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Shrink sleeve labeling is easier than ever

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by Clarence Totleben
Plant Manager
APCO Packaging

Everyone wants shrink sleeve labeling. The brightly colored plastic labels have so many advantages. Aside from the fact that the graphics are more brilliant than pasted-on paper labels, shrink sleeve labels are uniquely suited to the cleaning products industry because:

  • They are able to completely encase a container, labeling the entire package, not just one side.
  • They can fit any shape or size container, no matter how unusual.
  • They can incorporate tamper-proof seals.
  • They are waterproof, making them perfect for products that may be used under damp conditions.

The process itself is simple: a sleeve of plastic film, PVC or PET G for example, is applied to a container. Then, the container is run through a heat tunnel, causing the label to shrink to fit the container.

The end product looks great with strikingly vivid graphics, but most contract manufacturers just don't have the capability. Economics and turnaround time make it impractical for most contract manufacturers and their clients, consequently there are only a handful of co-packers with in-house shrink sleeve labeling operations.

Having in-house shrink tunnels significantly reduces turnaround time because the entire process stays in one place, eliminating a delay of up to three weeks when containers must be shipped to be labeled and then returned to the plant.

Even the design process is streamlined. The contract manufacturer and its shrink sleeve suppliers work with the client. The first step is making a prototype using a grid film. The grid is measured to see how it fits after shrinking. Spray bottles can be hard, because the bottom of the bottle is thick, but the neck is narrow. This is where careful design of the "lay flat" version of the label compensates for shrinkage distortion, so the finished product is readable and properly centered on the container.

Finding a contract manufacturer with versatile label suppliers is key, to ensure that the right kind of film is selected. PVC film is less expensive, and perfectly suited to cylindrical containers, but for oddly-shaped containers and spray bottles Pet G LVS (low vertical shrink) film is preferred, as it allows for horizontal shrinkage, but can accommodate eccentrically shaped bottles.

By working with a co-packer capable of handling all processes in-house, customers can save at least 10 percent in cost and up to three weeks in turn-around time. Not only is it convenient, but all the resources are available to help customers get what they want in terms of design and film. Most co-packers will want a minimum run of 20 million units, although more flexible outfits can easily handle a run of as little as half a million to 2 million units.

Be sure to find a contract manufacturer that will handle smaller runs if that's what you require. Finding a "one stop shop" with manufacturing, packaging and shrink sleeve labeling all under one roof will save you time, money, and headaches.

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