Less is More with Linerless Labels 

A linerless printer and products labeled with linerless labels to show the industries they are used in, such as quick serving restaurants

Think about a roll of tape.

A sticky piece of film wound around itself. As pieces are cut and used, they still retain their stickiness and adhere perfectly to a surface.

Linerless labels work the same way.

An alternative to the standard pressure-sensitive label, linerless labels stick to one another instead of a liner. They offer users the same functionality of a label with less waste, making them a great alternative to those looking for a more sustainable option. 

Being more eco-friendly is just one piece of the puzzle. Because they are constructed without a liner, linerless labels print faster with an easy grab and go method of application.  

Linerless labels offer many advantages to industries looking for more practical print solutions while saving on costs.

Let’s find out if linerless labels are the right choice for your business.

What Are Linerless Labels?

Linerless labels are exactly what their name says – labels without a liner.

Traditional pressure sensitive labels are made of four components: facestock, silicone, adhesive, and liner. When a label is used, it is peeled off of the liner and applied to a surface. The liner is then thrown away.

But linerless labels are manufactured differently. 

The label isn’t peeled away from a liner. Instead it peels away from other labels on the roll.

Anatomy of a Linerless Label 

Remember the tape analogy?

To make sure the labels don’t stick to one another, linerless labels are produced with a unique feature: a special, silicone release coating. The coating is applied to the facestock and acts as a release liner, allowing them to be wound without the adhesive sticking to the label below.

The silicone coating also eliminates the need for an additional layer during the lamination process, reducing the amount of raw materials needed to manufacture the label. Fewer raw materials make linerless labels a greener option, which many companies are shifting to amidst current global concerns.

With more businesses looking to adopt sustainable practices, certain market industries are beginning to see a rise in use for linerless labels.

Linerless Label Application 

Linerless Labels

There is a growing demand for linerless technology, particularly in a number of industries leaning toward sustainable practices. 

Their application focuses primarily on functionality and speed, allowing them to integrate well in industrial settings and with consumer packaged goods companies.

Quick Serving Restaurant 

This industry set the bar for linerless label use and is currently the most mature market for this technology in the US.

Quick serving restaurants operate a fast-paced environment and need business solutions to reflect that. Labels must print quickly and accurately for orders throughout the entire day as business ebbs and flows. 

Linerless labels are used in point-of-sale (POS) printing, with applications for sealing and labeling packages. They offer a versatile means of information, serving as a label, receipt, and package closure device all in one. 

These labels are applied to food wrappings to identify and differentiate each customer’s order. At coffee and tea chains like Starbucks, labels are applied to beverage cups and containers. This information can include:

  • Customer name
  • Order number
  • Order specifications 
  • Order date and time
  • Price

Retail

Retail is successfully proving to be a growing market for the use of linerless labels, particularly supermarkets and grocery stores. 

Weigh-scale and price weigh label applications can be found at delicatessen and fresh meat counters where products are packaged and sealed for individual, customized service.

Linerless technology prints labels in varying lengths, making it a versatile solution for butcher shops, bakeries, food and convenience stores, and farmers markets. 

These labels include information like:

  • Weight
  • Ingredients
  • Nutrition
  • Expiration dates
  • Pricing
  • Safety warnings

Linerless labels offer grocery stores the versatility of printing different label sizes for functionality.

Warehousing and Transportation 

A shift in logistics is opening the door for linerless labels to expand in this industry.

Blank thermal labels are commonplace in warehousing applications. The elimination of the liner means the label is immediately applied once it prints. This cuts time on tasks, boosting productivity in an already fast-paced and demanding environment. 

Linerless labels can also be found in packing houses for fresh produce. Traceability is essential in tracking produce from the farm to the retailer in case of sudden recalls, and quick applications improve packing and transport, keeping food quality at a high standard.

Why Are Linerless Labels Useful?

In today’s market for pressure-sensitive labels, linerless are finding a platform. This is because they offer users a different experience than standard thermal labels with many added benefits.

Increased Production

Linerless technology supports a highly productive print solution. It’s simply a much faster option. 

