Glossary of Label Terms – Custom Printed Labels & Stickers

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Label basics, design, marketing, and application.As with all industries, self-adhesive label printing has a host of terms and phrases that you may have never heard before. We have compiled this list to help decrease the label order language barrier.


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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

ANSI

The American National Standards Institute. This non-profit organization manages the development of voluntary industry standards for the United States.

 

ANILOX ROLL

These are the precisely engraved steel rolls used to administer and control the amount of ink that is applied to the printing plates. The number of cells or tiny cups per linear inch and the depth and wall of the engraving control the volume of ink applied to the plate.

 

ASCII

The character encoding created by the American National Standard Code for Information Interchange. Computer systems and other peripherals that work with text utilize this code.

 

ABRASION RESISTANCE

Refers to the amount of rubbing or wear a label surface (with a protective topcoating) can withstand before breaking down or scuffing.

 

ACETATE

A semi rigid plastic film material suitable for printing. As a label stock it is available in a clear gloss or matte finish.

 

ACRYLIC ADHESIVE

Pressure sensitive adhesive that utilizes acrylic polymers.

 

ADHESION

Refers to the adhesive property of a label, or how well it sticks to a surface.

 

ADHESIVE

Refers to the substance applied to the sticky side of a label that allows attachment to a surface.

 

ADHESIVE, All TEMPERATURE

Permanent general purpose adhesive used for pressure sensitive label applications where a range of temperatures exist, approximately -65°F to 220°F.

 

ADHESIVE, COLD TEMPERATURE

Permanent adhesive used for pressure sensitive label applications where freezing temperatures exist, approximately 35°F and colder.

 

ADHESIVE, PERMANENT

This adhesive offers a high adhesion to a surface. These pressure sensitive labels may sometimes be removed with effort but are typically not removable.

 

ADHESIVE, PRESSURE SENSITIVE

This refers to the capability of an adhesive at room temperature to bond to different surfaces it comes in contact with when pressure is applied to the label.

 

ADHESIVE, REMOVABLE

An adhesive used for pressure sensitive label applications where good adhesion is required, but can be removed from most surfaces. Some adhesive residue may transfer depending on the surface that the label is applied to.

 

APPLICATION TEMPERATURE

This is the recommended temperature of a label at the time it is applied.

 

APPLICATOR

This machine is used to automatically dispense and apply labels to the product.

 

AUTOCLAVE

A sterilization device using high pressure steam. Labels designated for this use must withstand these high temperatures.

 

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B

BACKING

Also referred to as liner, backing paper, carrier sheet, or release liner, this is the material that the pressure sensitive label is laminated to. It is coated with a release to allow the label to be removed.

 

BASIC SHEET SIZE

The size of a sheet of paper which is used to determine paper weight. Sizes vary depending on the type of stock.

 

BAR

This is the dark printed lines of a barcode symbol.

 

BAR CODE

A series of vertical bars and spaces arranged in various patterns to represent digits or characters that can be read by a bar code reader.

 

BAR CODE READER

A unit that uses a laser to read barcode information.

 

BAR LENGTH

The height of the bar in a barcode.

 

BAR WIDTH

The dimension across a bar or the left to right width of the bar in a barcode.

 

BAR WIDTH REDUCTION

Used to compensate for gain in printing, it is the shrinking of the bar width.

 

BARRIER COAT

This water based coating is applied to the face stock of an uncoated material on top of the printing, like a sealer, it protects the printed surface.

 

BEARER

These are the supporting bands that are added to the printing plate or rotary die to assist with impression control.

 

BLEED

This is the extra area required when print coverage continues past the trim edge or die cut of a label.

 

BUTT CUT LABELS

Method used to create a continuous roll of rectangular labels using a single knife cut to separate the labels.

 

BUTTED RECTANGLES

Two or more rectangles cut side by side with no gap between them and no waste matrix to strip.

 

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C

CARRIER

Also know as the liner material for pressure sensitive labels.

 

CHARACTER

In a barcode symbol it is a series of bars and spaces that represents numbers, letters or punctuation.

 

CHECK DIGIT

This is the number within a barcode symbol that uses a mathematical formula to confirm the readability of the scan.

 

CHEMICAL RESISTANCE

Refers to how much exposure to chemical agents a pressure sensitive label can withstand.

