Over the years, the durability of labels has improved substantially with the use of thermal printing technologies and specialised label rolls. With an appropriate label printer and compatible label rolls and ribbons, you can get labels that can withstand high temperatures and outdoor environments. However, nothing can compare to the durability of laminated labels, such as those printed on TZ and TZe tapes.
Even the sturdiest labels printed on the best quality label materials can risk fading or damage with extensive exposure to UV rays and extreme temperatures. In many cases, it is vital that the label remain in a readable and scannable condition. For example, on packages undergoing shipping, freezer products, laboratory labels, industrial labels, food labels, asset labels, outdoor equipment, warning labels, machinery, chemicals and more. This is where laminated labels come in.
Lamination of labels has typically involved a lot of hassle and extra work as laminates were added on top of traditionally produced labels. However, with the range of laminated label printers by Brother, laminated labels can be created instantly using TZ and TZe tapes.
Methods of Creating Laminated Labels
The popularity of laminated labels has increased since the largescale implementation of barcodes and labels in outdoor and challenging environments. Previously, slightly smudged or faded labels could be used, but for barcodes and detailed labels, clarity is essential. Industrial applications of laminated labels are common, but now there is a greater demand for laminated labels at a consumer level. For example, many food items that are kept frozen or are at risk of condensation, can benefit from laminated and long-lasting labels. Cleaning supplies also often feature laminated labels. With the growing demand for laminated labels, they can now be found in a variety of finishes and colours.
The main concept of laminated labels involves adding a layer of a lamination film on top of the label. This layer adds another barrier on top of the label, significantly increasing its durability and strength. The lamination layer can be sealed onto the label face using heat, pressure or an adhesive.
There are three broad methods of creating laminated labels:
1. Thermal Lamination
Thermal lamination involves using heat to fuse the laminate material onto the desired label, and typically involves using either heated roll laminators or pouch laminators.
Heated roll laminators are generally large in size and give good quality lamination output. There are two rolls in the roll laminator, and during lamination the desired material passes through the rolls with the laminate on top. The heat from the rollers melts the adhesive on the laminate, and it is fused with the material, hardening as it cools down.
Pouch laminators use a pouch that is sealed on one side and has a heat-activated film inside. The desired material is placed within the pouch and as it runs through a laminator, the pouch seals around the material within. While this method is suitable for small volumes of lamination, it is not advisable for bulk lamination. Depending upon the size of the label, you would need to trim extra laminate off with either mode of thermal lamination, preferably after laminating.
2. Pressure Lamination
Pressure lamination is also known as cold roll laminators where pressure is used to adhere the laminate to the desired material. There is no heat involved, making this method of lamination particularly suited for heat-sensitive or delicate materials, for example labels from a direct thermal printer or inkjet printers. The costs are also lower as compared to thermal laminators.
In pressure lamination, the laminate has an adhesive layer and a liner to protect the adhesive before application. For lamination, the liner is removed and the adhesive side of the laminate is placed on the desired material, then it is run through a cold roller laminator. The rollers apply pressure without heat and the laminate attaches to the material.
Cold roll laminators are often used to laminate delicate materials which may be damaged by the heat of thermal lamination. The costs of cold roll laminates are often higher than thermal laminates, but only one side is laminated whereas thermal laminating is on both sides. Again, after the lamination process, you would need to trim excess material off from around the final label.
3. Laminated Label Printers
Laminated label printers have gained significant popularity over the years as they are fast, efficient and produce nearly indestructible labels. Unlike other methods of lamination, the laminate is attached directly during the printing process. As a result, you get laminated labels instantly upon printing, without having to laminate an existing label.
The Brother laminated label printers combine multiple layers of thin materials to print labels that are fully laminated. These layers include protective coatings, lettering, adhesives, base films, coloured layer for the base film, and backing paper. The top adhesive is used to seal the laminate while the bottom adhesive attaches the label to the desired surface.
Thermal transfer printing technology is used to print the required material upon which the laminate is fused. The laminated label can then be cut to the desired length. There are a wide variety of label and ink colours available for laminated label printers, with different finishes, sizes and adhesive types. Laminated label printers are fast, efficient and cost-effective. With a direct laminated label printer, there is no need further lamination, making it ideal for businesses with regular requirements for laminated labels.
What are TZ and TZe Tapes?
TZ and TZe tapes are the laminated rolls used for the popular Brother line of P-touch laminated label printers. These tapes have seven layers of materials that compress to form a single durable label, with two layers of PET polyester film. Labels printed on TZ and TZe tapes are resistant to the cold, heat, water, chemicals, UV rays and fading, making them suitable for outdoor applications and usage in challenging environments.
There are over 100 variations of TZ and TZe tapes available with different sizes, materials, colours, widths and finishes. The size options are 3.5mm, 6mm, 9mm, 12mm, 18mm, 24mm, and 36mm. They are categorised on the basis of their finish, adhesion or format, for example, standard, fluorescent, matte, flexible, heat shrink, tamper evident, iron on and premium.
