Tech Topic: Correcting Image Misalignment on Labels

Each month we feature an informative article on the technical side of our print and apply and pre-printed labeling automation solutions. This month’s Tech Topic, covered by Tracy Levstik, Service Technician at Panther Industries, provides corrective steps to take when your label image is unexpectedly misaligned after being printed by your Panther Industries labeling automation system(s).


Tracy Levstik
Service Technician
Years at Panther Industries: 4
Hometown: Round Lake, IL
Favorite Band: Pink Floyd 


Given the precision of a Panther Industries labeling automation system, why would an image imprint ever be misaligned on a label?

From our experience, the common cause of label imprint misalignment is a result of the label material not being routed correctly or traveling inconsistently through the system, typically after a label roll change.

When this issue occurs, the imprinted image (e.g., barcode, shipping information, etc.) is significantly offset, even being printed off an edge of the label surface. This tells us the label material was not routed correctly before, within, or after the print engine of our systems. There might be some programming issues on the host end contributing to this, but more often than not the issue is related to one of a few general areas on the labeling system itself. These issues are easily correctable by following the steps outlined below.

Above: A printed label illustrating correct imprint alignment (left) and incorrect imprint alignment (right). This issue was resolved within five minutes following the simple guidelines below.

 

This seems like an obvious question – why is imprint position important?

If any imprint information is not contained within the label area, there is a risk that information is missed by scanners or verification systems that ensure the item arrives at its ultimate destination. Any quantity of misrouted or lost items can cause financial loss and reputation risk for companies, so the labeling portion of the process needs to be as accurate as possible.

When we install and test our labeling automation systems for our customers, we take great care to verify the imprint of a label is exactly where it is supposed to be for live operations. Post-installation, we train the end user staff on proper label routing techniques to reinforce the importance of how the label material is fed through our systems, which, ultimately, ensures proper imprinting is maintained after every label roll change.

 

What are the most common fixes to label imprint misalignment?
Let Off Supply Hub

While a fairly straightforward item, improper installation of a roll of labels on the let-off supply hub can be a root cause of the entire misalignment issue.

After a new roll of labels is added, the operator needs to ensure the let-off disc is pressed firmly up against the roll of labels.

Pressing the disc securely to the side of the label roll, then locking the disc by rotating the lever, will achieve this.


Correct Label Routing

Once the label stock has been replaced, it is critical that the correct routing path is followed for your specific system.

A diagram for the label routing is affixed to the let-off disc for clear instruction on how to route the labels from the let-off hub, around the brake arm and idle rollers (before and after the print engine). A label routing diagram specific to routing the material through your print engine can be found inside the print engine itself.

In addition, we feature animated label routing diagrams within our support section of our site navigation menu that provides this same information in an interactive fashion. Within that section of the menu at the top of this page, simply select the system you have at your facility to view the interactive diagrams.

It is important to note the label liner material that exits the print engine should be in alignment with the label material entering the print engine (not offset to one another). This ensures the path of the labels through the engine is accurate and not causing any image misalignment.


Guide Collars

These items help guide the label stock to the print engine and, once it leaves the printer, to the take-up roller.

As mentioned above, following the correct label routing path is critical. But with the label stock wrapping around the brake arm and idle rollers, it is equally important to ensure the guide collars are set correctly to assist with the label routing.

These guide collars should be adjusted in a manner where they keep the labels/liner in the correct position as they work their way around the rollers and through the system.

This means the collars should just be positioned so they are just touching the edge of the label material. If they are too far away from the label stock/liner material, the label path can shift and not follow the correct path into the printer. If the guide collars are too tight, they can restrict or crack the label stock/liner material so it does not feed consistently and smoothly into the print engine. In either case, this can cause misalignment of the image on your labels.


Print Engine Label Routing

Similar to following the documented label routing diagram for the Panther system, it is critical the label material is routed through the print engine as intended by the manufacturer.

Within the print engine itself, there is a clear diagram that illustrates how the label material is routed through the engine and to the take-up roller of the Panther system. Following the diagram exactly will help ensure the correct imprint position on your labels.

There are are also guides and a gap sensor within the print engine that should be adjusted properly to keep the label material traveling through the engine as expected. The guide is similar to the guide collar on the idle rollers. Position the guide within the print engine so that it is just touching the edge of the label material. The gap sensor should be adjusted and centered on the label material so that it correctly reads the gap between labels as they pass through the engine.


How long do these types of adjustment usually take to correct the imprint misalignment issue?

Following the above guidelines, it usually takes 5-10 minutes to correct this type of issue. You should be up and running again, with the label imprint occurring in the correct position and appearing consistently each time a label is printed and applied. If these simple steps do not correct the issue, please contact our service department at 800-530-6018 and we’ll be happy to assist you further.

 

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For any service or support-related issues related to your Panther Industries print and apply or pre-printed labeling automation systems, please contact us at service@print-n-apply.com or toll-free at 800-530-6018, x120. To order parts, please contact us at parts@print-n-apply.com or toll-free at 800-530-6018, x175