The Anatomy of a Label

Understanding the breakdown of a label is important to visualize how each layer works together. A label comprises five main components: the coating, ink, substrate, adhesive, and liner. The topmost layer of the label, the coating, sits on top of the ink to enhance its appearance and color. The coating can be either laminate or varnish. Laminate provides enhanced protection, offers a more comprehensive barrier, and acts like a giant piece of masking tape, enforcing strength and the ability to last for long periods of time. In comparison, varnish provides the flexibility of being applied to a selective part of the label if required. Varnish coatings can be water-based or UV-based, offering different looks and feel depending on the customer’s preference.

The ink layer beneath the coating is arguably the most significant part of any printed label. It is responsible for conveying all the vital information and aesthetic elements. Choosing the right ink also involves many degrees of customization and variation. You can learn more about the differences between water-based and UV inks here.

The next layer is the substrate, which refers to the material on which the label is printed. It plays a critical role in determining the label’s performance and durability. The substrate affects the label’s ability to withstand environmental conditions such as contact with liquid, heat, and light exposure. It also impacts the label’s ability to adhere to different surfaces and maintain its original look over time.

Different substrate materials can be chosen based on cost constraints and the label’s intended use. For instance, a paper label is suitable for general information on a box where resilience and environmental factors are not significant concerns. However, a film label is preferred in outdoor or challenging environments, such as labels on lawnmowers, electrical boxes, or food products that undergo cooking processes. Film labels are more resilient and can withstand harsh conditions, such as extreme temperatures, grease, and moisture. Regarding food labels, additional restrictions and regulations ensure that the materials used are safe for direct food contact and meet FDA standards for food packaging materials. Understanding the impact of substrate choice on label performance is essential in ensuring the label’s longevity and functionality.

The adhesive of a label is the most technical aspect of labeling, particularly in the context of pressure-sensitive labels, where the bond strength between the label and its substrate is paramount. As such, attention must be given to the adhesive’s characteristics, including its composition, tack, and viscosity. Failure to consider these factors can lead to issues such as label peeling or detachment, which can undermine the label’s functionality and aesthetic appeal.

The adhesive’s performance is influenced by factors such as how quickly it needs to stick and the environmental conditions it will endure. It is essential to use adhesives rated for specific temperature ranges during their application and use. Labels may need to be applied at one temperature but then subjected to different temperatures, such as flash freezing. The adhesive must withstand these temperature changes without losing its ability to stick or causing the label to crack and peel. A label that fails to adhere properly can negatively impact the product’s perceived quality, potentially leading to decreased sales.

The last label component is the liner, which serves as a protective backing for the adhesive until it is applied. Typically composed of paper or film, the liner prevents the adhesive from losing its properties before use and ensures optimal performance upon application. While this may seem straightforward, choosing the right liner is crucial, as the wrong liner can lead to lost time, production delays, and wasted material.

Century Printing and Packaging is passionate about staying at the forefront of advancements in labeling technology. Recent developments have been transformative, including the creation of thinner, higher-performance films that offer superior toughness and performance. The emergence of new adhesives specifically designed for harsh environments, such as those with high humidity, has opened up new possibilities for label production. Advancements in die-cutting tools have led to more precise and efficient label production.

The final product of a label is a testament to the expertise and meticulous attention to detail of label manufacturers. Selecting the appropriate coatings, inks, substrates, adhesives, and liners for each client is a complex task that requires deep understanding and experience. Century Printing and Packaging, with a 27-year track record in the labeling industry, has developed a sterling reputation and proven expertise in choosing and producing labels at a high level. Their comprehensive understanding of label components and longstanding commitment to exceeding customer expectations make them the best choice when looking for a label partner.

Leading the Way in RFID Labeling

Staying ahead of the curve is essential in the rapidly evolving labeling industry. The Century Printing and Packaging team, led by the expertise of Ben and Neil, has made it their goal to advance with the movement toward RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) labels. Recently, they attended a conference at Auburn University, where they were immersed in the latest trends and requirements in the RFID labeling sector.

Auburn University’s RFID lab, a beacon of innovation in Radio-Frequency Identification technology, is pivotal in advancing RFID applications across various sectors and helping businesses integrate this technology into their operations effectively. Through its cutting-edge research and hands-on approach, Auburn’s RFID lab is shaping the future of this revolutionary technology and its impact, providing reassurance about the industry’s progress.

Ben and Neil traveled to Auburn University’s RFID conference on Wednesday, April 3rd & Thursday, April 4th, in Auburn, Alabama. Their mission was simple: learn from experts in the industry, network with peers, and gain a deeper understanding of how RFID technology is reshaping the packaging landscape. The annual conference at Auburn University is a pivotal event for those looking to stay ahead by gaining the essential expertise to educate their teams and customers. The conference was centered around source tagging and RFID technology, which provided valuable insights into the latest trends, requirements, and best practices in the field. With workshops, presentations, and discussions conducted by leading experts, the two days spent in Auburn offered a comprehensive and informative experience that will be influential in the early and later stages of RFID adoption. One key trend discussed at the conference is the increasing adoption of RFID tags by major retailers like Walmart. These tags are now a requirement for many products, and Auburn University’s RFID lab plays a crucial role in approving packages with RFID tags.

