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Labec Label Foams

Commodore Labec coextruded film/foam is the newest addition to the Commodore line of specialty foam products, having only been introduced in 2012.  Labec products, unlike other Commodore products are designed to be sold to “printer converters” who provide labels to the merchant market, rather than thermoformed containers sold mainly to end-use packagers.   Unlike competitive foam labels, the Labec label stock is supplied to merchant label printers, and is available for printing by these label suppliers on a global basis.

Labec products are produced using a unique technology, incorporating coextrusion of a filmic print layer with a foam layer, adding insulation and a 3D quality and resilience to the product, while the print skin supplies the high definition printable top layer.   

Foam Extrusion Process
The above picture is of the extrusion section of the process, showing the coextrusion entry at the bottom of the picture and a side view of the die and mandrel used in controlling the width of the sheet.  The knife which splits the bubble and allows the foam to be wound as a sheet is shown in operation at the top of the bubble.

The photo below is of the remainder of the process and demonstrates the capability of the process to generate coextrusions with multiple colors, in this instance a black skin on the white foam. 

Foam Coextrusions
The products are capable of shrinking to the contours of most beverage containers for maintaining cool content for a longer period and microwavable cups designed for heated portion packed products.  The Labec products are sold through a specialized manufacturer sales organization called Web Resources International, Inc. who has over 20 years expertise in design and sales of plastic labeling materials.

Labec products are designed to shrink in the machine direction (running direction) unlike the shrink requirement of shrink sleeves, which are printed in the cross-machine direction, requiring seaming into a tube for application as a double thickness roll using sleeve application machines.  Labec products are applied as a single layer using the roll-on equipment typically used for application of soft drink PET containers.  For shrink applications, a shrink tunnel follows the applicator, as an adjunct to the product conveyor to allow shrinking to the contours of the container.  Because Labec products are polystyrene based, typically a solvent seam is used to weld the front/back seam in-line prior to shrinking the material onto the container.  The solvent seaming option is routinely provided by the various roll-on-shrink-on label application machinery companies marketing these style applicators.  Here are a few of the applications of MD shrink foam labeled products:

MD Shrink Foam Labeled Products
Labec foams are amenable to all the commonly used print methods, including flexographic printing (both water inks and UV cure), web offset, rotogravure, as well as digital printing. 

The basic composition of Labec foams offer some outstanding sustainability advantages, as noted below:

Having a density of only about 0.30 makes a foam label the lowest density label material available and easily separable for container recycling.  In light of recent NAPCOR concerns about recycling of PET containers with shrink sleeve labels, this can be very important.  Foam labels, used unsupported and surface printed or in combination with reverse printed or over-laminated films having similar shrink characteristics are a readily available solution.

Foam labels use less material than any other labeling material, including paper labels and shrink sleeves.

Alternatively, foam labels can be left on glass or aluminum containers where the label adds fuel value and lessens the fuel cost for recycling.  Our calculations show that labels left on and ground up with glass containers replace as much as 5-8% of the natural gas used to re-melt the container.

Labec labels also offer a sensory impact to the container.  They can provide a textured feel, Braille characters easily added, hot stamping provides both depth and a premium look to the product, and stamping can provide a product security/anti-counterfeiting feature. Softness of the surface adds a sensory and safety feature benefit for labeling glass.  The following pictures show a few prototype applications under consideration for foam labeling due to the functional advantages of foam labels.

 Insulating Foam Labels   Beer in both cans and bottles are considered ideal applications, but for different reasons.  The capabilities of cans are enhanced due to the insulation capabilities of foam, whereas bottles tend to benefit more from the 3D effects possible with foam, and also from the safety features of foam.

The thickness of the product used for various applications is usually determined by the requirements of the applications.  For moderate insulation requirements such as to keep the surface of a heated product cool to the touch after removal from a microwave oven, usually the 5 or 6.5 mil product is used.  For cool beverage products such as soft drinks or beer, usually the 8 or 10 mil product is used to keep the product cooler longer or to provide texture or embossability.

Our converter customers many-times add to the graphic capabilities of Labec products beyond just printing of the material.  Some emboss the stock, some add over-laminating of film products or reverse print a film product, then laminate to the Labec, alternatively, some add a high gloss lacquer to the surface.  All these methods can add a high gloss feature to the typical satin finish of the Labec.

Labec label stocks shrink at a fairly high temperature, enabling them to be shipped/stored without air conditioning or refrigerated trucking, typically required for shrink sleeve labels.

   Labec Label Stocks

Commodore currently produces the Labec products in gauges ranging from 5 to 10 mils in thickness.  The area yield, a prime determinate of costs is a measure of the amount of material provided in a given weight (thousands of square inches per pound):

5 mil, yield = 15.0 msi/lb.

6.5 mil, yield = 13.4 msi/lb.

8.0 mil, yield = 11.7 msi/lb.

10 mil, yield = 10.0 msi/lb.

Shrink Curve Labec Coex
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