 

CLEAR AREA

Also know as a quiet area or quiet zone, it is the empty space to the left and right of a barcode symbol which is necessary for scanning.

 

CMYK

Also referred to as Four Color Process, this method of printing uses Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (K) inks in screens to produce full color images. The light reflected off the dots of the screen on the printed material is "processed" by the eye to perceive millions of color variations.

 

COATED PAPER

These papers have had a pigment or other coating pre-applied to them.

 

COATING

Used as a protective measure, these are applied over the printed surface of a label. Can be water-based or UV based.

 

CODE 128

A high density alphanumeric barcode that can encode all 128 ASCII characters.

 

CODE 39

This alphanumeric bar code uses nine black and white bars for each character symbol, Each bar is either wide or narrow, with 3 of the 9 bars are always wide, thus the name.

 

COHESION (Cohesive Strength, Internal Bond, Shear)

Describes the internal bonding nature of an adhesive, its resistance to separation or to flow.

 

COLD FLOW (Ooze)

This is the flow or oozing out of the sides of a pressure sensitive adhesive as a result of pressure or stress.

 

CONDITIONING

Method of acclimatizing a material to temperature and humidity conditions for a period of time.

 

CONFORMABILITY

This refers to how well a pressure sensitive material lays down over a complex surface such as a convex or concave shape. Also referred to a flexibility.

 

CONSECUTIVE NUMBERING/BARCODING

This method of printing utilizes a secondary device such as a thermal transfer printer to imprint variable data onto a printed label, offering a broader range of individual label items.

 

CONTINUOUS LABEL

Also referred to as Fan-Folded labels, these are printed in a continuous roll and perforated. Typically used in dot matrix data type printers.

 

CONVERTER

A manufacturer who produces pressure sensitive labels and tags as well as other forms of packaging from rolls of paper or film.

 

COPIER LABEL

A label that can be printed on when fed through a photo-copier.

 

CORNER RADIUS

The measurement of the arc of a rounded rectangular corner on cutting dies.

 

COUPON

These removable labels can have redeemable value or other information.

 

CROP MARKS

Thin lines used at the outer edges of artwork to designate the trim area.

 

CROSS DIRECTION

This refers to the direction across the web or perpendicular to the direction the material feeds through the press.

 

CURL

Refers to the tendency of a material to curve up on its own, usually due to improper conditions.

 

CYLINDER

On a flexographic press, these are the machined rolls to which printing plates are mounted, also called impression cylinders.

 

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D

DEBOSSED

Similar to embossing except the art or lettering is depressed when compared to the remaining label.

 

DELAMINATION

This is when the liner is separated from the face stock on press during manufacturing of the label.

 

DIE

A tooling used to cut a specified shape from the label or tag. These can be used to cut only the face material or completely cut or punch out the material.

 

DIE BLADES

Sharp blades used in rotary dies to cut or sheet material on the press.

 

DIE CUT

Labels cut to shape using a die.

 

DIE CUT LABEL

A pressure sensitive label that has the face stock cut using a die and the waste matrix typically removed.

 

DIE LINES

A line drawing showing the actual outline of the diecut shape.

 

DIGITAL OFFSET - HP Indigo

Indigo is a series of digital offset printing presses manufactured by the Hewlett-Packard company in Ness Ziona, Israel. HP Indigo presses are used for general commercial printing, direct mail, photo, publications, labels, flexible packaging, folding cartons and specialty printing. Its ability to print without films and plates enables it to create personalized short to long runs, changing text, images and jobs without having to stop the press. HP Indigo digital presses are particularly well-suited to consumer-generated web-to-print applications ranging from business cards, photo books and labels.

 

DIMENSIONAL STABILITY

The nature of a material to stretch or shrink due to temperature or tension.

 

DISPENSER

A machine that feeds pressure sensitive labels by removing the liner and making the label ready for application.

 

DOT GAIN (Spread)

This is an increase in the size of a dot from the plate to the printed sheet. This is due to the nature of ink being impressed onto the material by the plate. There is also optical dot gain which involve physic of light and reflection of the substrate.

 

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E

EDGE LIFT

This is when the edge or corner of the label tends to release and lift from the surface it is applied to. Small curved surfaces are most prone to this occurring; the strength of the adhesive and flexibility of the material also are factors.

