As we covered in our article, What is a Pressure Sensitive Label, a PS label is created through a combination of a facestock (material), pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) and release liner. Each component serves a specific purpose and will be used and combined based on the needs of the application.
Let’s take a deeper look into the variety of options when it comes to facestock material. At TLP about 90% of our products are made of film, versus paper. While we do produce a small percentage of paper labels, the performance of film better aligns with our application requests.
Facestock is the layer of material that is converted & combined with a coating and release liner to produce a basic label construction. Read on for a quick overview of our most common label materials.
Facestock Label Materials From Paper or Film to Vinyl Labels
Label Materials – Polycarbonate
Polycarbonate labels (also known as LEXAN) are a medium cost label that is most known for its great scuff/abrasion resistance and its low haze. Polycarbonate labels also have resistances to short term heat & cold, chemicals, UV light, and moisture. Along with polycarbonate’s many resistances, it also can come in matte, clear, and velvety finishes. Additionally, its low haze lets light come through the label if needed. Combining polycarbonate’s great abrasion resistance, low haze, and different finishes make it a very versatile label and an excellent choice for switch overlays.
Label Materials – Vinyl
Vinyl labels (also known as PVC- Polyvinyl Chloride) are a versatile medium cost label with good durability that is best known for its flexibility. Vinyl labels also offer resistance to moisture, heat (in short periods), cold, chemicals, and UV light. These resistances make vinyl a durable material, but it does perform slightly worse than polyester labels. Vinyl’s thickness, durability, and flexibility make it a great choice for indoor and outdoor uses, and is the best choice for surfaces with curves, abnormal shapes, or packaging that will be squeezed or misshapen in anyway. Additionally, vinyl come in many different colors and in matte, metalized, gloss, and clear finishes. The biggest downside to vinyl is its clarity for fine prints. Vinyl is thermal transfer printable, but depending on the application it may not be recommended. Common applications for vinyl labels are automotive wrapping, durable goods, and warning/instruction labels.
There are two common types of vinyl, cast and calendered. The manufacturing process and raw material used to make cast vinyl lends it to be a better choice for smaller quantity orders that need a particular color match and provides other benefits. Cast vinyl is typically more dimensionally stable, more durable, more UV resistant, more flexible, and thinner compared to their counterpart. The calendered vinyl manufacturing process and raw materials lend it to be better suited for large quantity orders and therefore leads to lower costs. Additionally, calendered vinyl is generally thicker and more abrasion resistant, making it better for flat surfaces compared to cast vinyl.
Some special use vinyl include destructible, laser printable, thermal transfer, and outdoor. Destructible vinyl merges a fragile facestock with an aggressive adhesive making it impossible to take off the entire label. These are best used for non-tampering and non-transferable labels. Laser printable vinyls are specially designed to be able to be imprinted upon by a laser printer. Conversely, thermal transfer vinyls are engineered to take thermal transfer printing better compared to standard vinyl. Both laser printable and thermal transfer vinyl are good for any application where barcodes, serial numbers, or any variable data are needed on the label. Outdoor vinyl is designed for better outdoor durability compared to others. Their benefits include better UV resistance, chemical resistance and moisture resistance making this material good for any outdoor application.
Label Materials – Polyester
Polyester labels (also known as PET) are one of the most versatile labels available that are best described as durable and long-lasting. It is best known for great resistance to many different chemicals. In addition to polyesters excellent chemical resistance, polyester labels also offer great resistance to moisture, heat (in short periods), cold, and abrasions/scuffs. Combining polyester label’s resistances with their good mechanical strength and dimensional stability offer a label that is great for outdoor applications. Polyester labels also provide good clarity and are aesthetically versatile. They are available in matte, semi-gloss, gloss, and metalized finishes, and can be thermal transfer printed for variable data. However, polyester labels are a stiffer label meaning they are not best applied on irregularly shaped surfaces or on packaging that is meant to be squeezed or deformed. Overall, polyester labels versatility creates a large amount of cost variability based on the end users desired construction. Common applications include labels for durable goods and identification labels for many industries (pharmaceutical, automotive, etc.).
Label Materials – Polypropylene
Polypropylene labels (also known as PP or BOPP) are a lower cost label material that is best known for its cold resistance for long periods of time. Additionally, polypropylene labels have great moisture resistance, and mediocre heat and chemical resistances. Their heat resistance is usually only up to 93 C, and their chemical resistances are still good but not as good as polyester or vinyl. Polypropylene’s lack of resistance to the outdoor world generally causes a shorter life span compared to vinyl and polyester labels. However, this shorter life span is countered by polypropylene’s excellent recyclability (when on a polypropylene container) as it is the most easily recycled material compared to vinyl and polyester. Aesthetically speaking, polypropylene is extremely versatile because it offers great clarity, comes in many different finishes (matte, gloss, and metalized), and is rather flexible. Polypropylene’s clarity allows it to be thermal transfer for variable data like barcodes and serial numbers. Overall, this makes polypropylene a good material choice for products with short life spans, labels that will be exposed to the cold for long periods, or products whose lifespans are spent mostly indoors with little UV exposure. Common applications polypropylene labels are used for are the food industry and cryogenic labeling.
Label Materials – Polyimide
Polyimide is a high cost and highly engineered polymer. Polyimide’s main characteristic is their exceptional resistance to high temperatures over a long period of time while still holding their dimensional stability. They also offer great chemical and abrasion resistance, as well as excellent mechanical strength. Additionally, polyimides are able to be thermal transfer printed making it possible to print variable data (like barcodes and serial numbers) on the label. This makes polyimides great for any application where the label will be exposed to not only high temperatures, but also harsh cleaners and abrasion risks. Some example applications for polyimide labels are circuit boards/other electrical components, warranty labeling, metal processing, and providing a barrier of separation for dissimilar metals to prevent galvanic corrosion. It is important to note that the application surface should be thoroughly cleaned before applying the label.
Label Materials – Paper
Paper labels are a low-cost label that come in many colors and finishes that are best suited for applications that do not require a very durable label. Paper provides good short-term resistance to cold conditions and fair short term heat resistance (up to 93 C). Generally, paper has poor resistances to abrasions/scuffs, chemicals, and moisture making it a poor choice for labels that will be outdoors or other harsh conditions. Cosmetically, paper provides great clarity, comes in many colors (including fluorescent colors), and in many finishes (gloss, semi-gloss, and matte). Papers can typically be laser and thermal transfer printable for variable information. Overall, paper labels are aesthetically diverse and have poor durability, making it a great choice for consumable products. If desired, it is possible to add laminates to paper labels to further improve their durability and weatherability.
Have a project you’d like to discuss with our application engineers? Contact TLP today.
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