Takes on Tapes, Labels & Liners

By Susan Stansbury, Industry Consultant

Tapes, labels and liners individually, and as they overlap, represent so many facets of converting and equipment, and inevitably miss some of the latest. Nevertheless, here are some notes.

Tapes offerings are among the most diverse product lineups. The big differences, from masking to electrical, sealing and other segments include varying substrates, adhesives and characteristics. As Tesa Tape indicated, “Functional tapes do more than just connect two objects to one another. These adhesive tapes have additional properties that allow them to be conductive, insulate, grip and shield electrical components.”

Substrates for tapes run the gamut of materials. Filament tapes alone can incorporate polyester, polypropylene and glass yarn filaments, often to increase strength for strapping and other specific applications.

There are different types of adhesives available for tapes: Acrylic, hotmelt and solvent-based with different properties. Pressure-sensitive adhesives include silicone, acrylics and rubbers. For example, silicone adhesives are used in medical applications and for transdermal patches.

Years ago, I participated in trials to match various adhesives with various release liners. We knew that the level of adherence and release is greatly impacted by the choices made. In some cases, those levels were impacted by time and by other steps in production including radiation sterilization; certain combinations that were supposed to release tightened instead.

Prototyping and machine trials are critical for desired outcomes when disparate combinations are in play. The possibilities are demonstrated by Tesa International which touts more than 7,000 solutions. Today, noted Tesa, “the focus is on sustainability and energy-saving processes.”

Tesa has achieved good outcomes with its extensive sustainability initiatives, “particularly in the areas of environment and energy, sustainable supply chains and ethics.” As a result, the company has received “EcoVadis Gold status;” the EcoVadis platform is an independent assessment system for companies that measures sustainability performance. 

Labels offer solutions with use of papers, fabrics or other materials which are attached to products and containers. For example, Pixelle Specialty Solutions features label face stocks for these representative specialty categories: Prime, direct thermal, thermal transfer, wet strength and pressure-sensitives. A reminder of the range of purposes for labels:

  • Identification (genuine vs. fake);
  • Marketing and branding;
  • Compliance and usage warnings;
  • Medical, cosmetic and food information’
  • Usage, disposal, and recycling; and,
  • Contents and composition.

In addition, according to Pixelle, their “extensive range of barrier coatings take the performance to the next level. Seal in aromas, block grease and more with advanced barrier technology that can help to replace single-use plastics with one of the most renewable substrates on the planet.”

Brand appeal often steals headlines in the labeling arena. Optimal printed surfaces include matte and various gloss levels, and coating conversions. Label growth is frequently dependent on the appeal of printed materials as well as continued diversity. According to recent reports, the global print label market is expected to grow to $44.80 billion this year at a compound annual growth rate of 6 percent. Ink dispensing systems and management software programs for achieving repeatable quality and reducing ink costs has made major impacts.

Flexographic, gravure, screen and digital methods are increasingly offering sustainable print solutions for labeling. Brand leaders are conscious of consumer awareness where waste and green approaches are part of the product story. According to Dan Aberly of Legacy Flexo, manufacturers are building presses, each with flexo, digital and UV capabilities for efficiency and features. Beyond aesthetics, labels find niches in areas like weather resistance where UV varnishes protect against moisture.

Attractiveness is always a driving factor in many applications. Wausau Coated Products noted the recent launch of Castile Bright Silver Foil - Dual Metal Roll Label Stock.

Numerous aspects of processing impact label niches. At Contract Converting LLC, its precision slitter-rewinders can run all grades of paper, tissue, board stocks, films, foils, laminates, nonwovens, printed and unprinted materials. According to Robert Saari, Contract Converting President, supplying into label markets includes these customer targets:

  • Pressure sensitive;
  • Tag and label;
  • Flexible packaging;
  • Food and beverage;
  • Pharmaceuticals;
  • Home care;
  • Personal care;
  • Industrial/Commercial; and,

According to Joe Ooten, Packaging and Label Director, at Konica Minolta Business Solutions, “Over the past few months, we have begun installing our AL 400 label press. Its industry-leading high opacity, single-hit digital white is setting new standards!” In these technical label processes, efficient, multi-functional equipment provides an edge.

Liners for tapes and labels exhibit all the similar issues including improving efficiency, sustainability and increasing the range of products. Additions of inline quality inspection, automation, software management systems, interactive tools and seamless manufacturing from production to packaging are among the efforts. In the case of labor shortages, the pace of further automation has to step up. A Wisconsin converter said recently, “We would run 24-7 every day if we could find more workers.”

Considerations when sourcing these technical products include having food-grade or medical-grade qualified papers and films, recycled substrates and luxury aesthetics. Layflat and properties for smooth processing are specified by converters. Companies such as Wausau Coated offer facestocks, liners and release performance.

Expertise and learning are imperative in these factories. David Roisum, web handling expert, helps clients explore the wide range of economics including the costs of machines, the useful lifetimes of machines, startups, waste, delay and customer complaints.

Seminars such as PMMI’s Chicago, October 3, program for Packaging Robotics keep the industry current with AI integration and examine return on investment factors. Rockwell Automation offers 3D interactive tools for systems to assess plant lifecycle profitability and asset management through demonstrations for teams, engineers and operators.

Those who thrive in producing tapes, labels and liners must chase and capture the ever-changing technologies that move these industries forward.


Susan Stansbury is a converting advocate with extensive experience in paper, converting, printing and related industries serving in roles including sales, marketing and product development.