The colour of TZ and TZe tapes refers to the colour of the label background and the colour of the lettering on top. Available background options include white, clear, red, yellow, orange, grey, lace, patterns, glitter and black, with lettering options such as black, red, blue, gold and yellow. Based on the surface to be labelled, there are options for standard adhesives, extra-strength adhesives, flexible surface adhesives and tamper evident adhesives.
Laminated labels printed on TZ and TZe tapes can be applied to nearly any surface, depending upon the adhesive capability of the tape. They can be used on flat surfaces, textured surfaces, curved surfaces, as cable flags and cable wraps. These tapes are compatible with Brother P-touch laminated label printers only. While many of the laminated label printers can use TZe and TZ tapes, newer models are often only compatible with TZe tapes. Always check the compatibility of your laminated label printer with any prospective tapes before purchasing.
Differences between TZ and TZe Tapes
Consumers have often been confused about the differences in TZ versus TZe tapes, especially since the terms are commonly used interchangeably. The TZe tapes were launched in 2011 as a successor to the older TZ tapes. The ‘e’ at the end of TZe tapes indicates its eco-friendliness. The single biggest difference between the two tapes is that the TZe tapes are more environmentally friendly when compared to TZ tapes. Despite the changes there is no negative impact on the performance of laminated label printers, and the printing speed has only gotten faster.
Here are the broad differences between TZ and TZe tapes:
1. Environmental Benefits
With the current rate of environmental degradation, any small effort to save the environment helps. The revamped TZ tapes in the form of TZe tapes are based on the initiative of the brand to be more eco-friendly, without impacting performance. Their goal is to reduce energy usage during manufacturing and later operations, support a longer working life of their products, and make them easy to recycle.
The amount of plastic used in the manufacturing process of the TZe tapes has been reduced by 15% and the TZe tape cassette is made with a minimum of 5% of recycled materials. The packaging of the TZe tapes has been revised as well to be more eco-friendly, and now 75% of the TZe tape cassette can be recycled. The reduction in the amount of plastic used, inclusion of recycled materials and eco-friendly packaging as enabled the brand to reduce 12% of their CO2 emissions.
The ink ribbons of the TZe tapes have been improved so that printing of the laminated labels takes place faster and less energy is used. Using TZe tapes is a great way to reduce the use of plastic, save energy and help the environment without affecting laminating label operations.
For any kind of label printing, it is vital that the label roll and printer be fully compatible. The TZe tapes are designed to slowly replace the usage of TZ tapes. Accordingly, the TZe tapes have full backwards compatibility and can be used with any laminated labelling printer that uses TZ tapes.
Furthermore, the changes have been incorporated subtly so that there is no inconvenience to users. The TZe tapes can be used just as the TZ tapes were, and even the serial numbers of the two tapes are similar. Both types of tapes have the same seven layer printing technology, making the TZ and TZe tapes among the most durable in the market. The quality of the final printed label is the same with TZe tapes as it was with TZ tapes, while the printing process has been made faster.
Although older models of Brother P-touch laminating label printers may be compatible with TZ and TZe tapes, new models might not be. Many new laminating label printers are compatible with only TZe tapes and not the older TZ tapes. The average shelf life of an unused tap is approximately 15 months from manufacture. Always check the compatible label rolls for your laminating label printer to avoid a mismatch.
Common Characteristics of TZ and TZe Tapes
The common characteristics between TZ and TZe tapes are their strength and durability. Both have a total of seven layers of materials, 6 specially for additional durability that are designed to create a nearly indestructible laminated label. The tapes have gone through extensive testing to confirm and prove their capabilities in legibility and strength. Here are some of the top properties of TZ and TZe taps:
1. Abrasion Resistance: The tapes have been tested with a 1kg sanding devise and even after 50 rounds, there was no effect on print quality. While the lamination was lightly scratched, the laminated label was clearly legible and understandable.
2. Temperature Resistance: The TZ and TZe tapes are capable of withstanding extreme temperatures. Their temperature resistance was tested with freezing temperatures of -80°C and heat of + 150°C for 240 hours. Some colours are more prone to discolouration in which case the black on matte silver background was most resistant to colour changes.
3. Fading Prevention: A problem with many traditional labels is the likelihood of fading when exposed to UV radiation. The TZ and TZe tapes were tested with simulated UV radiation equivalent to 12 months exposure and the tapes retained full legibility. There were minimal colour changes in the background of the labels, with red, yellow and fluorescent backgrounds being slightly more susceptible to fading.
4. Resistance to Liquids: Outdoor labels need to be waterproof to prevent damage from rain while labels in laboratories and chemical environments need to withstand exposure to chemicals. TZ and TZe tapes have great resistance to liquids and were found to retain their quality even after complete submersion in liquids for 2 hours. Certain chemicals were found to affect the adhesive of the label after prolonged submersion, however, quickly wiping away the chemicals can save prevent the label from falling off.
Types of TZ and TZe Tapes
There is an abundance of variety of TZ and TZe tapes, with different qualities, adhesive capabilities, targeted applications, sizes and colours. As TZ tapes are slowly being phased out and replaced with TZe tapes, it will likely be easier to find more options of TZe tapes. The tapes are classified into 10 broad categories and within each category, there are options for sizes and colour combinations.
