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Chemical label printing? What you need to know
By Filip Weymans, VP Global Marketing
08 Sep 2017

Not one label is the same - different applications require different digital technologies, which is precisely why printing is such an exciting business. Whether it is for pharma, wine & spirits, beer, durables, health & beauty, industrial chemicals or beverages, every label comes with its own aesthetic and functional requirements. In a series of blogs, we dive deeper into the characteristics of each of these end-use applications, and advice which digital printing technology is best used to produce high-quality labels that are in-line with market demands.

In this article, we focus on chemical labels, either for industrial (for examples paint, chemical labels) or household (under the sink) use. Typically these types of labels must appeal to the consumer, be UV light resistant, and resist chemicals as well as mechanical stress.

A technology agnostic approach

At Xeikon, we did an in-depth analysis of different digital label printing technologies (dry toner and liquid toner electrophotography, UV-curable inkjet and water-based inkjet), taking into account quality basics (dot positioning and dot sizes), substrate compatibility and process reliability as well as characteristics such as look & feel, durability and sustainability. The results are published in a white paper which is free for download from the Xeikon website.

Based on this analysis, Xeikon generally recommends UV inkjet as the most optimal technology to produce chemical labels, because of the durability benefits this technology offers. Dry toner however can also come into play when a high offset quality is desired in which case a proper protective layer is required. Let’s take a technical look at the decisive factors for choosing the right technology for a given chemical label project.

#1 Look and feel

Dry toner gives a matte impression which, by applying a varnish, can give a glossy look. When fine image details (offset quality) is required this technology is preferable. UV inkjet gives a very high gloss and tactile impression, which can appeal to certain people. The image details are not as sharp as dry toner but this is not necessarily a requirement. In this case, the choice lies with the brandowner.

#2 UV light

Lightfastness is critical for high quality labels. It is a measure of how well a printed image resists discoloration or fading as a result of exposure to light over time. Products sitting on a store shelf or in a warehouse are often exposed to direct sunlight. The UV affects the color pigments, causing the image to lose its brightness over time. It is a natural process which can be slowed down by adding protective UV layers on top of the label (varnish or laminate). From the start, Xeikon invested in high quality pigments used in the dry toner and UV inkjet inks with great lightfastness scores without any additional protective finishing.

#3 Chemical resistance

Cross-linked systems are generally highly resistant to chemicals, which explains the performance of UV-curable inkjet inks compared to that of toner: the resins in dry or liquid toner are mostly not cross-linked. Applying chemically-resistant lamination remedies this issue. The chemical resistance of water-based inks is due to the fact that these inks do not contain any components with an affinity for chemical solvents.

So what’s important to remember when it comes to digital production of chemical labels, is that UV inkjet is mostly recommended because of the durability and dry toner can come in play when a high offset look quality is desired. To find out more and learn about the different technologies available in the market, check the White Paper: ‘Digital Label Printing Technologies. No one size fits all’. It’s free for download from the Xeikon website, and provides in-depth analysis of all digital label printing technologies.

Or visit Xeikon at Labelexpo Europe 2017, where we’ll be sharing our expertise on chemical label printing, and much more in Hall 5. On our stand, we’ll display our full portfolio of digital label printing solutions, including both UV inkjet and dry toner, and unleash our two fast felines – Panther and Cheetah.

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