A labeler machine can be a masterpiece of forethought and engineering. Although two machines can look very similar to one another, the difference lies in the engineering and evolution of the machine’s development. One of the aspects in which this “character” shines through is with one of the more critical and challenging functions of the label applicator: orientation of the products prior to labeling.
This begins with the labeler machine’s product sensor. From the point of product sensing to label application, there is a programmed delay before the label is fed. This ensures that the label contacts appropriately with the surface of the product. Two identical bottles can end up with very different label placements if they enter and move through the machine with different alignments or a slight tilt.
Flat Bottle Labeling
Flat-sided bottles are usually the easiest to initially align. Label applicator machines that cater to this type of bottle have guide rails on either side of the conveyor to provide near-identical alignment for the bottles. These rails are also placed to allow for a brush to wipe on the self-adhesive labels on the bottles. The wiping action can retard or knock a bottle over especially if it is empty or lightweight, so having these guide rails prevents any mishaps from occurring.
If two labels (front and back) are applied to a flat-sided bottle, any disruption to the smooth and continuous flow of the bottle as they pass both heads can result in significant label placement variation and possible label creasing. This is another reason for the guide rails. They maintain smooth product flow through the label applicator and align the bottles as they move through the conveyor. These bottles are then clamped from the main conveyor onto an overhead one for the remainder of the labeling process.
If you were to compare different jar labeler machines, you may think that they all do identical jobs with their main and overhead conveyors and guide rails, but as the “characters” of labeler machines and the ingenuity behind them, there are nuances that must be considered depending on the size and dimensions of the product. With our range of LabelOn™ machines, these variations as well as the specific designs needed to accommodate them, are all taken into account.
Oval Bottle Labeling
Unlike flat-sided bottles, oval bottles need more than just guide rails to align them for consistent passage passed the labeling heads. With only one point of contact on the radius of each side of each bottle, these oval-shaped containers are quite free to pivot to one side or the other. This can result in significant variations in label placement and possible label creasing during the wipe down. To align such oval bottles, there are a number of options available:
- Dual Scrolls
- Reciprocating Clamps
- Aligning Chains
- Aligning Wheels
- Conveyor Pucks
The method most commonly employed is using Aligning Chains, as these supply a module that can align a significant range of oval products without the need for changing parts each time you switch the product you’re working on.
Round Bottle Labeling
While it may appear less critical how a round bottle is oriented prior to its labeling, in most cases the bottle will need to enter into an area where it is spun while a label wraps around it. The round bottle has to commence this spin smoothly to allow for precise labeling. This action will also need to be predictable from bottle to bottle.
For round bottle labeling, guide rails are also employed for alignment purposes but one also needs to take into consideration the speeds of the two conveyors involved. The issue of mismatched speeds is remedied however because the geometry of the round bottle is such that if you spin its surface at twice the speed of the conveyor it sits upon, the base of the bottle will continue to move at the same speed as the conveyor.
It is these little subtleties that differentiate good labeler machine designs from subpar ones. When you contemplate purchasing a label applicator machine, consider how it is designed for straightforward intuitive adjustments to guarantee highly consistent product movement through your labeler machine.