Label dispensers and label applicators are machines built to simplify the process of removing a label from its liner or backing tape. Some are bench-top for dispensing the labels while others include the application of the label to the item (such as a package).
Label dispensers are generally intended to dispense a label to an operator who manually applies the label to the package. They are designed with varying sizes and features which are often specific to the type of label they can dispense and to the degree of automation desired.
Label applicators are usually part of a larger packaging line. They receive the package from a previous automation stage, apply the label, and feed the package to the next stage in the packaging line.
Label dispensers have many uses. Imagine how many items you purchase have labels, almost everything. Those labels were either applied by a machine or by hand, and most likely were peeled from the backing paper using some sort of label dispenser. Some of the more popular are bulk mailing, manufacturing, packaging, food and beverage, fast food, photo labs, and more.
Patents on Manual label dispensers go back to the 1920s. They are designed for light-duty use. They are operated by hand and are not automated, but still assist in the process of removing labels from their liners. Many manual label dispensers can dispense multiple rolls at once. Operation is performed by pulling the liner/backing paper around a plate or bar which causes the label to peel away from the backing paper. This happens because the backing paper is usually thinner than the label itself and is also underneath. When the liner is forced around a tight radius the label lifts away and protrudes through the front or top of the dispenser.
A price gun is a tool used in small and large retail outlets to label products with price stickers of varying sizes. While there are a wide variety of pricing gun manufacturers that offer different styles and features, most pricing guns operate in a similar manner i.e. dispensing price labels from a roll.
Using a price gun enables speedy price-marking for products and over-pricing for price reductions for sales or special offer items etc. One of the best benefits of the hand-held price gun is its efficiency and mobility i.e. they are small and lightweight and can be easily taken to the location where the products need to be labelled in store. The gun is held in one hand and by pulling the handle upwards the leading-edge of the roll of labels is pulled through the gun by its internal mechanism and thereby partly ejects one sticker out of the 'mouth' of the gun ready to be applied directly onto the product. The used backing paper is automatically separated from the labels as they are dispensed and that generally comes out the rear of the price gun ready for tearing off as required by the operative. Please see image and explanation.
There are two types of tagging guns, fine fabric and standard. Fine fabric guns are used for delicate materials such as silk and standard is generally used for general garments e.g. coats and knitwear etc. 'Taggers', as they are often referred to, are used widely in the retail industry for applying card material, store branded swing tickets, preprinted with product details and price etc., onto garments of all kinds.
Electric Semi-automatic label dispensers were first patented in the early 1970s. They were originally designed for multiple-row address labels for bulk mailing houses. On average a good mailing house employee could apply approximately 500 labels per hour to envelopes. The label dispenser increased this to over 2,000 per hour. These dispensers advance individual or multiple-row labels and remove them from their lining similar to a manual dispenser, but instead of manually pulling on the liner, label advancement occurs when a trigger on the dispenser detects the absence of a label, such as when the operator removes the label. The sensor then closes the circuit and engages the motor, dispensing the next label until the sensor once again detects the label which opens the circuit. The first electric dispenser was designed with the limit switch on the left of a 16" wide machine. 4-up multiple-row labels were loaded into the machine and once activated would advance one row of labels. The operator would take the labels from right to left, so that when the leftmost label was taken, the next row advanced, automatically providing a constant supply of labels to apply. The labels are also peeled without the natural curl that will happen when pulled from the backing paper with fingers. Also, only one hand was needed to take the label, the other hand could be used to move the material the label was being applied to.
Semi-automatic label dispensers are often built to withstand industrial conditions.
Label applicators are fully automated and can range from simple slower speed models to large machines capable of applying hundreds or even thousands of labels per minute.
Applicators advance the label stock over the peeler plate until a portion of the label, called the "flag," is extended into the path of the oncoming package. When the package engages the label flag, the label web is advanced to match the speed of the package and label is either tamped or wiped on to assure adhesion. Proper alignment of the label on the package depends on sensors that sense the location/orientation of the package and label sensors that detect the location of the label edge. Package sensors can be a variety of Position sensors, often optical sensors or Ultrasonic sensors. Label sensors are usually Photoelectric sensors because they are inexpensive. But clear labels cannot be detected by photoelectric sensors. Capacitive and ultrasonic technologies are used for clear label detection.