Weathering the Outdoors: Durable Labels for Outdoor Equipment

Developing competitive products for outdoor use means bringing tougher, better, longer lasting goods to market. Manufacturers must constantly push the limits of durability in their outdoor products, which means label requirements are constantly evolving to keep pace with product innovation. 

Outdoor labels need to perform throughout the life of the product to convey critical information such as lot numbers, barcodes, safety warnings and warranties. If labels peel off easily, lose their color, become illegible, scratch or fade due to environmental exposure, essential information is lost.

Durable labels that are developed for outdoor use, and tested for specific product conditions, give manufactures peace of mind that key information will stay in place for as long as needed.

Application Considerations 

Minimum outdoor labeling requirements are determined by industry standards, such as UL 969 (Marking and Labeling Systems) or BS 5609 (Labels for Marine Use). However, many brands and manufactures develop performance specifications beyond these standards. For example, specific requirements based on where the label will be placed on the equipment, the material it’s applied to, the application process, and the various conditions it will experience. 

Naturally, different applications will require different label performance properties. Key variables manufactures should consider when choosing a labeling solution include: 

  • The substrate a label will adhere to, which dictates and determines surface texture, shape, and surface energy that labels encounter.  

  • Performance properties, such as outdoor weathering resistance, required across the life of the product.

  • Printing technology and ink systems used during the production of labels.

  • Overlaminates and varnishes applied to printed labels which are used to protect inks and facestocks from UV light, humidity, common chemicals, and abrasive conditions.

Labels for outdoor equipment

Testing Specific Conditions 

There is no one-size-fits-all test for outdoor labels. Label materials perform differently when they are applied to different substrates — such as aluminum, steel or polypropylene — or when they are combined with a protective overlaminate film or coating. As a result, it is essential to test the performance of all of the label components working together, using production-intended parts to properly test the durability of a labeling solution. 

Ensuring a label meets industry standards, as well as performance specifications of brands and manufactures, may require several thousand hours of conditioning tests to simulate the end-use environment. The most common conditioning tests include:

  • Accelerated weathering 

  • Climate cycling

  • Water resistance

  • High humidity exposure

  • Oven aging and freezer aging

  • Salt spray exposure

  • Immersion in chemicals or cleaners

Multiple tests are typically needed to fully evaluate labels for adhesion, legibility, color retention, abrasion resistance and other properties. As a result, manufacturers may pay tens of thousands of Euros and wait several months to receive test results — sometimes without knowing if the tests or materials are right for their application.

Avery Dennison has made substantial investment in our accelerated weathering laboratory to create a more efficient testing process for our customers. The laboratory is able to simulate years of weathering and sunlight exposure in just a few months, and our experts are on hand to recommend the best tests for your application. 

We help manufacturers determine the variables that will impact label performance and select materials best suited for each application to design labels that are cost-effective, long lasting, and tough enough to weather the harshest conditions. 

If you need a durable label solution for your outdoor application, we’d be happy to help


Summary: 8 End-use Considerations for Outdoor Labels 

  1. What substrate will the label be affixed to? 

  2. What are the adhesion requirements? 

  3. What ink and printing process will be used to print the label? 

  4. Will overlaminates or varnishes be applied? 

  5. How many years will the label be exposed to outdoor conditions? In what climates and application angles? 

  6. Will the label be exposed to chemicals, cleaners, pollutants or fuels? 

  7. Does the product need to comply with any known standards? 

  8. Will the labels be exposed to abrasion or other mechanical stress?

Ready to discuss which Avery Dennison materials are best for your unique needs?