Some containers have label information printed or decorated right on the packaging material but many containers are blank and need to have labels applied.
Some of the first automatic labeling machines were hot glue roll-through labelers for cans. They have been around for more than a century and one of the leading developers was the Burt Machine Company of Baltimore (now part of Barry Wehmiller / Pneumatic Scale Angelus). Burt started out as a producer of can making machinery but they became known for their can labelers. The Burt Labeler, which is still used today, applies hot melt glue to the can as it rolls through the labeler horizontally. The glue on the can then picks up the label, which sticks to it and the can rolling though the machine rolls the label around itself. Another early producer of roll-through can labelers was Standard Knapp who demonstrated a labeler of this type at the 1893 Worlds Fair. The Standard Knapp labeler was always known as a gravity labeler and the cans run on a characteristic downward slope as they pass through the machine.
Labelers for glass containers were first developed mostly in the beer and liquor industries. Labelers for glass containers typically use cold glue or paste and apply it to the label rather than the container as with a can labeler. This is because glass containers tend to have spot labels so the glue must be applied to a specific area. One of the early producers of labelers for glass bottles was the George J Meyer Company of Milwaukee, a company that made various types of equipment for the beer industry. Since the 1950’s the Krones Company of Germany has become one of the leading producers of cold glue labelers. Krones labelers were designed with the wine industry in mind and they can apply front, back and neck labels at speed of more than 1000 per minute.
In recent years, self adhesive printing technology has advanced and this has led to the development of self adhesive or “pressure sensitive” labelers. Self adhesive labels normally come on a roll. They cost more than standard labels but they do not require as much labor on the packaging line. Pressure sensitive labelers are especially popular in the pharmaceutical industry because they are cleaner operating than glue labelers. It is easier to keep a packaging line sanitary when there is no glue to deal with. The Label-Aire Company of California was one of the pioneers of this type of labeler in the 1960’s. Pressure sensitive labelers can be designed to label any shape of container and do either spot or wraparound labeling. Round bottles can be labeled with a wipe-on design, flat containers with a blow-on labeler (a blast of air blows the label on) and oval containers can be labeled with a tamper. Pressure sensitive labelers are now produced by many companies, including Accraply and Quadrell. Several traditional glue labeler manufacturers have also gotten into this business, including New Jersey and Krones.
Another type of labeler that is becoming more popular is the sleeve labeler or sleever. A sleeve labeler pulls a decorated sleeve over a container and then usually uses heat to shrink it tight. One of the advantages of sleeve labels is that they are tamper evident. A sleeve labeled container does not require any additional tamper-proof closure. One of the major producers of sleeve labelers is Axon, which is also a leading manufacturer of tamper proof banders.
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