 

EDP

Electronic Data Processing - Usually blank, die-cut labels used for printing with computer equipment. Configuration is typically pin-fed type (with holes), perforated and fan-folded.

 

EMBOSSED

This is when art or lettering is raised as relief when compared to the remaining label. Embossing consists of a male and female plate that forces the material to conform to the image on the plate, creating relief.

 

EYEMARK

Usually a small dark rectangle printed at the edge of a label or on the liner used to activate a sensor for registration to the product or additional variable data printing units.

 

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F

FACESTOCK

Any material that can be used for pressure sensitive labels: paper, film or foil, that is laminated to the liner. Also referred to as face material.

 

FACE SLIT

This is when the face material is cut to the liner for ease of label removal. Also referred to as face split.

 

FAN FOLD or FLAT PACK

See continuous labels.

 

FILM

Polymer based face materials. These can be made from acetate, polyester, polypropylene, polyethylene, vinyl or other specialized materials.

 

FINISH

Refers to the final appearance of a pressure sensitive label. These can be gloss, satin, matte or uncoated, as well as a combination of these on a single label.

 

FLEXIBILITY (Conformability, Pliability)

This refers to how well a pressure sensitive material lays down over a complex surface such as a convex or concave shape.

 

FLEXIBLE DIE

A type of cutting die that is machined into a metal flexible sheet which is then applied to a magnetic cylinder forming the rotary cutting die. Also referred to as a magnetic die.

 

FLEXOGRAPHIC PRINTING

A relief method of printing using flexible polymer printing plates, rotary die cutting, inline embossing, fast drying inks, as well as other finishing options.

 

FLOOD COAT

The process of covering the entire web with ink, or primer or adhesive using a flood roller vs. a printing plate.

 

FLUORESCENT PAPER

Paper that has been pre-coated with fluorescent ink prior to printing.

 

FOIL

A thin metal sheet that can be used as the face material, hot stamping material or lamination.

 

FOIL PAPER LAMINATE

Referred to as metallized paper foil, this is when foil is laminated on top of a paper material to create a new face material suitable for printing.

 

FOOD CONTACT ADHESIVES

These adhesives meet approved guidelines designated by the FDA for use in certain circumstances where food safety is a concern.

 

FOUR-COLOR PROCESS

Also referred to as CMYK, this method of printing uses Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (K) inks in screens to produce full color images. The light reflected off the dots of the screen on the printed material is "processed" by the eye to perceive millions of color variations.

 

FREEZER ADHESIVES

These adhesives are recommended where application and use is below the freezing point.

 

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G

GLOSS

A top coating that is applied to the label that produces light reflection.

 

GRAVURE PRINTING

Intaglio printing process using photo engraved printing plates which employs small cells to hold ink and apply directly to the face material. Can be rotary (web fed) or flatbed (sheet fed).

 

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H

HANG TAG

Usually a non pressure sensitive tag with a fold, used in retail and is attached to the product.

 

HEAT SEAL (Heat Activated Labels)

A label material that is coated with a heat activated adhesive.

 

HEAT RESISTANCE

Refers to the ability of a label material to withstand adverse effects of heating conditions.

 

HEAVY COAT WEIGHT

Refers to the application of a higher density of a coating than standard.

 

HOT STAMPING

Refers to the method of printing using a hot stamp die that uses heat and pressure to transfer the image to the label. Hot foil stamping transfers foil to the face stock.

 

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I

ID

Inside diameter.

 

IMPRESSION

This is the transfer of the ink from the printing plate to the face material, also refers to the amount of pressure applied by the print cylinder against the face material.

 

IMPRINTING

Method of overprinting variable data onto a label using another printing machine such as a thermal transfer printer.

 

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J
K

KISS CUT

When the die cuts only through the face stock and not the liner.

 

KNIFE CUT LABELS

Method used to create a continuous roll of rectangular labels using a single knife cut to separate the labels. Also known as butt cut labels.

 

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L

LABEL

Refers to the die-cut face material and its adhesive.

 

LABEL STOCK

Refers to the rolls of label material (face material, adhesive and liner).

