Self-adhesive Labelling
Direct Thermal Labels


Freshly packed food (fruits, vegetables or meat) require a label which is decorated on the time of packaging and should at that point also include weight, price, expiry date etc. A common technology to create this information on the spot are direct thermal labels. This also applies for logistical tags at the airport. The branding of such labels is important, so rather than just using blank labels printed labels are preferred which comes with a heat-sensitive layer that does require some experience.

Self-adhesive labels as such (aka ‘pressure sensitive labels’ or PSL) are made by printing onto a laminated construction of 3 layers: a release liner (otherwise known as the backing paper, carrier or glassine), a layer or adhesive and the facestock material. The laminate is printed and then converted in a roll containing the requested number of labels per roll. A web-fed process brings a high label application speed on the packaging line and allows for more embellishing processes. In addition, its flexibility of application is enormous, either during or after the filling process and on any type of surface/container just by taking another glue.

Production details

Here you can see a sample for a self-adhesive direct thermal label printed on a Xeikon CX3 digital press.

  • Print dimensions: 70 x 95 mm
  • Substrate: Thermal top coated paper based facestock
  • Toner: Food-safe Cheetah toner
  • Finishing: Xeikon DCoat Series, offline die cut, slitting, rewind

The Xeikon CX3 has been the press of choice because of its food-safe toner solution, unmatched in the industry (FDA, EUpia, Nestle, Swiss Ordenance).

Sample of a digital printed direct thermal label

What is the value of digital printing?

The consumer market is diversifying more and more. This leads to a larger number of product present in the retail stores or being shipped to our house. This drive the trend of short lead-time, more jobs per month but with smaller quantity. The correct answer to address this cost effectively is the use of use digital production techniques.

Furthermore digital printing with Xeikon offers:

  • a choice of production capacity with a broad range of 11 digital printing presses 
  • food-safe solutions through the application tuned, specifically developed toner
  • the ability to complement offset printing through the high image quality 

Which is the preferred digital press for self-adhesive direct thermal labels?

The Xeikon CX500 digital printing press also known as ‘the Cheetah’. Its top speed of 30 m/min (98 ft/min) makes the Xeikon CX500 the most productive 5-colour digital label press in its class with an unique web width of 516 mm (20.3"):

  • dry toner technology: ability to print on the broadest range of conventional materials with the highest quality, while offering color strength
  • high quality printing: 1200 dpi with wide color gamut and spot colors

Which is the preferred digital production solution?

Below you can see an example of a full production set-up for self-adhesive direct thermal labels: roll-to-roll line including a Xeikon CX500 digital label press, a Web Varnishing Module which adds a high-quality water-based coating for protection and a Print Medium Rewinder suitable for widths up to 516 mm (20.3").

With the standard X800 functionality, Job Optimizer, a large quantity of SKU’s will be optimal positioned in specific lanes on the web with separator labels between the different SKU. This allows to maximize the output of the printing press and makes it manageable to process and separate the labels in the converting department.

Digital production solution with a CX500


You can see this application live in the following events:

Xeikon Café - Packaging Innovations