among converter, OEM and label supplier produces a solution for bubble-free
Not only is this information essential for consumer safety, but it helps reduce the possibility of manufacturer liability.
Manufacturers and converters in the outdoor power-equipment
market know that the appearance of brand identification and
safety/instructional labels sends a message to the consumer about product
quality. Labels that retain their readability, adhesion and color quality for
the life of the outdoor product reinforce the product’s reputation for quality
and durability. Labels that are faded, peeling off, scratched, tunneled,
flagged or otherwise flawed in appearance send a negative message about the
quality of the product itself.
Recently, a South Dakota-based converter of custom-made screen process labels
faced such an issue. The company, a FLEXcon customer, produced labels for a
major OEM that specializes in premium outdoor power equipment such as lawn
mowers and snow blowers. Printed on a thinner-gauge flexible white vinyl
product, the labels were exhibiting bubbles, creating an unsightly appearance.
The converter had begun to use an alternative option - a polycarbonate film -
to meet its customer’s label needs. However, that product was an unattractive
option both in terms of appearance and higher cost. In addition, the
polycarbonate product did not provide the five-year durability warranty that
OEMs want for their outdoor power equipment labels.
The converter was aware of more costly film solutions available that
effectively solve the bubble problem. For example, channels or beads are used
in the adhesive layer that allow air to escape; however, the process for
creating these channels/beads requires an expensive product design that
contributes to their premium cost. The pattern from the channels or beads can
transfer to the label surface and is visible in printed graphics. In addition,
not all of these products offered a five-year durability warranty. The label
converter decided this was not a viable solution for their OEM customer.
The label converter asked labeling materials supplier FLEXcon Co. Inc. to join
the converter/OEM team, observe the bubbling problem and propose a solution
with the necessary outdoor durability and UV resistance. The solution needed to
not only resolve the bubbling issue, but be easy to apply, highly durable, and
more cost-effective than currently available products for bubble-free labels.
Easy to Apply
OEM uses temporary, seasonal workers for applying labels to their seasonal
products, such as snow throwers, walk-behind lawnmowers, zero-turn mowers, and
riding mowers. Ease of application is essential because these workers have
varied skill levels, are not formally trained on how to apply the labels, and
must maintain a desired output per hour.
OEM’s outdoor products for consumer and commercial use are noted for their high
quality and long life. The bubble-free label solution needed to have guaranteed
five-year outdoor durability to provide the highest aesthetic quality and
performance for the life of the product.
Beyond durability and being bubble free, FLEXcon's DPM Aply 1000 comes from a pedigree of durable product marking films that preserve consumer perception of quality and minimize OEM liability.
Because of the quantity of labels used per product, not to
mention the total number of products output, the OEM wanted to obtain the highest
label performance possible at a reasonable cost.
To find the appropriate solution, FLEXcon began by exploring the possibility
that plastic outgassing might be causing the bubbling issue. Outgassing is a
function of freshly molded plastic parts, which cure over a 72-hour period.
Within that period, plastic parts often emit air molecules that can become
trapped under the label. FLEXcon learned that the labels were usually applied
well after the typical 72-hour cure period for newly molded plastic parts. In
fact, the typical application of labels takes place 5-10 days after the product
is manufactured. This indicated that outgassing was not the primary cause of
bubbling. In addition, bubbles appeared on labels applied to the OEM’s painted
metal surfaces, where plastic curing time is not a factor. A more likely
explanation for the bubbling, therefore, would be either complexities or
challenges during the application process or a product performance issue.
To explore both possibilities, FLEXcon observed how the OEM’s workers applied
the labels. There were a number of inconsistencies in technique, including how
the release liner was removed, how the label was laid down, and the method used
to smooth it out (via hand or squeegee). In addition, they saw how the current
label material and a control label material functioned during the same
Based on its market research, FLEXcon was aware that 90% of OEM label bubbling
problems are caused by application air entrapment and inadequate product
performance as the labels are applied, not by outgassing. Therefore, a custom
film/adhesive solution that would facilitate consistent, precise application
seemed to be the answer to this customer’s challenge.
After testing a variety of custom film constructions, FLEXcon arrived at a
specially engineered product featuring a film with more rigidity than the
previous labeling product coupled with a specifically formulated adhesive. The
film’s rigidity would make it easier for any worker to apply the label smoothly
and consistently since it would hold its shape while being affixed. This film’s
smooth, non-patterned surface and opaqueness would achieve optimum label
graphics. The adhesive was designed to offer easy repositionability and a
reliable long-term bond that would keep the label in place for the life of the
FLEXcon provided samples of the custom film/adhesive construction to the
converter and the OEM. A side-by-side comparison with the previous thinner-gauge
vinyl product showed that the new FLEXcon solution was easier to apply, did a
better job of preventing bubbles, provided print quality deemed superior to
other solutions on the market, and could do the job in a more cost-effective
way. This film product has been added to FLEXcon’s product line and is now
available to all converters under the name DPM®
The converter and its OEM customer were pleased with this solution, and plan to
transition to the specially engineered film product for the majority of their
outdoor power equipment labels that formerly used the thinner-gauge vinyl
product or the polycarbonate. Of special importance, the FLEXcon solution comes
with a five-year outdoor durability warranty.
By working as a three-party problem-solving team, the converter, OEM, and
FLEXcon were able to combine their knowledge and capabilities to find a way to
hold down costs for bubble-free labeling while achieving a superior aesthetic
For more information, contact the FLEXcon Product Identification
Business Team at (508) 885-8300.