Printing of labels: a 400 years old history

From the manual incision technology to the digital inkjet one: the printing of labels through four centuries of history.

La stampa delle etichette: una storia lunga 400 anni

The labels are one of the most important communication system for promoting a product and making it recognizable among many others: an indisputable role played by this advertising tool.

But when the labels were born and how their printing process evolved over the years?

The first labels date back about 400 years ago when, using embossed stamps -made of metal or wood- any kind of image or character was engraved on hand made paper. To be clear, the first labels were made by a printing process very similar to the working process of the old typewriters that used to be on our desks.

A rudimentary but charming technique was born from a brilliant idea of the father of letterpress printing: Johann Gutenberg.

La stampa delle etichette: una storia lunga 400 anni

It was not until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution to witness a real change in the printing of labels.

With the beginning of the nineteenth century and thanks to Mr. Robert Barclay a new printing process, known as offset printing, was born. A technique that takes its cue from lithography and it is achievable through the use of cylinders in contact, which transfer the ink to the paper passing through a system component called rubber.

It has been an important change which, together with the paper mechanical production, not only sped up the labels molding sector, but has also led to a big improvement in print quality and favored itsevolution: during the centuries, in fact, the first coated papers and the first color prints begun to appear.

It is the beginning of the label as a marketing tool.

From this very first moment the labels are applied on the boxes of cigars and matches, luggages, pharmaceuticals products, on bottles and so on. No one is more willing to give up this new concept of packaging.

We have to wait the beginning of the XX century for seeing the first self-adhesive labels produced in rolls: this is a real revolution that comes to capture around 40% of the European market.

Thanks to self-adhesive labels, UV inks, hot stamping machines and the first printing machines, Companies are able to engrave on paper any kind of image, color and font, shortening the lead time and printing their own labels at the most competitive prices.

But it is the New Millennium that declares the rise of the most revolutionary printing technique in history: the digital printing. A technique that, among electrophotographic and dry toner technologies, UV technologies and inkjet ones water based, has led to the evolution of the near future: the possibility to print directly on glass, plastic and other materials.

An ecological choice that allows to eliminate completely the use of paper, as well as to reduce the environmental pollution due to the disposal of glues and other industrial materials and that allows, at the same time, a significant cost savings.

The big brand Companies have already figured it out: see the new bottles of Heineken beer that are abandoning the printing on paper labels in order to adopt the more traditional, convenient and environmentally correct, direct printing on glass!

What about follow their example?

La stampa delle etichette: una storia lunga 400 anni