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What’s The Difference Between Self Adhesive Labels And Pressure Sensitive Labels?

When it comes to labelling machinery and label types, you are likely to come across both self adhesive labels and pressure sensitive labels. Many businesses are left wondering the difference between these two types of labels, and which will be the best option for their products. The confusing truth is that these two terms refer to the same types of labels, with the same application method and construction. In this article, we are delving into why this type of label has two very different names, and why they are often the label of choice for many businesses.


Where Did Pressure Sensitive Labels Come From?

Labels with pre-applied adhesives have been used since the 19th century, but these first label types often needed the adhesive to be activated. For example, adding moisture to envelopes for them to seal properly. Years ago, the only examples of pressure sensitive labels were seen in dressings and bandages. These used an adhesive which was rubber based and applied directly before being used.

The very first pressure sensitive labels for commercial use were sold in 1935, after Stanton Avery started a new process which used wet glue technology that didn’t need to be activated. The adhesive stayed tacky thanks to a removable backing paper, like we often see on stickers today. He started the term self adhesive labels in his marketing campaigns, as the labels didn’t require any activation processes. Over the years, the technology used for these labels and labelling machines evolved, and the terms self adhesive labels and pressure sensitive labels have been used interchangeably.


How Do Self-Adhesive Labels Stick, And Do They Need Pressure?

Most adhesives are referred to as either pressure sensitive or structural. A structural adhesive must be chemically changed in order to stick. Examples include UV radiation, chemical reactions, or temperature changes. Pressure sensitive labels have an adhesive which is known as a flexible solid. During application, the adhesive flows right across the surface but once applied, cannot be removed. Pressure is used to stick the adhesive to the container, but they will not then easily peel off or separate from the surface.


Why Are There Two Phrases For The Same Type Of Label?

While both phrases refer to the same types of labels, they are usually used across different industries. Consumer uses usually refer to self adhesive labels, while commercial uses are most likely to refer to pressure sensitive labels. The materials used for these labels are the same, but the application methods are likely to be different depending on the application. A consumer standpoint is more likely to use a one-off application method such as manual applications. On the other hand, a manufacturing standpoint will consider labelling machinery and advanced labelling systems to automatically apply labels.


Whether you are using a contract labelling service, or you have your own labelling equipment within your business, having the right type of labels and adhesive method is essential. Find out more from our experts.