 

LABELING MACHINE

A unit that peels back a pressure sensitive label's liner, exposing the adhesive and applies the label to a product.

 

LAMINATE

A label stock created by combining two or more pressure sensitive materials onto one web.

 

LAMINATION

Refers to the clear protective film layer applied as a topcoating for pressure sensitive labels. Can have a gloss or matte finish.

 

LASER PAPER

Label or tag paper that can be used in a laser printer.

 

LASER SCANNER

Used to read barcodes this unit uses a laser beam to reflect light off the dark and light bars into a sensor.

 

LAY FLAT

A label material that when finished does not curl.

 

LETTERPRESS PRINTING

A relief form of printing where ink is applied to rigid raised areas of a printing plate and transferred to the paper or substrate.

 

LEXAN

A polycarbonate film manufactured by General Electric Co.

 

LIFT TAB

An area of the label, usually a corner, which has the adhesive eliminated to allow for easier removal. Frequently used on piggy back and peel labels.

 

LINER

Also referred to as backing, it is the material that the pressure sensitive face material is laminated to. It is coated with a release to allow the label to be removed.

 

LINE SCREEN (LPI)

Refers to the Line Per Inch or lines of dots per inch when screens are present. When percentages of a solid color are used a pattern of dots of varying sizes is printed to create the tonal value. A number is assign to designate the actual quantity of dots that will fall into a linear inch, example: 120 lpi, 133 lpi, 175 lpi.

 

LITHOGRAPHIC PAPER

A paper label material that has a coating on one side that is suitable for lithographic printing.

 

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M

MACHINE DIRECTION

Also referred to as the web direction, this is the direction of the forward movement of the material through the press.

 

MAGNETIC DIE

Also known as a flexible die, this is a type of cutting die that is machined into a metal flexible sheet. It is applied to a magnetic cylinder forming the rotary cutting die.

 

MAKEREADY

This refers to all of the procedures done prior to actual print production to prepare the press to the job's specifications.

 

MASTER ROLL

This refers to the unslit and untrimmed roll of label material after the initial manufacturing stage.

 

MATERIAL

Stock that has not been converted.

 

MATERIAL SPLICE

On a roll it is where separate material are joined with tape to form one continuous roll.

 

MATRIX (Waster Skeleton)

This is the waste face material that is usually removed from the liner surrounding the die-cut labels.

 

MATTE FINISH

This top coating has little or no reflective properties and adds protection to the printed label surface.

 

MEMORY

This is the nature of some materials to want to return to its original shape after being distorted.

 

METAL FOIL

This is a thin metal used for face stock, sometimes laminated to paper for additional strength.

 

METALIZED FILM

This is a film that has been coated on one side with a thin metal foil.

 

METALIZED PAPER

This is a paper that has been treated to receive thin coating of metal (aluminum).

 

MIL

Unit of measurement used for thin materials. 1 mil=0.001 inch=100 gauge.

 

MYLAR

This is a tough polymeric film trademarked by Dupont.

 

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N

NEGATIVE

This is an image that appears in reverse of its original state. Black areas are white or clear (film) and vice versa.

 

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O

OD

The outside diameter of a completed roll of labels.

 

OOZE

This occurs when adhesive flows out the ends of the die-cut labels or sheets and may feel sticky.

 

OFFSET PRINTING

An indirect printing method where the printing plate does not come in contact with the printed surface but is instead offset onto a rubber blanket which then transfers ink onto the material.

 

OPACITY

This is the degree of light that can pass through a material or a materials ability to block light from passing through it.

 

OPAQUE INK

This is non-transparent ink can overprint other colors without having its color properties affected.

 

OVERLAMINATING

This is when a clear film lamination is applied over the printed surface for protection or visual appeal. Can be matte or gloss finish.

 

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P

PERFORATED

These are small slits made into the face material or completely through the label stock to promote folding or tearing along a designated path.

 

PERMANENCY

Refers to the ability of a label's adhesive to hold on to the material to which it is applied and the degree of difficulty of removal of the label from that material.

 

PERMANENT ADHESIVE

This adhesive has excellent bonding ability to a variety of surfaces under most conditions.

 

PHOSPHORESCENT FACE

A face stock that has been coated with a "glow in the dark" coating.

