Sticking with toys — Labels
Toy labelling is one of the most demanding of all packaging industry segments. Susanne Wærholm, Branding and Communications Manager of self adhesive label manufacturer Skanem AS, in Stavanger, Norway, explains why it is crucial to select the correct materials for printing, application and safety.
Quality labels increase appeal and give toys an extra dimension. Toy labels contribute to high play value for children with decorations like stars, princess crowns and hearts.
Ebba Jakobsen, Prepress Manager at self-adhesive label printer Skanem Hobro AS, Denmark, says, ‘To make products look exciting in children’s eyes they are often printed in multiple colours and we can offer labels combined between different print methods with up to 10 colours’.
Alan Hazlewood, Technical Manager for the Skanem Group, adds, ‘There is a huge difference in what makes things tick between a two-year-old only interested in simple shapes and colours, in comparison with a relatively sophisticated seven or eight-year-old. The main task is to make the label interesting and more or less part of the toy and it has to be durable to withstand seasons and rough treatment by children’.
The run sizes when producing toy labels are small, but variation in print design is large. There is no such thing as a standard toy in the sense of the standard bottles that are common in personal or home care products. ‘Labels vary in shape and size, each one requiring its own unique solution. Youngsters are also inquisitive. If they can peel the label off they will, and then there is a risk it can be eaten,’ says Hazlewood.
‘The adhesive has to work well on metal, wood, plastic or enamelled surfaces. We choose materials that are thin to blend better with the toy and with permanent adhesives to make sure the label cannot be easily removed.’
Cutting small labels can be a problem in stripping out the waste between labels and keeping them on the release liner. Substrates with special high release liners are bought to do this, but they are often applied manually, which causes problems with accuracy of positioning and in making sure the adhesive is not contaminated with hand creams or the like.
Screen printing is the chosen method at Skanem. Its vibrant colours give maximum impact, it is also durable and resists repeated handling and misuse well. It is also suitable for building in novelty factors that intrigue children, such as a tactile finish to highlight part of the design, a variable shade of ink or even one that changes colour when touched.
Skanem often combines screen with litho to give excellent design reproduction where fine or photographic type detail is necessary. Producing cosmetic labels for smaller items means everything has to be done on a microscale.
Keeping it safe
The materials used must be inherently safe for children. There will be degree of mouth contact especially with younger children, so inks that contain pigments using heavy metals like lead, cadmium or nickel are avoided. Skanem complies fully with the European Standard for Safety of Toys known as EN71 as well as the Coalition of Northeastern Governors regulations on the use of lead to inhibit inclusion of metals that are ingestible or can migrate to the surface and pose a risk.
The ISO 9001 International Quality Certificate secures all label production. Periodical evaluations are conducted to maintain standards. Jakobsen explains, ‘In each case we have to evaluate the printing method and choice of inks, materials, varnish or lamination to secure the lifetime of the label and especially the safety of the children’.
Products for toys do not contain PVC or phthalates. There are also other considerations. ‘Important issues regarding inks used for outdoor toys are resistance against sunbeams and UV light from the sun. For outdoor use we choose an ink type that is light fast. The fastness is measured in how many hours or days the colour is uninfluenced by the sun. The inks also have to be resistant to oil, soap and spittle.’