Tagless Pad Printing Gets Intimate

An intimate garment manufacturer solves the problem of itchy labels, while saving at least 10-fold on the cost of labels with tagless pad printing.

Problems with Heat Transfer Labels

In 2009, Cupid Intimates, a manufacturer of women’s intimate apparel, came to Inkcups with an increasingly common problem for manufacturers:

“They were having a hard time getting their thermal transfer labels to adhere,” Paul Strunk, Inkcups’ Southeast Sales Manager said. “And with a 3-4 week lead time for ordering, they were finding it difficult to keep the labels in stock.”

Developed in the late 1940s, thermal or heat transfer technology has long been a standard for apparel labels. Using a thermal transfer printer, labels are affixed by melting a coating of ribbon.

In more recent years, however, tagless pad printing has been gaining ground as an alternative. By printing label information directly onto their fabric, manufacturers avoid many of the hazards associated with traditional methods.

The Intimate Advantage

Like any intimate garment, Cupid’s labels have to take the punishment of almost daily washing. Yet while heat transfer labels begin to break after 5-10 industrial washes, pad printed tags can withstand 50 washes. What’s more, the soft, stretchable tags shrink with the garment – so the fit stays smooth for the customer.

Tagless pad printing had another, more prosaic benefit for Cupid:

“The product that Inkcups offered was cheaper,” Roberto Zeledon, a Plant Engineer at Cupid said. Though Cupid had to purchase 5 pad printing machines to begin with, “the heat transfer machinery was more expensive in any case.”

It’s not just machinery that can have an effect on a company’s budget. While the average cost of 12,000 heat transfer labels is $1100, up to 100,000 pad printed tags can be produced from a $70 ink can. Combined with lower utility costs and an average cycle of 1000 tags per hour, pad printing is adding up to significant savings for Cupid.

Addressing Customer Health

Intriguingly, using ink gives intimate manufacturers a hidden advantage. To meet current health standards, heat transfer labelers have been reformulating their labels to be phthalate-free and PVC-free labels. Unfortunately, this process is wreaking havoc with adhesion and application.

Tagless pad printing avoids this issue by using certified phthalate-free and PVC-free ink for tags. Even more importantly for intimate apparel, ink tags are NAMSA-certified to have zero skin irritation. For skin allergy sufferers who endure rashes from heat transfer labels, this is an important selling point.

Training in Central America

Since Cupid manufactures their apparel in Nicaragua, Spanish was the order of the day. To accommodate Cupid’s needs, Inkcups sent their Central American representative in Honduras to the factory. Fluent in English and Spanish, he was able to provide Cupid with multilingual hands-on training and support.

All in all, making the switch turned out to be remarkably hassle-free process, a result which Strunk attributes to the skill of Inkcups technical staff:

“It’s a fairly new technology,” Strunk said, “and an initial capital equipment investment. But after that, it’s pretty smooth sailing.”

Zeledon agreed, adding that Cupid is particularly happy with the savings they’ve gained:

“We’re applying pad printing labels to some of our products and eventually we will extend it to cover all our products.”