the cases for Radius-brand brushes, the Fisher-Price case is closed by a pneumatic cylinder that’s part of the GEI labeler. Once the case is snapped closed, a bar to the side pushes the pack into the label for application.
The label material unwinds from above the conveyors, perpendicular to the toothbrush case. As the web descends, it contacts a “peeler plate” that separates the leading or bottom-most label from the backing web. This web is rewound and discarded. As the label separates from the backing material, it is held in place vertically in a frame or “nest” through the use of vacuum at the top and bottom of the label. As the case is pushed into the label, the top and bottom of the label contact the frame. The frame is equipped with tiny brushes that tamp the top and bottom of the label neatly around the sides of the case. The labeled pack is then pushed onto the discharge conveyor.
To prevent static electricity from causing the label to be improperly positioned as it descends to the frame for application, the labeler uses a static neutralizing bar from Simco (Hatfield, PA). Post-labeling steps include shrink bundling, then manual case packing, palletization and stretch wrapping.
“With the exception of the labeling head, the GEI machine is a one-off design for us,” O’Halloran explains. “They met the challenge of coming up with a novel way to wrap the label around what’s essentially a rectangular box. The label provides security at the store and tamper-evidence for consumers. As we expand, I imagine that in years to come, we’ll rely even more on this machine.”