UL Labelling Overview

From electrical appliances and industrial plant to safety equipment and more, there are literally thousands of products in use on a day-to-day basis that require permanent labelling of specific safety-related information, such as electrical ratings, installation instructions, warnings, cautions, and product classifications.

UL Labels

The UL standard relating to the successful long-term print legibility of printed labels is highly dependent on the combination of ink and substrate chosen. With end-use applications that may face extreme or harsh conditions, these product labels must first meet specific UL testing and certification standards to ensure that they will last the life of the product. Fortunately, for both the customer and printer there are ink and label material suppliers who help streamline the process by working directly with UL to test and certify their inks and substrates in advance to produce pre-approved ‘off-the-shelf’ combinations.

What is UL?

According to the organisation, the ‘UL Mark’ is the single most accepted Certification Mark in the United States, appearing on approximately 22 billion products annually *. For more than 40 years, UL has been providing certification, testing and training services to the print industry, ensuring compliant labels are manufactured to meet individual project specifications and the demands of the global marketplace. UL evaluates around 100,000 products annually, has customers in 104 countries worldwide and is universally recognised as one of the most important, independent conformity-assessment providers in the world.

* Source: https://marks.ul.com/about/

UL Testing and Recognition

When proposed labelling is tested by UL, a number of factors are taken into consideration, such as label curling, wrinkling, shrinkage, loss of adhesion, resistance to defacement and legibility. UL tests against these factors by exposing labels to various environmental conditions, such as high humidity, water, elevated temperatures, sunlight or chemical agents. The testing standard used is known as ANSI (American National Standards Institute)/UL 969 and, for a label to be certified, it must pass four primary components:

  • Visual examination to ensure there is no edge lift
  • Legibility to ensure there is no print or ribbon smear
  • Defacement to ensure there is no abrasion or edge lift when the label is scraped with a blade
  • Adhesion to ensure there is no peel when exposed to varying extreme temperatures

When a label passes UL testing, it becomes a UL Recognised Component, UL Listed or UL Classified label/product and can then bear a UL Mark. UL Marks have specific meanings and significance, but there are two types of UL Service: Type R and Type L.
Type R Marks; the manufacturer submits the layout of the proposed Mark for review and upon receiving an authorisation stamp from UL, provides the stamped UL Mark layout to the supplier or customer for printing.
Type L Marks; labels must be processed through a UL Label Center and are strictly controlled, requiring written authorisation from UL with detailed specifics. These labels may only be produced as authorised, in quantities specified, and ordered to print by the UL Label Centre.

Pre-Approval Benefits

With UL certified labels, Bex Design can ensure customers that the performance requirements for their labels are fully covered. Unfortunately, the resources and processes required to complete the UL label approval process can be both challenging and time-consuming, which is why Bex find great benefit in working with suppliers who have already tested and certified inks and substrates with UL.

When ink and substrate combinations have been tested in advance, materials and ink systems are granted recognised component status and are then stored in the label material supplier’s UL file. This file is then easily accessed and readily available for printers when the time comes to manufacture the printed label, bypassing the need to determine the parameters for the end-user requirements. This can include identifying the substrate for the application, outlining the conditions that need to be met, determining how the label will be printed and whether the label construction – material, ink, adhesive and liner – will meet the necessary requirements. Additionally the cost for UL testing, which varies depending on the product and the scope of the UL evaluation, is removed.

Through this simple and easy process, Bex Design can choose a UL-certified product authorised for UL-recognised label manufacture and receive approval for the flexo inks, digital inks and thermal transfer ribbon. No additional UL testing is required and the process requires limited resources, reduces production times, shortens the UL qualification process, eliminating excessive testing and/or re-testing and streamlines product launch. Bex Design has teamed up with 3M Labelstocks and Lintec Graphic Films to ensure customers who require UL certified labels can be assured that their finished product will meet all of the necessary criteria for UL approval.

Any savings related to cost and production are key to a successful business operation and the manufacture of UL labels can certainly pose a challenge in both areas. Fortunately, by working with material suppliers who have the necessary authorisations in place, Bex Design can help to save our customers valuable time and money.