Industrial Weather Proof Polymer Fusion Labels For Outdoor Power Equipment

Noelle Daigle

Mar, 1 March, 2022

Outdoor power equipment and vehicles are built to withstand a lot of abuse including extended UV exposure, and extreme hot and cold weather temperature fluctuations.

This industry relies on a variety of labels for product branding and important consumer safety and warning information. Currently, the power equipment industry uses a lot of stickers applied to the surface of plastic components, but unfortunately, the life span of this labeling method is nowhere near as durable as the power equipment itself.

Furthermore, there are standards in place to ensure safety in the use of these products and vehicles, and also for the labels that adorn them.

Construction sites, farms, playgrounds, recreational equipment, or landscaping/yard equipment… all of these products are required to meet certain ANSI/OPEI standards and labeling is often a way of validating that those standards are being met.

Over the past 5 years, extensive research has revealed some interesting findings in the area of safety and warning label permanency and durability requirements within various industry specific standards.

A focal point of this article is the ANSI/OPEI standard for safety and warning labeling specifically when used with polyolefin thermoplastics (such as polyethylene and polypropylene) parts and components used in the manufacture of Outdoor Power Equipment such as UTV’s, battery products and ground supported products.

Polyolefin Thermoplastics are now well established as the most predominantly used plastics in the world and while their nearly indestructible, ultra-durable and reusable (recyclable) nature allows them to endure for many years in different environments and exposures, that same nature makes them impossible to label for long-term durability and permanency. This is due to this type of plastics being non-polar and low surface energy (very similar to Teflon®) which by their nature do not lend themselves to adhesion from traditional labeling, coating, or painting methods. Data collected over the past 5 years shows a major disconnect from safety and warning label “requirements” per product standards, versus what is sourced and applied to finished polyolefin thermoplastic products.

A problem that becomes abundantly clear once labels are introduced to real world exposures and environments resulting in adhesion failures. This is due to several factors.

What Are ANSI Safety Label Standards?

OPEI is responsible for the product standards program and they maintain the ANSI label standards documents. These are used on products such as, according to the OPEI site:

  • Snow throwers
  • Tillers
  • Blowers
  • Brush cutters
  • Fuel systems
  • Utility vehicles

These are just some of the products that need their safety labeling to be legislated. It is easy to see why these products need some form of legislation, as in the wrong hands or used incorrectly they could prove to be dangerous. There are more products that require this additional safety standard, the above are just some of the examples.

The OPEI in creating the ANSI documents works with the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), ASABE, ASTM International, and SAE. This means that the safety labels are aided in staying in line with global regulations, too.

Who sets the standards?

OPEI is the Standards Development Organization and it is assigned by the American National Standards Institute. The standards, when published, apply for five years, and they must then be reviewed and can be reaffirmed, withdrawn or even tweaked and revised to keep up with the latest in standards.

The activities they carry out through the committees they run consult advisory groups also governed by the ANSI guidelines.

As we’ve outlined in this guide, the correct information being available is not just something that is nice to have, it is essential. Manufacturers who can use labeling methods to ensure that the product labeling and guidelines will remain on the products for longer provide a distinct advantage. When some products are put in a position where they face up to the elements there is a chance that the information that is so crucial can fade, rendering the labels pointless and the ANSI warning label standards may not be met. This is not something that anyone wants to happen.

Permanency

First published in 1969, Industry Standards and Practices written by the National Association of Graphic and Product Identification Manufacturers, Inc. (GPI) on page 42 under “Adhesive Definitions” states “pressure sensitive adhesives are categorized as permanent or removable” and that “loosely defined, an adhesive with two pounds or more of peel strength from stainless steel is considered permanent.”

This statement is fine if the final product substrate happens to be stainless steel or another high surface energy material.

But what happens when labels are applied to low surface energy polyolefin thermoplastics?

On page 40 of the same publication, GPI states “it is important to identify the substrate to which a PSA will be applied. Is it plastic, i.e., high- or low-density polyethylene, polypropylene, polycarbonate, etc., or is it metal? Is it painted, lacquered, or coated in any way? PSA’s exhibit different bonding characteristics on different surfaces.”

They ask this question because of surface energy: Again, citing GPI on page 125 “surface energy refers to the amount of molecular attraction a liquid has to a surface vs. surface tension, which is the phenomenon of a liquid being attracted to itself and beading into drops when on a surface.

Untreated metals tend to have high surface energy (HSE). A Teflon frying pan has low surface energy (LSE) creating a low-stick surface. A freshly waxed car also has LSE noticeable by the large fat beads of water that can form on the surface.”

Polyolefin thermoplastics such as HDPE, LDPE, and Polypropylene have a very low surface energy rating of 31 & 30 dyne/cm (Teflon® is 18 dyne/cm respectively) as compared to stainless steel at a very high surface energy of 700-1100 dyne/cm.

Therefore, “permanent” pressure sensitive adhesive labels applied to low surface energy polyolefin thermoplastic products and components will, over time and exposure to real world inputs, perform drastically different than labels applied to high surface energy substrates like stainless steel, aluminum and glass.

The reality of this incompatibility speaks for itself, with many examples of label failure as seen below:

“Duty to Warn”

In the case of warning, safety, or instructional labels, (especially in the case of outdoor power equipment that may pose a possible risk of injury or death when used), it’s the manufacturer who is burdened with “duty to warn” (the conveying of safety/warning information to the user). Thus, labeling performs an essential and liable role.

When labels fail this duty, it can result in everything from litigation to costly product recalls.

And while the litigation portion of this equation is certainly something that everyone wants to avoid, the most important thing is that users remain safe and that preventable injury or death is, well, prevented!

If typical labeling methods aren’t up to the task, what kind of solution can there possibly be? Read on below to learn about a labeling technology that was specifically designed and engineered to solve these exact types of problems.

Polymer Fusion Labeling Solutions for Outdoor Power Equipment

Polymer Fusion Labeling Technology was specifically engineered for perfect compatibility with polyolefin thermoplastic products, parts, and components to deliver unrivaled lifelong performance.

Polymer Fusion Labels for outdoor equipment are manufactured as a single layer of 100% compatible polymer material. There are no substrates or adhesives that are used at all. This makes them essentially like a “tattoo” for olefin plastic products that cannot be removed and never separate from the plastic.

During application, the Polymer Fusion Label and polyolefin thermoplastic product simultaneously reach melting point causing a “fusion reaction that results in a permanent safety or warning mark in the subsurface of the plastic that cannot be lifted, separated, or removed for the life of the product no matter the environment or exposure.

Fusion Labeling For Power Equipment And Lawn & Garden PolymersThis makes Polymer Fusion Labeling Technology the ideal solution for outdoor power equipment where safety and warning labels are impervious to harsh environmental factors and harsh use.

Polyfuze’s industry-leading Lifetime Guarantee means peace of mind knowing Polymer Fusion Technology has consumers’ backs for the life of those products being manufactured.

Call us at 928-634-8888 to learn more about our labeling solutions for the outdoor power equipment industry.  

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