Packaging providers, like CP&P, play a crucial role in this shift towards RFID technology, eventually leading to the natural extinction of the universal, widely accepted barcode. As retailers and other industries increasingly adopt RFID tags for their products, packaging providers are instrumental in integrating these tags into their everyday solutions. The ARC lab prioritizes partnering with packaging providers to ensure their active involvement in the RFID process. This essential collaboration ensures that businesses have a thorough understanding of the process and are prepared to use this information to shape future decisions.

One of the main challenges in adopting RFID technology is the possibility of signal interference with certain products. Materials like metal or products that contain liquids might obstruct or weaken RFID signals, making it hard to read tags accurately. It is essential to recognize that onboarding and verification are critical, particularly in situations involving products with these characteristics.

As exemplified by their attendance at the conference, Century Printing and Packaging is not just keeping pace with industry changes but leading the way. They’ve received positive feedback from previous RFID initiatives and are already seeing customer requests based on their expertise. While at the conference, Ben and Neil engaged with multiple vendors regarding equipment and possible investment in the future. This investment will ensure they can offer customers more integrated and efficient solutions while meeting major retailers’ evolving requirements.

As RFID technology progresses, it’s poised to replace barcodes as a ubiquitous labeling solution. The food market, in particular, is expected to see significant growth in RFID adoption to help with issues such as traceability and rotation. CP&P aims to educate its customers and help them choose the best solutions. By providing cost-effective options and staying on top of future demands, they ensure their customers are well-equipped to meet the challenges of an increasingly RFID-driven market.

Century Printing and Packaging’s commitment to innovation and customer satisfaction sets them apart as a leader in the RFID labeling industry. With their proactive approach and dedication to excellence, they’re well-positioned to meet the ever-changing pressures of the market and provide the best solutions to their customers.

The Essential Role of Finishing in the Label Printing Process

When it comes to printing, the focus often lies on the press and the creation of the label. However, the finishing responsibilities after printing are just as crucial. At Century Printing and Packaging, finishing is not just a step; it’s an art that ensures your labels are printed beautifully and ready for use.

Finishing is the final stage between printing and shipping. It involves several key processes that transform the printed material into the final product ready for application. After printing, the labels are rewound to the desired size rolls using standup or tabletop rewinders. Standup rewinders are faster and used for larger jobs, while tabletop rewinders are ideal for smaller jobs or those requiring splicing. The labels are also slit if necessary, dividing a single roll into multiple rolls.

Splicing ensures that labels are seamlessly joined together, whether applied by hand or machine. When labels are machine-applied, the splice must be stronger to withstand the tension from the applicator. In contrast, labels applied by hand require a less intense splice. Understanding how the label will be applied is essential for determining the type of splice needed. This attention to detail ensures that labels are prepared correctly for their intended use, highlighting Century’s commitment to delivering high-quality products tailored to their customers’ needs.

There are three main packaging options that can be chosen for different reasons: rolled, fan-folded, or sheeted. Rolled labels are the most common, with the material received on rolls, printed, and then finished on rolls. Fan folding is used for applications like newspapers, where labels are folded together. Sheeted labels are individual sheets that must be stacked, counted, and organized.

Meticulous quality control measures are in place throughout the process to ensure the labels meet specifications and match the customer’s proof. Once everything is set up and approved, the operator proceeds with the finishing process, which may involve rewinding the labels onto smaller rolls, fan folding them, or preparing them in sheets, depending on the customer’s needs. Finally, once the labels are processed and checked, they are ready for packaging and shipping, marking the completion of the finishing process.

Finishing is a vital step in the label printing process that can often get overlooked. However, it’s the final touch that guarantees your labels not only look great but are also ready to be used as intended. At Century Printing and Packaging, each member of the finishing department understands the nuances of this final stage, ensuring even the most complex jobs are handled with precision. The customer’s proof serves as a reference point throughout the process, ensuring that the finished labels match the customer’s specifications. This attention to detail prevents errors and saves time and resources by catching any issues early in the process. By prioritizing quality control and proofs, Century Printing and Packaging demonstrates its commitment to delivering superior results with enhanced appeal for every label.

The Rise of RFID Technology

In the ever-evolving world of technology, staying ahead of the curve is essential. Over the past decade, RFID technology has significantly entered inventory management and retail operations. Historically, barcodes have been used for fundamental information and RFIDs are now the new kids on the block, offering unparalleled efficiency and data information in the supply chain. The Century Printing and Packaging team understands the importance of embracing this cutting-edge technology and is there to help clients transition into the RFID era.

