Die Strikes: Impact to Labeling Automation

Labels used in labeling automation systems are made of paper, polypropylene, or vinyl material with an adhesive underside. This adhesive label sits on a thin, silicone-covered paper lining that allows it to be easily and consistently released from the lining during the labeling automation process.

In some instances, labels manufactured with substandard quality control can cause problems for labeling automation systems. Before we outline where these issues stem from, it is important to have a general understanding of how labels are manufactured.

To produce a roll of labels, a large roll/web of continuous label material is converted. This converting process starts by taking a large web of material – which is several labels wide – and having the size and shape of the individual labels cut from the label material, while on the lining, with a die. This cutting process is called the die strike. Once the die strike has occurred, the excess label material from the gaps and borders are removed, and the larger web sheet of die cut labels are trimmed down into several smaller (individual) rolls of labels for use.

When a label is die cut during the converting process, it is critical that consistent pressure and alignment of the die strike is maintained. Ideally, the die strike occurs where enough pressure cuts through the adhesive label material, but not into the thin layer of silicone on the label lining material. If too much die pressure is used, the adhesive from the back of the label material can creep into the lining material and inhibit the label from separating from the lining. This can be problematic during labeling automation, manifesting issues in a couple of different ways:

  1. The label only partially separates from the lining and causes a jam within the applicator or print engine.
  2. The label doesn’t separate and remains completely on the lining, feeding all the way to the takeup roll.
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In either instance, your label is not applied and your uptime is negatively impacted.

Ron Schmoker, Manufacturing Operations Manager at Panther Industries, expands on the implications of imperfect die strikes and how to check for them.

“First off, it is important to understand that all labels have die strikes,” says Schmoker. “What end users need to be mindful of is situations where excessive die strikes are affecting their labeling automation systems.”

If a labeling system is seeing repeated issues where labels are not completely peeling and/or jamming the applicator or print engine, the area of concern may be related to the label stock. While excessive die strike issues are more of an exception, there is a quick and easy way to check to see if this specific problem is causing the issue.

“Most times you can visually inspect the label liner to see if there is an excessive die strike, as the outline of the label is clearly visible after the label has been removed,” Schmoker adds. “But if those lines are not visible,” he continues, “simply remove a few labels from the liner and use a thick marker to ‘draw’ heavily on the lining around the edges where the labels used to be. If the ink from the marker bleeds through to the underside of the lining material, you have excessive die strikes.”

Here is an example showing the marker bleed through the lining material, indicating excessive die strikes are present. Label material without excessive die strikes would not see the marker visible on the underside.

If you utilize paper labels in your systems, another type of test Schmoker has presented to his clients is a simple fold test. “If you have a really bad die strike, you can fold the lining material extremely easily where the die strike has occurred because it has cut through the lining.”

What should you do if determine your label material has excessive die strikes and is affecting your labeling automation systems? Schmoker offers this advice: “This type of issue really becomes an opportunity for clear communication and education between Panther Industries, the customer, and the label supplier. If it is determined that a customer is having issues with their label stock due to excessive die strikes, it’s been our experience that the supplier wants to know about it immediately so they can correct any quality control oversight and address these issues in their production process.”

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Ready to increase your throughput, reduce your expenses, and decrease your waste/loss due to manual or outdated processes? Contact a Panther Industries sales representative at sales@print-n-apply.com or toll-free at 800-530-6018, x111 to see how print and apply or preprinted labeling automation will improve your bottom line.