Every other press release you read today seems to announce a quantum leap, which usually turns out to be nothing more exciting than a slightly improved widget. Just occasionally, however, the label world experiences a change so radical it would have made even Einstein sit up and take notice. The advent of digital printing certainly falls into this category. And linerless PS labels could just possibly be the next one. Come off it, you will say, linerless has been around for decades and never made much of an impact. True, but today the wind is turning, and there are straws in it. Many of those straws come from heightened environmental awareness. In particular, an awareness of the problem of what to do with used liner.
WASTE NOT, WANT NOT
The problem is serious: in Europe alone, nearly 400,000 tons of liner, plus some 25,000 tons of matrix waste, finish up in waste bins, and from there much of it still goes to landfill. Yes, of course liner can be and is being recycled, but despite much goodwill and hard work from a small band of enthusiasts, progress is going ahead at a snail's pace. Collection of used liner is expensive and few brand owners are willing to pay good money to fund it; other industry players are even less keen. This should mean the time is ripe for a breakthrough in linerless PS labels. The issue has been the subject of intense discussions again this year, and in particular during the conference "Linerless Labeling" organized by consultants AWA, the day before the opening of Labelexpo Europe. The Italian labelstock producer Ritrama has been developing linerless label systems for bottles and other cylindrical products for several years. This year, Ritrama presented a "Competence Quartet" comprising its own experts, in partnership with press manufacturer Omet, Spilker (finishing equipment) and Ilti (labeling systems). Speaking at the AWA conference, Sergio Veneziani from Ritrama pointed out that to be accepted by brand owners, the linerless label must offer an A to Z solution.
In the Ritrama process, preprinted filmic face material is coated with an acrylic adhesive and fixed to a siliconized transparent PET liner, using specially modified converting equipment from Omet. So far, so standard. But the underside of the liner is coated with a heat-activated adhesive. A converting unit developed by Spilker provides a special cross-web micro-perforation. Then the Ilti labeling unit delaminates the siliconized liner, turns it upside...