When it comes to looking for equipment that is wash down rated, you should probably draw the line when it comes to most labeling applications.
The main exception to the above statement might be jet spray applications designed to place limited amounts of information directly onto products, such as date information. Some companies say they have met NEMA 4X standards for that, but that is quite different from applying labels to the top or bottom of products. It is also completely different from weigh-price labeling and from applying fixed weight labels to boxes, as well as net weight labeling of boxes, cases, and combos.
We are frequently asked if that kind of labeling equipment can be washdown rated. Here are three reasons for why it is not and likely won’t be in the near future:
- The state of print engines
- Label dispensing mechanisms
- The lack of direct food contact
When we design labeling systems for our customers, whether manual or automatic, we can accommodate print engine brand preferences. The print engines that are the most popular by overwhelming percentages do not offer washdown options. Each of the major brands that supply print engines require customers to keep them away from water spray because water would corrode the components and would interfere with the clarity of the printing process.
The next item to consider is the mechanism that dispenses the labels. It is obvious that you need to keep your label stock dry. But, consider this as well: if there is an opening large enough for a label to get out, then there is an opening large enough for water to get in. Keeping label stock dry would represent a gigantic research and development investment for a washdown labeling system. That brings us to an even larger point about the lack of R & D that could lead to a washdown rated labeling system.
In order to have a NEMA-4X labeling system, everything from the control panel, to the electronics, to the label stock housing, to the print engines, to the label dispenser, would have to be able to prevent water ingress or function while wet. Since there is no direct food contact on any of those components or the overall system, there is no incentive for companies to commit the massive amounts of money that would be required. The solution is simple. If you need to label in a wash down environment, make sure you can enclose, cover, or move the labeling system. We have helped many customers do all three and achieved amazing results.