In a world where time is money, it’s no wonder more manufacturers and processors are looking to automate their labelling with Label Printer Applicators (LPAs).
Today, LPAs are more reliable and efficient than ever. Ongoing advances in technology have led to rugged, high-performing workhorses that are the smart choice in even the most demanding environments.
HOW DOES AN LPA WORK?
Unlike Label Applicators, which apply pre-printed pressure-sensitive labels, a Label Printer Applicator prints onto pressure-sensitive labels then automatically applies those labels to a product, using a pneumatic applicator.
There are two types of label for an LPA:
- Thermal direct labels, which are thermal sensitive
- Thermal transfer labels, which use ribbons to transfer the ink onto the labels
BENEFITS OF LPAs
- Streamline label printing and application process. This is arguably the biggest benefit of LPAs, as they give you the opportunity to drive efficiencies in the line. For example, the Matthews A-Series, a ‘Best New Product’ finalist at the APPMA Awards 2015, is specially designed for more uptime, quicker changeovers and easy operation.
- Excellent print quality. This means barcode labels and pallet labels (SSCC labels) are fully compliant with strict GS1 and retailer quality standards, minimising the risk of your stock being rejected by from retailers. (You may find this quick guide to proper barcode quality and grading informative, and learn more about barcodes in our Barcode 101 blog or visit our Barcode FAQs. These articles on barcode quality’s importance in manufacturing, how to use barcodes and pallet labelling made easy are also interesting.)
- Easy to use. Today’s LPAs come with integrated software so the machine can be easily programmed without a PC on the production line. This is ideal for logic programming, such as dates. Also, they tend to be designed so that operators can easily see how to change labels and ribbons, resulting in less downtime. For example, the Matthews A-Series, features on-board software and a colour touch screen to make printer control and message editing easy.
- Integrate within the production line. Some LPAs, such as Matthews A-Series, can be fully networked using software integration allowing easier label design, format changes, quick product changeovers and real-time line status monitoring. (Here are some examples of Matthews’ software integration: iDSnet, Ignition, Clarisoft and Label View.)
APPLICATIONS FOR LPAs
Because they are so versatile, LPAs are used for applying human-readable and barcode information to many different products. However, they are predominantly used for cartons or pallets, especially because barcode labels are the preferred method in Australia for applying barcodes to generic cartons and pallets.
For example, on automated production lines, LPAs are typically installed at or immediately after the pallet stretch wrap station. The LPA can then be interlocked with the stretch wrapper to apply an SSCC label on each fork entry side of the pallet. An unattended scanner can be used to automatically read each carton barcode so that the LPA can print the appropriate pallet label.
LPA’s are also used for primary retail products and even metal delivery stillages, timber, pipes and steel. Some LPAs can also print RFID Smart Labels. (For another interesting view of smart labels (this time using NFC), check out Trend #3, smart labelling, in this blog.)
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT LPA
Not all LPA’s are created equal. It pays to weigh up the range of features when choosing the right LPA for your business:
- Robust design: Some LPAs are designed to withstand heavy and prolonged use. For example, the Fox IV Standard LPA range features a rugged gear-driven design for rugged, reliable performance where 24/7 running is critical, and a single rugged, pressurised industrial housing to protect it from extreme dust, temperatures and wash-down environments.
- Size: How much space do you have for your LPA? If you’re looking for a compact machine, consider one that is machined as one piece to provide a smaller footprint on the factory floor, as the Matthews A-Series.
- Versatility: Will you need to label various products? Look for a machine that is fully programmable, like models in the Fox IV 2010, 3010 and 4400 series. They can scan products, look up the data, then print and apply labels, without needing a PC on the production line. They also have built-in intelligence to support a wide variety of barcodes, fonts and graphic formats.
- Speed: How fast is your production line? Look for an LPA that can match the speed without compromising quality and reliability. The Fox IV delivers throughput up to twice as fast as other printers in its class.
- Right Connections: Work out which connections you need for your line. You might need your LPA to connect directly to barcode scanners, weigh scales, keyboards and other peripheral devices.
If you’re looking to drive efficiencies on your line and print compliant labels onto your primary products, cartons or pallets, there’s no doubt that a Label Printer Applicator is a sound option. With the range of high-performing models available today, it’s the perfect time to invest in an LPA for your business.
Contact us to find out how Matthews can help if you’re wondering whether an LPA is right for your application.
Don’t forget, Matthews has a vast library of case studies, white papers, presentations, FAQ’s, and news are free to download. And check out our latest Thought Leader section, which has a few of the articles we’ve been asked to contribute to print and online magazines. (We’ll add to these as the next issue becomes available.)
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