 

PHOTOPOLYMER

This material used for plate making is photosensitive and once processed forms a durable relief that ink is then applied to.

 

PIGGYBACK

Essentially is a removable label on a label that once applied to a product facilitates the removal of the top label, leaving the bottom label still attached.

 

PIN FEED

These are the slot or holes punched into the edges of a label material that allows it to be fed into an appropriate pin-feed printing device.

 

PLATE

In flexographic printing it is what transfers the printed image to the material.

 

POLYESTER

A durable film with excellent resistance to adverse conditions, available as clear white and metalized.

 

POLYETHYLENE

This plastic film is "squeezable" and has good low temperature performance.

 

POLYOLEFIN

This soft plastic film is "squeezable" and has good conformability.

 

POLYPROPYLENE

This plastic film is not squeezable but has good durability.

 

PRESS CHECK

This is a special appointment made by the client to be present during the initial period of the production run to give final approval while the job is on press.

 

PRESS PROOFS

These are printed lengths of material ran on press and submitted to the client for approval prior to the final production run.

 

PRESSURE SENSITIVE LABEL

Self adhesive label products that have been converted from pressure sensitive label stock. Rather than applying glue to a container and applying the label to the glue area, pressure sensitive labels have the adhesive "printed" onto the back of the label, like a sticker.

 

PRESSURE SENSITIVE LABEL STOCK

Comprised of the face material, adhesive and release liner this is the base material from which pressure sensitive labels are converted. A diagram of the construction is available in our Label Learning Hub section.

 

PRIMARY LABEL

This is the label that is associated with identifying the product. Also referred to as Prime labels.

 

PRIMER

This is a coating applied to a label face material to improve ink impression properties.

 

PROCESS PRINTING

Also referred to as CMYK, this method of printing uses Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (K) inks in screens to produce full color images. The light reflected off the dots of the screen on the printed material is "processed" by the eye to perceive millions of color variations.

 

PROTECTIVE COATING (topcoating, Overprint Coating)

This varnish or laminated film coating protects the printed inks of a pressure sensitive label.

 

PUNCHED OUT LABELS

This is when the cutting die completely cuts through the entire label stock releasing the die-cut shape from the web.

 

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Q
R

REGISTER

This refers to the precise alignment of the printed impression for each color or other components such as embossing, foiling and the die-cut of a label.

 

REGISTER MARKS

These special marks are used as cross hairs to register two or more printed colors during printing.

 

RELEASE COAT

This is the coating on the release liner that allows the pressure sensitive face material removal.

 

RELEASE LINER

Also referred to as the backing, this is the material that the pressure sensitive label is laminated to. It is coated with a release to allow the label to be removed before being applied to the product.

 

REMOVABLE ADHESIVE

This type of adhesive permits relatively easy removal of a pressure sensitive label from most surfaces.

 

REMOVABILITY

Used to describe the ability of a label to be removed from the surface it is applied to.

 

REPEAT

Refers to the printed length of cylinder based on one complete revolution.

 

RESIDUE

Refers to the adhesive that remains on the material that remains once a pressure sensitive label has been removed.

 

RESOLUTION

In Images it refers to the pixels per inch in the across and down dimensions of the screen. This plays a role in the output to print concerning the sharpness of the image.

  

REVERSE PRINTING

Easiest to understand in the context of clear film decals placed on the inside of a window to be right-reading from the outside of the glass. Print is done on the back of the label then coated with adhesive.

 

REWIND DIRECTION

This is the orientation of the copy printed on the label as it is unwound on roll labels.

 

RGB

This refers to Red, Green, and Blue, the three colors of the light spectrum that can be mixed to produce any other color. For printing purposes, RGB can produce a larger set of colors than can be produced by printing in CMYK. Therefore, it is recommended that images or artwork created in RGB mode be converted to CMYK prior to label artwork submission.

 

ROLL LABEL

These are pressure sensitive labels that are wound in the form of a roll.

 

ROTARY PRESS

This is a press that utilizes a roll to roll configuration to print on web fed materials.

 

ROTARY PRINTING

This refers to the actual printing of the cylinders and plates.

 

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S

SCORE

Refers to a partial cut or crease in a material to facilitate bending, folding or tearing depending on the depth of the impression.