The categories of tapes are:
1. Standard Laminated: The standard laminated tapes are designed for standard laminated labels that can stick to nearly any surface. They have excellent durability and can be used outdoors or indoors, are water resistant and don’t fade when exposed to UV lights. The largest number of colour and size combinations are available under the Standard Laminated tapes category.
2. Fluorescent Laminated: The fluorescent laminated tapes are primarily available with black on yellow and black on orange colour combinations. These tapes are made to be bright and eye-catching and are often used for bold instructions, warnings and advertising labels. They are available in 122mm and 24mm sizes.
3. Matte Laminated & Non-Laminated: A laminated label printer can also be used for non-laminated labels by using an appropriate tape. For a specialised matte finish, there are options for laminated and non-laminated labels. While non-laminated matte labels are supported with black on white colour tapes, laminated labels have black on clear and black on grey options.
4. Flexible ID Laminated: Flexible identification laminated tapes are intended to be used on curved and cylindrical surfaces and are ideal for cabling, telecom, wire wrapping and other applications. These tapes are made with special materials so that they can cover curved surfaces without lifting up at the edges. They are available with black on while and black on yellow colour combinations and a wide range of sizes.
5. Strong Adhesive Laminated: These extra strength adhesive laminated tapes are suited for textured and hard to stick surfaces and materials. They have almost double the adhesive capacity of the standard laminated tapes can be used on a significantly wider range of surfaces. Available in black on white, black on yellow and black on clear colour combinations and multiple sizes, these tapes are ideal for textured surfaces and harsh environments.
6. Iron on Fabric: The iron on fabric tapes are made of cloth upon which the label is printed to make iron-on labels for fabrics and clothing. The printed label using the iron on fabric can directly be attached to other fabrics by ironing it. These are useful for labelling clothes, uniforms, bedsheets and more. The final product with the iron on fabric label can be dry-cleaned or washed without losing the label. Multiple colours combinations are available with one size of 12mm.
7. Tamper Evident Laminated: Unauthorised removal or tampering of important labels can cause problems and even be disastrous in some situations. Apart from using strong adhesives, another way to prevent tampering of labels is to use tamper evident laminated tapes. These tapes have a special adhesive that leaves behind a specific checkerboard pattern when removed improperly, instantly indicating that a label has been removed or tampered with. There is only one colour combination available of black on white, in two sizes of 18mm and 24mm
8. Deco / Pattern Laminated: To produce fancy, stylish and good-looking laminated labels, there is a dedicated category of deco/pattern laminated tapes available. Available in one size of 12mm, these tapes have fun and quirky patterns such as silver lace, geometric patterns, gingham and hearts. Other colour combinations include white on grey, white on pink, white on gold and gold on silver. These tapes are well suited for direct customer facing applications due to their visual appeal. Even with the visual aesthetics, deco/pattern laminated tapes have the full durability of other laminated labels.
9. Ribbon Non-Adhesive and Non-Laminated: Brother P-touch laminated label printers can print on ribbons that are non-adhesive and non-laminated using ribbon tapes. Available in two sizes, these ribbon tapes are great for printing personalised messages, branding and promotions. Popular colour combinations are gold on white, gold on blue, gold on black and cold on red. Optional adhesives can be attached if desired.
10. Premium Laminated: The premium laminated tapes feature glitter particles under the laminated surface making them sparkly, noticeable and striking. With the standard durability of laminated labels, these tapes can be used outdoors and indoors, and in extreme temperatures. They are suited for a variety of applications, including retail, promotions, and branding. Available sizes are 12mm and 24mm and colour options include gold on white glitter, black on gold glitter, and white on silver glitter.
11. Cleaning Tapes: Cleaning tapes are also available that clean the print heads, remove any dust or debris within the printer, and optimise the printer performance after heavy usage. These tapes can be used for up to 100 cleanings and help in the maintenance and restoration of print quality.
The applications of labels continue to expand and diversify, and in many cases, it is important to have sturdy labels. For example, in outdoor environments, industrial settings, laboratories, around machinery and during shipping the durable labels are necessary. Laminated labels are an excellent and effective way of boosting the durability, strength and life span of labels. Traditional methods of lamination are cumbersome and time consuming, whereas laminated label printers are fast and produce good quality laminated labels.
For the Brother P-touch line of laminated label printers, they require specialised tape in the form of TZ and TZe tapes to print laminated labels on. TZ and TZe tapes support printing of extremely durable and robust laminated labels that can withstand extreme temperatures, abrasions, water, UV rays, and chemicals. TZe tapes are the eco-friendlier version of TZ tapes without changing any of the capabilities or features of TZ tapes. There are a vast range of TZe tapes available to suit every requirement for laminated labels, as well as selected non-laminated labels.
Here at POS Plaza, you can find a wide range of good quality label printers, including Brother P-touch printers, and a diverse selection of TZe tapes. Reach out to our knowledgeable team today for help in finding your ideal labelling setup.