How to Pick the Ideal Automatic Labeling Machine for Your Label Type


Understanding Label Types

No matter who you are and what product you are selling, the choices you have for packaging and labeling applications are limitless. If you have made it this far and have narrowed down your options for your product’s ideal packing, it is time to start thinking about what your ideal label might look like, going on that packing. 

While the goal of labels may be to attract new customers, there is some information that is required by law to be present in it. Finding the ideal label means maintaining that appealing design to customers, while including the required information and finding a labeling type that works well with your container. You will have to determine what materials your label will consist of, what parts of the container it will cover, and the application method. 

The best way to understand what your best labeling options may be is to talk with a good label supplier. They will better be able to walk you through the different label types, materials, sizes, and application methods. Finally, you will have to decide on your type of label applicator. 

There are many different label types to choose from, such as pressure-sensitive and shrink-sleeve. You will also have to determine a location on the package container, whether it be top, wrap-around, or front-back. This can significantly reduce costs and boost productivity. No matter what the decision may be, be sure to speak with a reputable label machine supplier such as Pack Leader USA to learn about choosing a labeling machine. But first, let's take a closer look at the labels themselves.

View Equipment by Label Application

Key Considerations in Label Selection

There are many factors to consider when in the label selection process. For example, two of the most common label types are pressure-sensitive and glue-applied labels. Each of these can further be broken down into different subtypes, including face material, adhesive, and release liner.

  • Label face materials: The exterior of the label can be either paper or plastic. Papers come in highly glossy premium coated, glossy, or uncoated options, while plastic labels may be made of polypropylene, polyester, vinyl, mrPVC, or polyethylene. Each has advantages in cost, strength, and flexibility.
  • Label adhesives: There are different options for label adhesives, as well. This includes water-based, hot-melt, rubber, or acrylic options. You will want to choose one based on the environment of the product and its production, including its performance in chillers and freezers, as well as resistance to moisture, UV light resistance, durability, and whether you want the label to be permanent or removable. It is important to note that removable adhesives remain in their initial state of adhesion and can be removed or repositioned later, while more traditional labels go through a curing process and will become stronger after application. 
  • Release liner: This is the substrate that the adhesive-backed label face comes on. Here, paper liners are coated with silicone to keep the label in place until it is ready to be released onto the container. For applications at higher speeds, release liners are made from various plastics that are more durable than paper and have built-in release properties. 

Overview of Label Applicators

There are many different types of label applicators to choose from. These include:

  • Manual Labelers: These require workers to individually apply labels themselves. It is the most personal, but also the most time-consuming method.
  • Semi-Automatic Labelers: These are often operated by hand or footswitch. This method is a bit faster and consists of putting the product onto a conveyor, pressing a button to apply the labels, and then moving the product after labeling has occurred.
  • Automatic Labeling Machines: These come in two types – rotary and in-line. This is the fastest method of labeling. However, they require the most space and financial investment.

Choosing the Right Labeling Equipment

Detailed Guide to Choosing a Label Applicator

Before determining the label applicator type you are going to use, there are some factors you will need to consider. These include:

  • Container size
  • Container shape
  • Number of labels to be applied
  • Where labels are to be applied
  • Speed of production

Once these basics are known, it's easier to narrow down which label applicator you need. Here's a useful breakdown of label machine types:


Wrap Around Labelers 

As the name suggests, wrap around labelers are designed to be wrapped around round-shaped containers. These machines come in many different varieties, including portable versions, automatic versions, those designed for horizontal labeling, pressure-sensitive labeling, and customizable variations. This makes for a perfect bottle-labeling machine or machine for labeling jars. 



Top Labelers 

Rather than fully wrapping around the product, top labelers only cover the top of the container. There are also different machines to choose from for this category. These also have portable, modular, clamshell, and other efficient variations. This is great for labeling trays, boxes, chipboard containers, bags, and caps on bottles.