 

SELF ADHESIVE LABEL

Self adhesive label products that have been converted from pressure sensitive label stock. Rather than applying glue to a container and applying the label to the glue area, pressure sensitive labels have the adhesive "printed" onto the back of the label, like a sticker.

 

SERVICE TEMPERATURE

This is the range of temperatures that a pressure sensitive label will endure after the initial 24 hour period of being applied to a substrate.

 

SHEETING

This refers to the process of cutting the web of pressure sensitive label material into finished sheets on the press.

 

SHELF LIFE (Storage Life)

This refers to the period of time that a pressure sensitive label can be stored and still remain usable. Most materials have a shelf life of one year.

 

SMUDGE RESISTANCE

This is the ability of the printed surface avoid smearing.

 

SOLVENT RESISTANCE

This is the resistance of a pressure sensitive label to certain chemicals.

 

SPLIT BACK

This refers to cuts made to the liner of a pressure sensitive label to allow easy removal of the face material.

 

STATIC CLING

This non-pressure sensitive material has the ability to adhere to a smooth surface such as glass without the need of an adhesive, permitting easy removal. Also referred to a window cling and can be clear or white material.

 

SUBSTRATE

Another name for the face label material that is printed on, also referred to as the product or material that the pressure sensitive label is applied to.

 

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T

TACK

Refers to the amount of stickiness of a pressure sensitive label.

 

TACTILE VARNISH

A tactile varnish has a distinct feel, different from a smooth varnish or laminate. Examples of tactile varnish include rough (think sandpaper) or and high friction (think plastic wrap).

 

TAGS

Refers to the converted product that is only partially attached to product. Hang tags and merchandise tags are some examples. Typically not pressure sensitive.

 

TAMPER-EVIDENT LABEL

A type of pressure sensitive label whose properties cause the destruction of the label when it is removed to show that product was tampered with.

 

TENSILE STRENGTH

This refers to the force needed to break a material parallel to itself. Stretching the material to the breaking point.

 

THERMAL PRINTING

This method of printing uses heat to activate certain areas of a heat sensitive material causing it to turn dark and produce an image.

 

THERMAL TRANSFER

Similar to thermal printing however instead of imaging directly to a heat sensitive material, it uses a heat sensitive ribbon to transfer an image to an appropriate substrate.

 

THERMAL TRANSFER PAPER

This is face material that has been specially treated to receive the image imprinted by a thermal transfer ribbon.

 

THERMOGRAPHIC PAPER

Used in thermal printing, this paper has a special heat activated coating that turns dark when heat is applied to the imaged area.

 

THROUGH CUT

This is a die-cut label that has cut through the entire label stock.

 

TIE

Refers to the uncut area of a perforation. Also used with special shape through cut die-cuts to keep the label attached to the web.

 

TOLERANCE

This is the range of standards by which labels can be produced.

 

TOOLING

This is a general term referring to cutting dies, butt cutters and knives used to cut labels.

 

TOP COATING

This refers to the final protective coating applied to a printed label.

 

TRANSLUCENT LABEL

This label material allows light to pass through it but is not clear.

 

TRANSPARENT LABEL

This label material allows light to pass through it and permits objects to be seen clearly through it.

 

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U

UL

Underwriters Laboratories.

 

ULTRA-VIOLET (UV) RESISTANCE

This is the ability of a material and or inks to endure exposure to sunlight without excessive adverse effects.

 

UV CURING

This is the method of curing inks or adhesives using ultra-violet light.

 

UV INKS

This set of inks has very opaque properties and is cured using ultra-violet light.

 

UV VARNISH

This type of varnish is used as a top coating to protect the printed surface and is cured using ultra-violet light.

 

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V

VARNISH

This is the top coating that protects the printed surface, available in several finishes including matte, satin, gloss and hi-rub, printed before die-cutting.

 

VINYL

This plastic material is generally more pliable than polyesters and has excellent chemical, oil and some solvent resistance.

 

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W

WEB

Refers to the roll of material that is fed through the various stages of the press.

 

WEB DIRECTION

Also referred to a machine direction, it is the direction of the forward movement of the material through the press and plays a role in the rewind direction.

 

WRAP-AROUND LABEL

This is a type of label that extends all the way around the surface it is applied to.

 

X
Y
Z