Written By: Noel Daigle
Have you ever looked around you and noticed how many labels there are in existence? It’s something the average person doesn’t necessarily think about.
Labels are EVERYWHERE. If you start taking notice, you will also inevitably discover something else…Most of them are failing.
Fading, peeling, scratched, disintegrating, eroding…no matter how you look at it, the result is failure.
Beyond the dulling of colors and imperfections which detract from the label’s original design, in most cases you simply cannot read important brand names or warning labels.
When this happens to a medical label, the results of failed labeling can be quite devastating.
This is because medical labels are critical and provide essential information in the environments they serve.
From warning, safety, biohazard, medical waste, informational or instructional, to barcode/tracking or branding, labels play a rather vital role throughout the medical industry.
Whether you are a manufacturer or end-user of reusable medical plastics, here are several important factors to consider when selecting the right labeling technology for your medical labels.
Reusable medical plastics are made from olefin-based polymer or resin. This type of plastic is incredibly durable and possesses characteristics that make it ideal for medical applications.
This type of plastic will inherently resist corrosive substances, will naturally expand with extreme hot/cold temperatures (which helps promote durability), it is resistant to the harsh types of chemical cleanings, repeated sanitizations, and pressure washing or autoclave processes that are subject to occur regularly in a healthcare environment.
These plastics are a virtually perfect option for medical devices, containers, and more, but these inherent characteristics do present one seemingly impossible obstacle.
The extremely low surface energy plastic products possess also makes them impossible to label with traditional labeling technologies. In fact, products made from olefin-based plastics have a surface energy level similar to that of Teflon®.
Surface energy is measured in Dynes per Centimeter.
While steel, a high surface energy material sits at about 1000 Dynes, Polyethylene (a derivative of olefin) comes in at 30 Dynes.
For comparison, Teflon comes in at 18 Dynes. That’s right…. olefin plastic and its derivatives have a similar energy level to a material that is designed to ensure that NOTHING sticks to it.
The simple fact of the matter is that low surface energy plastic is an extraordinary material to use for many applications, but NOTHING wants to stick to them, including typical labeling technologies which were not designed to integrate with this type of plastic, and are comprised of incompatible materials.
Typical labeling technologies such as In-Mold Labels, Hot Stamps, Heat Transfers, and Pressure Sensitive Adhesive Labels (Stickers) are comprised of multilayer, incompatible materials that the surface of the plastic rejects. Given the simple test of time, the labels will continually fail, fade, and degrade over the lifespan of the part. When you factor in the extra impacts that are created in a healthcare environment, such as sanitization or autoclave/pressure washing processes, this label failure accelerates.
Because typical labels are comprised of multilayers, they eventually expose these underlayers and become fomites that can harbor harmful microbes for hours, days, and even weeks. They cannot be reliably sanitized and when they are subjected to harsh chemicals or cleanings, they degrade even faster.
The answer is yes!
Medical labels can become a contaminant just like any other fomite found in the medical setting.
A “fomite” is any non-living object or surface found within a medical setting, including chairs, beds, tables, clothing, utensils, railings, containers, or door handles etc.
Fomites can accumulate harmful microbes on their surfaces which then become a means of infection transfer throughout a facility.
Fomites also includes the medical labels found on objects such as sharps containers, medical waste containers, and more. When exposure or contact occurs, harmful microbes on that surface can propagate, and can remain infectious (and therefore be transmitted) for upwards of several hours, days, or weeks.
When labeling failure occurs, it peels up, exposing edges, gummy adhesive, and underlayers that cannot be sanitized properly. The label is a fomite that can become breeding grounds for harmful microbes to grow and thrive, for days and weeks after initial contamination.
With the world experiencing a heightened awareness of how cross-contamination occurs, how disease spreads, and how fomites contribute to infection and contamination, it is time to reevaluate how we can utilize an innovative labeling technology both for durability and reliable and repeatable cleanliness without degrading the label over time.
The only solution for low surface energy plastics is a label that inherits low surface energy properties.
Polymer Fusion Labels were designed specifically to overcome the inherent properties of low surface energy plastics.
Polymer Fusion Labels do what their name suggests, they “fuse” molecularly into the subsurface of the plastic and the label and the medical plastic become one solid piece, with no change in durability or structural integrity.
Polymer Fusion Labels do not utilize any incompatible materials whatsoever. No inks, substrates, or adhesives. They are designed of a single layer of 100% compatible polymers that become a literal part of the plastic surface, rather than trying to “stick” to it.
Furthermore, Polymer Fusion Labels help combat harmful microbes.
They do this by literally creating a “label-less” appearance on the medical plastic. If you run your finger over the label, it feels flat because it is a part of the plastic after the fusion process. It cannot be lifted, scratched, or peeled up, which for typical labels would expose the gummy adhesives (places where harmful microbes can propagate). A Polymer Fusion Label will never separate from the subsurface of the plastic.
They can be reliably cleansed, even with harsh chemicals, undergo autoclave or pressure washing methods, and withstand abuse for the lifespan of the part without ever degrading or falling off, our lifetime warranty guarantees it.
Polymer Fusion Labels are 100% compatible with olefin plastic and its derivatives.
Polymer Fusion Labeling Technology solve problems for medical plastic manufacturers and end-users. Traditional labeling methods were not designed to overcome the inherent properties of LSE plastics and cannot stand up to the typical abuse which medical plastic containers and devices must be able to withstand. If you are experiencing any of these problematic labeling issues with your products, you owe it to yourself to understand the solution of Polymer Fusion Labeling including the lifetime guarantee this innovative technology is able to provide.