Ruined labels and jammed applicators are frustrating, especially when the problem is difficult to identify. Is it a problem with the label construction? The container being labeled? The label application equipment? If your labels are jamming up or multiple labels are applying to a single container, the real culprit may be static electricity.
Static can interfere with label application, a problem we encounter most often when using a clear poly liner. Plastic has a high resistance to electricity and works as an insulator, causing static build up on the surface of your labels as they move through the applicator and separate from the liner.
This may occur on machines that respool the label liner after application and earlier equipment that simply discharges it to the floor. For applicators that do respool the liner, static may prevent the liner from neatly respooling.
When static tries to discharge, your labels (or the label backing material) may "stick" to the rollers, interrupting the smooth operation of the applicator. Labels can also stick to each other and to the equipment. Static charge on a label surface may also cause the label to be applied unevenly to surface of your container. Damaged labels and disrupted application can be exasperating.
Thankfully there are a few relatively easy steps you can take to dissipate static and keep your table top label machine running smoothly.
Place Your Label Applicator on a Conductive Surface
The easiest and most obvious step to take? Do not use your label applicator on a plastic surface, such as a plastic folding table. As mentioned above, plastic has a high resistance to electrical current. Using a highly resistant surface limits where the static charges can build up– meaning your label applicator and the labels themselves must try to deal with the electricity. A metal table will allow static electricity to pass away from the labels rather than building up and causing problems.
Use Copper Tinsel to Dissipate Static
Copper tinsel is an effective, low cost, passive method to eliminate static. We use copper tinsel at Advanced Labels NW to remove static during label manufacturing. Copper tinsel is available at popular websites like Amazon.com in rolls you can spool out to create your own custom anti-static solution. You can simply twist a bit of the tinsel around part of the label applicator so that a trailing edge lightly rests on the labels near the point of label application.
Depending on your specific application, some trial and error may be required to determine exactly where the static is causing problems. Using the copper tinsel method pictured below, try to position the tinsel as closely as possible to the area of static build up.
Anti-static Mats and Anti-Static Sprays
Anti-Static Mats provide insulation between your table and your label application machine. They use a wire attached from the mat to the floor to "ground" your workstation. This setup also requires the operator to ground themselves using an anti-static wristband with its own grounding wire, potentially limiting your movement and decreasing the efficiency of your labeling.
Anti-Static sprays are a short term and potentially messy solution that will require repeated applications of a wet spray. Anti-Static sprays are not particularly practical when the static is being generated by your label rolls. Spraying a water, alcohol, and polymer mixture directly on to your labels or label rolls in generally not a good idea. The moisture may damage the labels, creating an entirely new problem.
Go Forth and Label
Static electricity problems are not unique to table top label application, but they are generally minimized in the setup of fully automated application lines. If you are experiencing issues similar to those outlined here, consider eliminating static electricity build up. Labeling your bottles should be an exciting step towards bringing your products to market, not messy and exasperating. We hope your future label applications go smoothly!
For more information about applying your labels, visit our Label Learning Hub.