One of the great benefits of custom labels is that you can truly match the type of label to your specific needs. One of the most common requirements is for labels that are weatherproof and have good compatibility in outdoor environments. The term “weatherproof” can refer to a number of different environmental conditions and is more complex than just waterproofing in many cases.
When purchasing a label, it’s important to match the label specifications with the details of your intended application. Doing so will ensure that your labels remain readable throughout the life of your assets, eliminating the need for costly label replacements throughout an asset’s lifetime. By keeping the following points in mind, you can select a label that has just the right amount of weatherproofing for your needs.
Understanding the level of prolonged exposure to any extreme conditions is an important first step when selecting a weatherproof label. This can include the amount of time to be spent outdoors versus indoors, and how much water, ice, and other elements the label may be exposed to. Some additional conditions may include:
- Freshwater or saltwater
- Sand and abrasion
- Sunlight and UV rays
- High humidity
- High and low temperatures
- Rugged environments
- Chemicals, oils, and grease
If you are planning to apply weatherproof labels and neglect to consider any of these factors, it could potentially lead to accelerated degradation. Try to start with a good picture of the worst-case conditions possible for label exposure. This will help you select a suitable substrate material and then optimize your label design for the conditions.
A proper label should be able to withstand the same conditions as the equipment or package to which it is attached. When considering your use case, think about the different applications that may also include functions such as barcode scanning, permanent product tagging, and anti-theft. These can all have a major impact on the specific type and style of labels you will need. In addition, some common industry applications for labels are:
- Product packaging
- Food and food processing
- Medical containers and devices
- Chemical containers and drums
- Automotive parts and supplies
Labels can be used at many stages of a product supply chain including manufacturing, packaging, transportation, shipping, and storage. Each of these presents a unique set of factors that could impact the readability of a label over time. Always consider any sources of exposure or abrasion that may be unique to your applications and the amount of time that a label may spend in each of these locations. Another important factor is the storage location of the equipment or packages that will contain labels. There is certainly a difference between a piece of equipment that is stored outdoors in a sunny parking lot and one that is stored in a dark and damp basement, for example.
Now we turn to the label itself and consider the construction materials. The major categories of label substrate are metal, plastic, and specialty. Metal labels are typically more rigid than other types and can offer vastly superior durability in many conditions. For example, Metalphoto® Aluminum Labels have an expected lifetime of greater than 20 years even in the harshest exterior environments.
Plastic labels are generally more pliable and come in a variety of materials such as polyester, polycarbonate, and vinyl. Vinyl labels are the most durable of plastic label options and can withstand many challenging environments. The level of general weatherproofing and durability is often dictated by the substrate material, but there are also a number of other factors that can further improve durability during fabrication.
Printing and Adhesive
Each label substrate will have unique options for printing and graphics based on the material’s compatibility with various printing processes. Labels are usually printed through a wet print, dry print, or etching process. Understanding the specific methods used to create your label graphics can help ensure that they will meet your weatherproofing requirements.
In addition to printing, the method of attachment for your labels is another consideration. Most labels will come with an option for mechanical attachment using pre-drilled holes or the use of a permanent pressure-sensitive adhesive. Be sure to select an attachment method that is compatible with your applications and expected environmental conditions.
An important rule of thumb to remember is that all layers of your label should be weatherproof. This includes any finish added to the label to further protect the surface and give it a certain look, such as a gloss or matte finish. For some applications, a finish can add just the right amount of UV or abrasion protection to allow the use of a substrate that might otherwise have been more susceptible to certain conditions. The selection of a proper finish is especially important for outdoor applications that require strong UV protection and thorough weatherproofing.
Selecting a weatherproof label involves careful consideration of the label construction and suitability for your intended use. By taking into account the factors above, you will be able to select a label material, adhesive, and finish that will be fully compatible with your waterproofing requirements.