Top & Bottom Labelers 

Top & bottom labels also label both sides of a container, without fully wrapping all the way around it. These machines, such as the Pl-221 top and bottom labeling machine, are flexibly designed to apply pressure-sensitive labels to the container.  PL-221 is an exceptional choice for simplifying top and bottom labeling jobs. With both labeling heads working simultaneously, you can label your product in a single pass. Adjustments are quick to make and are easy to operate. 



Front & Back Labelers 

Front & back labelers, such as the PL-521 horizontal wrap around labeling system, are designed to work with horizontal labeling for slim and non-freestanding cylindrical containers. Some common examples include pens, test tubes, syringes, and lipsticks. In this machine, an angled roller conveyor is used to secure the product on its side as it moves through the label head.



Shrink Sleeve Labelers 

Finally, there are high-speed shrink sleeve labeling machines designed for full-body sleeve labeling applications, as well as neck and cap banding, and tamper-evident applications. This is the only one of these options that doesn’t deal with pressure-sensitive labels, however. There are a few machine model options for this type of labeling, such as the SL-10, SL-77, and SL-301

Options will further be narrowed down by the number of labels per container, the location(s) where they’re applied to the container, and the sizes of your containers and labels. Some additional factors to consider are production speed, compatibility with your other equipment, and price as well.

To determine the size of the machine you will need, you'll have to determine the maximum label size you are going to use, as well as the label orientation and label machine specifications. Some different size options include tabletop, standalone, and professional machines. Once you've picked your labels and know how you want them applied, then you can further narrow the specifications of the machine you would like to use. Choosing the right labeling machine  for your needs is crucial for successful product labeling, download our free guide to learn more.

Special Focus: Shrink-sleeve Labels

While there are more traditional labels such as glue-applied or pressure-sensitive labels, another option is shrink-sleeve labels. A full-body shrink-sleeve label is a pre-printed tube of thermoplastic material that's placed around a container, and then heat-shrunk into place. These are growing in popularity. The market for these labels was $15.29 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow to $24.66 billion by 2033. They're popular in the beverage industry, where their waterproof properties and contribution to package strength are highly valued. But they're also used in non-beverage packaging.


Here are some shrink sleeve label advantages:

  1. In addition to their visual appeal, containers using shrink labels are also reinforced by a second skin.
  2. These labels are completely waterproof.
  3. These labels are also able to be easily applied to unusual shapes.
  4. Full-body shrink-sleeve labels give you a great deal more space to display information and attention-getting design since they cover the entire can or bottle. They may be combined with highly contoured bottles to better connect with consumers, affecting sales volume and brand loyalty.
  5. If you're replacing two traditional labels, or need a tamper-evident seal, shrink-sleeve labels may cost the same or less as separate labels and seals.
  6. Shrink-sleeve labels can save money by allowing lighter-weight cans to be used.
  7. Shrink-sleeve labels are simpler to apply and therefore can be applied faster.

If you've decided on shrink-sleeve labels, you'll need the right kind of label machine, combined with a heat-shrink tunnel, to apply them. Pack Leader's SL line of shrink-sleeve labelers ranges from the entry-level SL-10 for standard-sized cans, jars, and bottles, to the SL-77 for faster production, to the SL-301 for maximum speed, versatility, and flexibility for future growth.

To learn more, browse machines by label type on our website. 

Choosing the Right Labeling Equipment


How Do I Know When It’s Time to Upgrade?

Labeling should not slow down your production process. If your labeling experience is holding you back and the costs are rising for upkeep and materials, it may be time to consider different machine options. 

Which Applicator is Right for My Product?

Every container's labeling needs are different. The applicator that is best for you depends on the size, shape, material, and coverage you wish to achieve. 

How Much Does it Cost?

Just as every machine is different, depending on which configuration you choose and the features you choose, the cost may vary. The real important number to calculate is the return on investment, which will allow you to see the savings, quality, and brand enhancement you are gaining.

What ROI Can I Expect?

Return on investment is more than just the money you are saving. Although that can be calculated too, you can also see the reduction of waste, faster production speeds, and enhanced quality of upgrades. It not only puts more money in your pocket but also makes your brand stand out stronger.

Download Choosing the Right Labeling Equipment Guide