Labels print on demand for immediate application in many settings, increasing the supply chain process. They’re able to be applied by hand as soon as they print. 

Because twice as many labels come on a roll, replacing new rolls will occur half as often to save on production costs.

Waste Reduction

No release liner offers significant environmental advantages. 

Release liners are non-recyclable so they make their way straight into landfills. By removing the need for a release liner, not only is the amount of waste reduced but costs associated with waste disposal are also cut. 

As previously mentioned, because release liners are no longer part of the manufacturing process, savings on raw materials contribute to the preservation of natural resources.

Reduces Workplace Hazards

Employees do not have the hassle of cleaning up and throwing away label liner.

With no excessive liner littering the workplace, hazards like slipping and falling are minimized, increasing overall safety.

More Labels 

Without the liner taking up extra space, more labels can be added onto each roll. This means around 40-60% more labels for the same roll diameter. 

More rolls per label increases the amount of labels packaged per order. Increasing the number of labels per box also cuts shipping and freight costs, allowing companies to save more money.

Linerless Label Printers

A Bixolon LX5-40 is a desktop linerless printer that specifically uses only linerless labels

Common thermal printers are unable to print linerless labels. Therefore a linerless printer is the only option. 

Linerless printers are strictly for direct thermal technology. These labels are for short-term use as they’re applied to products that don’t have a long shelf life.

Desktop Printers

Desktop printers are sweeping the market in linerless technology. 

They are a flexible printer that can print hundreds of labels in a variety of sizes while taking up little space. 

For example, the power chain Starbucks uses desktop linerless printers from Bixolon for printing variable information, like customer orders. Workers don’t have the hassle of throwing away liner which keeps them productive and the work environment efficient during busy operating hours.

Mobile Printers 

While not as prevalent as desktop, mobile printers can use linerless labels to maximize their efficiency. 

Printers like the Zebra ZQ630 already have the ability to print on-the-go but use the smallest size roll available due to their limited capacity. With linerless, the additional labels shortens the time between replacing rolls, saving time and money.

Printer Maintenance and Upkeep

The elimination of a liner means there is no perforation in between the labels. A cutter within the printer has to slice the labels as they pass over the platen roller. 

However, there is one distinct disadvantage caused when using linerless labels that can have users hesitant. 

Adhesive build-up and residue left from label material eventually causes parts of the printer to be less effective. 

Because the cutter is being used with every label, it eventually builds up with adhesive and label material residue. And while the platen roller is specially coated with silicone to accommodate continuous printing, it also builds up with an excessive amount of adhesive. 

Both of these cause the quality of labels to suffer and deteriorate the life of the printer faster if not regularly cleaned. 

However, linerless printers require extra cleaning in order to continue working properly, roughly every several rolls. This helps remove constant build-ups and keeps the printer from malfunctioning.

Some see this type of extra maintenance as an inconvenience but it is a must when using linerless technology.

Advantages Disadvantages
More labels per roll Not currently popular within the market
Save on waste disposal Media costs just as much, if not more
No added cost of liner Requires a specific printer
Save on freight costs Replacement platen rollers add to costs
Save on raw materials Limited label size options
Release coating adds resistance Some materials are unsuitable
Improved productivity Excessive maintenance

A Future in Linerless?

There is still hesitation for companies to transfer over to linerless technology. 

One main barrier is pricing. 

The cost of linerless media is equal to or slightly more than standard thermal labels. Linerless labels can only print in linerless printers, which on their own cost more than thermal label printers. 

As well, the additional cost of new hardware investments included with linerless technology is also a deterring factor.

But the gains of using linerless are beneficial and, in the end, outweigh the objections.

Linerless labels offer solutions for businesses that standard thermal labels don’t. Simply eliminating the liner increases print and apply production, augments safety in work areas, saves costs, and overall reduces waste production with a biodegradable product.

Market drivers and trends will likely push a future increase in linerless labels as growing demand for sustainable products rises across the globe.

Customers want companies to take preserving natural resources more seriously, and more businesses are beginning to listen.