The Parcel Shipping Index has predicted that 13 of the most active parcel shipping nations alone, including Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the USA, China and Japan1, will be generating an annual volume of 100 billion parcels in 2020. Practically all of these parcels will be carrying a fairly large shipping label. Eliminating the siliconised liner associated with these labels would yield an enormous environmental benefit.
The waste produced by the thousands of tons of single-use material is currently either disposed of, which is a costly exercise, or recycled. Against this backdrop, HERMA is premiering a new linerless labelling system at both the Fachpack (Hall 3A, Booth 236) and the Labelexpo (Hall 5, Booth C14).
“Among the products known to us, the HERMA InNo-Liner system is the first practical solution of its kind worldwide that satisfies the cycle speeds and other requirements imposed by logistics and distribution centres. On top of that, the label stock is compatible with multi-colour preprinting,” says HERMA managing director Dr. Thomas Baumgärtner, who also oversees the Self-adhesive Materials division. The system is based on a special, patented adhesive variant and a micro-atomiser, which is the subject of another patent application, that was developed specifically for the adhesive. “This special unit precisely and fully activates the self-adhesive material. Activation is an essential prerequisite of the material’s extremely high adhesion. The interaction of the atomiser and adhesive is crucial to process reliability during the dispensing operation,” explains Dr. Baumgärtner.
Although linerless applications already exist, including in the form of self-adhesive receipts or vouchers and sealing labels, their serious shortcomings have condemned them to a niche existence. Because these types are sticky from the outset and wound on rolls, their surface is often siliconised and therefore incompatible with printing inks – and thermal printers can produce only black or single-colour lettering and images. Other systems, such as those that are activated by heat, suffer from inherent speed limitations.
“The HERMA InNo-Liner system, in contrast, easily achieves the generally required cycle speed of around 40 A5 or A6 labels a minute, and the labels can be preprinted in colour if necessary. As regards affordability, moreover, the cost is much the same as that of a conventional self-adhesive label,” comments Dr. Baumgärtner. The cost of disposing of liner, however, is completely eliminated. With the restriction to siliconised thermal paper lifted, another major advantage lies in the diverse range of label materials that are available to users and label printers.
Although the paper materials are likewise wound on rolls, they are not sticky because the adhesive is not activated until later. Not until the label is dispensed does the micro-atomiser activate the adhesive by applying a precise dose of water. The strength of the immediate, uniform and tenacious adhesion enables the label to hold so fast that any attempt to detach it from the parcel inevitably tears fibres from the packaging material as well.
As the managing director points out, “In order to achieve this adhesive force and effect within a fraction of a second, the use of multi-layer technology for the adhesive is absolutely essential.” Users, label printers and environmental campaigners have other reasons to be pleased as well – in the absence of a liner, each roll can accommodate more labels, so that both the shipping weight and the necessary warehousing space are reduced. “This material offers absolute process reliability,” insists Dr. Baumgärtner. “Its stability has been verified both in the climate lab and in practical printing and processing tests. And it’s worth remembering that the overall climate-relevant CO2 footprint of a linerless label such as this is drastically reduced. For print & apply applications, the immediate adoption of the HERMA InNo-Liner system therefore makes perfect sense.”