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Barcode Labels What is the deal?

Mar 29, 2008
OK, I hear direct thermal, thermal transfer, polybopp, kimdura, jewelry, kapton, sticky, removable, permanent, tire adhesive, clean room, 3 inch core, 1 inch core, no core and more. How the heck does anyone make heads or tails out of what they need to make a decision on which barcode labels to use for what!

It is a crazy world out there and barcode labels are really making an impact on tracking that world. Look around in the store whenever you buy something. There will always be a barcode on it. Businesses are using them to track inventory in a closed loop environment too. Heck, I even use them to track my office supplies so I never run out of valuable printer toner or copy paper. That is going a little overboard, so lets really get into what the deal is with barcode labels.

I would bet that the most common barcode label out there is the direct thermal barcode label. That is because it is a paper label that is used on most UPS shipments every day and is only used for a temporary purpose so they are consumed at a really high rate. The direct thermal barcode label will fade over time. Fading occurs because the direct thermal label will react to heat. So only use this label if the image is only to be read for a few weeks and will not be in the elements.

The thermal transfer barcode label is probably the next highest use label. This is a label that can be permanent adhesive or removable and is printed on with a ribbon. This makes the image more permanent and is used to barcode all kinds of product within distribution. Not only do companies use them to label product, but they also use these barcode labels to label rack locations in their warehouses. One of the best uses we have seen is to print the barcode labels and then put them on a magnetic strip. The magnetic strip is then put on the rack in the warehouse so if the warehouse is ever reconfigured, instead of having a mess of labels to peal off, just move the magnet.

Now, any of these labels can be made from paper, polyester, polystyrene, polybopp, kimdura, and many other materials. The material all depends on how much money you want to spend and what the application is going to be. If it is weather resistance you need in a barcode label, then any of the above synthetics will work. They each have different durability components. A polybopp or Kymdura will probably be the least expensive in the synthetics. The thing to keep in mind with the Kymdura is that unlike the polyester, it will rip. There are many other material like Kapton ( for very hot applications- up to 1000 deg Fahrenheit), Valeron (for the automotive industry) and many more.

Adhesive is the next area of mystery in barcode labels. Most applications are fine with a permanent adhesive. There are exceptions where a removable adhesive is needed. Now we need to remember that no adhesive is totally removable if it is on the product for an extended period of time. Removable adhesives will become permanent after years of it being applied. There are also ultra removable adhesives that will leave little to no residue. One of my favorites is a Tire adhesive. This is a gooey thick adhesive meant for barcode labels that go on tires or rubber. The warning here is that they may gum up your thermal transfer printer a bit.

All of the above barcode label materials and adhesives can be used and made into clean room barcode labels. For clean room applications, barcode labels need to be free of loose fibers and contaminates that can infect a clean room. This is done in a controlled environment and the packaging is then air locked and sealed for shipment to the clean rooms. This is really a special application and shows the diversity in barcode labels in the market.

Finally, we are looking at "what does a core" have to do with barcode labels? Well, some barcode printers require a 1 inch core in the center of the roll of barcode labels to make it work in the printer. Other barcode printers require a 3 inch cardboard core in the center that the labels are wound around. Other printers can actually use no core or a fan-folded barcode label. We have even seen an application for a 5 inch core. Now that is crazy! Anyway, the core is just how the barcode labels are finished and used in the appropriate printer.

Most of these barcode labels in any of the forms or materials listed are sold blank for the users to print on them using their equipment. There are many times that customers will not want to print the barcode labels themselves and have the labels sent in preprinted. Preprinted barcode labels are common if the barcode specification is really complex. The user relies on a barcode label expert to preprint these barcode labels and send them as a preprinted barcode label. They can be packaged and made with any of the above materials for any application.

Well, this little bit of information can really help when trying to make the proper decision on barcode labels for your business. So, fit the proper material to the proper application and your barcode labels will work like a charm.
About the Author
John Barth founded Adazon Barcode Labels and Barcode Equipment www.adazonusa.com in 2003 and has a wealth of information in the barcode arena from over 20 years of experience in distribution. John's experience allows companies to cut costs on custom labels, barcode scanners and total barcode solutions. For more information call 847-235-2700.
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