Written By: Noel Daigle
Automotive labels have to survive and withstand tough conditions, surfaces, and environments, and are extremely vital when it comes to the function they need to perform.
In short, they need to be able to visibly, clearly, and pristinely provide information that is valuable to both the OEM and the End-User.
Vehicles are sold all over the world, in all types of climates. That means engines and interiors are exposed to a variety of climates and exist in fluctuating extreme hot and cold temperatures. Labels need to be able to withstand corrosive cleaning chemicals or high pressure washing. They often have to meet strict UL or UID requirements.
Often, these labels are required by law to be present and when they fail or are incorrect, it can result in a costly recall or label replacement, which is time consuming and costs labor, resources, time, and money. There are many labels that adorn the interior, exterior, and under the hood of a vehicle, but this blog focuses on just a couple of different labels that all cars need to have.
Engines get grimy, which means automotive labels under the hood will too. Labels need to be able to withstand a variety of factors in order to survive for the life of the vehicle.
They need to survive UV exposure, weather, grime, oil, solvents, moisture, humidity, and chemicals. They are continually exposed to oil, gas, dirt, and debris.
Automotive batteries are typically cased with a thick shell and lid. This case is usually made from a low surface energy plastic with several labels that are required by law to be present. Battery Industry Markings require safe and proper classification, packaging, marking, and labeling of batteries. The labels that adorn all vehicle batteries need to be able to survive the harsh factors listed above.
In addition to this, EV Vehicle Batteries, for example, are comprised 80% recyclable materials. When the battery has come to the end of its lifecycle, it can be stripped down and recycled for further use. Typical Labeling Technologies are not recyclable and need to be removed prior to the recycling process.
A warning label that is required per § 575.1051, which states “each vehicle must have a label permanently affixed to either side of the sun visor, at the manufacturer’s option, at the driver’s seating position.” It further states that certain other requirements must be met, such as the heading area should be yellow, with the text and alert symbol in black, the message area must be white with black text, and the label must be appropriately sized so that it is legible, visible, and prominent to the driver.
As technology advances, wireless charging mats are becoming the norm in vehicle production. These charging mats are typically made of TPV and Santoprene, which are very difficult to decorate. The mats need to have a label that lasts for the life of the vehicle. It shows the owners of the vehicle its location so they don’t inadvertently put paperclips or loose change on top of it, and in 2016, GM was trying to use Heat Transfers for this specific label but found that if someone was wearing sunscreen, that the label would get smeared off and degrade the label over time, causing it to fail.
Automotive manufacturers will use plastic dunnage containers to ship automotive parts to another plant for assembly. These containers require labels that include vital information such as part identification, serial numbers, “property of,” and part number. When a label like this fails, it causes a lot of issues and makes it difficult to keep track of essential automotive parts.
Hot Stamps, Heat Transfers, IML’s, and Pressure Sensitive Adhesive Labels
Typical labeling technologies are comprised of layers of materials that incompatible with low surface energy automotive plastics such as PE, PP, TPV, TPO, TPE, and Santoprene™.
Low surface energy is desirable in the plastic part because it means the material possesses a set of inherent characteristics that help it to resist environmental factors, chemicals, cleaners & sanitization, UV exposure, debris, oils, fuels, & solvents, and abuse. The problem is that these types of plastics have a surface energy level that is similar to that of Teflon™…nothing wants to stick to them!
These same labeling technologies (Hot stamps, Heat Transfers, IML’s, Pressure Sensitive Adhesives) will likely perform outstandingly on a high surface energy material such as steel or other metals, but they will inevitably fall victim to the low surface energy that plastic possesses. They simply are not designed to work with low surface energy plastics and cannot overcome the unique challenges that plastics such as these present.
In fact, as mentioned already, these typical labeling technologies utilize a multi-layer construction, comprised of an adhesive base or bonding substrate, followed by printing inks and then finished with a protective varnish or layered coating. The idea is that these labels attempt to utilize these extra layers to try to help reinforce the label “sticking” to the surface of the plastic. All of these layers do their best, but they are completely incompatible with the plastic and if you start taking notice around you, you will see failed labels everywhere.
Peeling, fading, cracking, scratched, the edges lifting and exposing gummy adhesives and under layers. The result is money, time, & labor that was spent to apply a label in the first place, that degrades and fails to perform the function it was meant to perform.
Labels that convey brand information, warning, safety, informational, component identification, tracking, tracing, barcode, critical safety instructions become ineffective, illegible, frustrating for the end user if they can’t read it, and overall a waste of time and money.
In the event of a recall due to ineffective labeling, all of these factors become exasperated.
Vehicle Engines and labels face harsh conditions, and they need a label designed specifically to overcome the challenges they face both environmentally and due to inherent low surface energy of plastics.
Why are Polymer Fusion Labels the proven labeling solution for these difficult to label plastics?
They do not utilize any incompatible materials.
They do not stick, they “fuse.”
Polymer Fusion Labels are made of only 100% compatible polymer material that fuses into the subsurface of the automotive plastic part, becoming quite literally like a tattoo for that part. The label cannot ever be separated from the plastic part.
Polymer Fusion Labels take on all the same inherent characteristics that plastic possesses…they become equally resistant to UV exposure, dirt, grime, oil, fuel, solvents, chemicals, pressure washing, and more. They can stand up to repeated abuse without ever fading, cracking, peeling, and remain pristine and completely legible for the life of the part. The label and the automotive plastic part become one solid piece, with no change in durability or structural integrity.
Polymer Fusion Labels are trusted by and currently utilized in GM and Ford Vehicles and over 21 vehicle platforms worldwide. They are ideal for a variety of automotive applications, including:
If you are experiencing issues with labeling automotive plastics or looking for a permanent label solution for low surface energy olefin plastics, please consider registering for our upcoming Automotive Webinar here.