Walmart, the retail giant, has been at the forefront of RFID adoption. It initially started using RFID technology in the clothing department, requiring all products to be equipped with new RFID tags. Over time, this practice has expanded to other sections, including automotive and electronics. The primary goal here is security and, more notably, ensuring proper inventory management and shelf restocking.

RFID, which stands for Radio Frequency Identification, is a revolutionary technology that provides real-time visibility into inventory levels, making restocking shelves more streamlined and accurate. With RFID, each product or package is equipped with a tag containing an antenna, a transceiver, and a transponder. Employees can quickly scan products with handheld devices or, eventually, through automated systems like robots that constantly take inventory. This instant feedback ensures that items are always in stock, preventing customer frustration and loss of sales.

Implementing RFID technology is a multi-step process. The first step involves determining where the RFID label will be placed on the product. This can be a challenge for liquid products, as RFIDs cannot scan through liquids. Therefore, labels are placed where there is no liquid interference, such as on the handle of a container or bottle.

The second step is to print the label with the correct information, ensuring the antenna matches the data. This precision is critical to ensuring the effectiveness of RFID technology.

Finally, the label is applied to the product during the third step. Care and attention to detail are crucial during this process, as any damage to the label or its components can render it useless. For suppliers sending products to retailers like Walmart, damaged RFID labels can lead to rejection and lost business.

Century Printing and Packaging is well-versed in the nuances of RFID technology. The team has conducted extensive research and gathered valuable insights into its implementation. Ben and Neil are equipped to handle questions concerning the push to RFID labels and deeply understand the potential pitfalls.

Walmart isn’t the only retailer embracing RFID technology. They plan to expand their use of RFID technology to additional departments in February 2024. Other major retailers like Target are expected to follow suit. It’s only a matter of time before most, if not all, big-box retailers require this technology to enhance inventory management and customer satisfaction. The next frontier for RFID technology is the food industry, where its impact will be substantial. Properly managed inventory is crucial in the food sector to prevent shortages and food waste.

As the adoption of RFID technology continues to grow across various industries, Century Printing and Packaging is committed to remaining at the forefront of this technological revolution. Their expertise in RFID implementation and commitment to helping clients adapt to the changing landscape positions Ben and Neil as leaders in the field. It is firmly believed that RFID technology will soon become as ubiquitous as barcodes, and those who embrace it now will thrive in the ever-evolving world of retail and beyond. Don’t be left behind—embrace RFID technology with Century Printing and Packaging, your trusted partner in manufacturing.

The Difference Between Water-Based and UV Inks for Labeling

When it comes to labeling, the choice of ink can significantly impact the final product’s appearance, durability, and environmental footprint. At Century Printing and Packaging, we understand the nuances of both water-based and UV inks and have positioned ourselves as experts to help our customers make the best decisions upon choosing labels.

There are a variety of differences between these two types of inks including environmental, durability, and price distinctions.

Environmental Differences

Water-based inks are renowned for their eco-friendliness and do not contain harmful chemicals that may affect the environment or human health. They are FDA-approved for direct food contact, so if there’s a film that wraps around the product, like a nutrition bar, or if there’s a label that goes directly on a fruit or a vegetable, water-based inks will be the best choice. Not only are they visually appealing and informative, but they are also ideal for labels used in the grocery industry. While some UV inks are known for being low-migration, Century Printing and Packaging choose to strictly use only water-based inks for our direct food contact materials.


When it comes to durability, UV ink comes out on top—with its superior brightness, resolution, and color vibrancy compared to water-based inks. UV inks contain photopolymers that are exposed to UV light during the printing process. The resulting reaction produce flawless colors that stand out. Additionally, UV inks are more durable and resistant to degradation, making them suitable for tough environments like beer labels that may come into contact with water or ice. Water based inks in the same environment may require the additional protection (and cost) of varnish or laminate.


In terms of cost, water-based inks are the more economical choice. They are significantly cheaper than UV inks, which can cost four to five times more per pound. This cost difference is something we consider when pricing our services to ensure transparency and value for our customers.

At Century Printing and Packaging, we have been using water-based inks since our establishment in 1997. Our expertise also extends to UV inks, allowing us to guide customers based on their specific needs and end usage. Whether achieving a particular look, ensuring food safety, or enhancing durability, we have the experience and know-how to deliver the best results.

When choosing between water-based and UV inks, we recommend considering your labels’ end usage and priorities. If food safety and cost-effectiveness are paramount, water-based inks are the way to go. However, UV inks may be more suitable if you’re looking for superior color vibrancy and durability.

When deciding between water-based and UV inks, several factors must be considered—from whether the ink will be used in the food industry to its desired performance. Carefully weighing these factors can help you make an informed decision on which type of ink to choose. At Century Printing and Packaging, we are here to help you navigate these choices and ensure your labels meet your unique requirements.