CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention is directed to heat transfer labels. More particularly, the present invention relates to markable heat transfer labels that contain fixed and variable regions and are applied to articles to provide unique markings, and methods for making such markings.
Data and graphics-containing labels are in widespread use in most every industry. Labels are used to mark products and typically include both fixed and variable data. For example, fixed data can include the manufacturer's name, location, and instructions, while variable data may include the size of the product, composition of the material, model number, serial number, and/or power (voltage and ampere) requirements.
Heat transfer labels in particular are used to decorate, mark, code, and/or brand rubber products such as hoses, power transmission belts, and tires (hereafter "substrates"). Typically, heat transfer labels consist of ink color layers that adhere to substrates upon application of heat and pressure. Customers often require information such as that listed above as well as production lot data, date, and/or code information and the like (hereafter "variable data") to be incorporated into the product decoration for traceability purposes. The heat transfer label can be made with day/month/quarter/year code or any other code depending on customer preference. In many instances, such information is included in pre-printed heat transfer labels, such as those manufactured by ITW Trimark.
One drawback to the use of pre-printed labels with variable data or graphics, however, is that large inventories of completely finished pre-printed labels are needed at the manufacturing or packaging site. While this approach provides desirable information on an item-attached label, the large label inventory that is needed, in conjunction with the space necessary for storing such an inventory, makes this approach undesirable. This also increases the likelihood of label obsolescence. As such, there may well be a large quantity of completely finished labels in inventory when a product is changed or discontinued. The heat transfers then become perishable items that cannot be used after the specific date or time-period pre-printed on the heat transfer has lapsed. As it is extremely difficult for customers to pre-determine their exact requirements, existing practice inevitably leads to significant quantities of un-used heat transfer labels being disposed of at considerable cost. US 2003/0035933
discloses a method for marking labels.
Accordingly, there is a need for a variable data heat transfer label that provides the flexibility to mark variable data or graphics on site, e.g., modify data or graphics on site, immediately prior to applying the label to the product substrate. Such heat transfer labels would be easy to modify and be non-perishable for date or code reasons. Desirably, such a label includes some manner of fixed data and a modifiable region in which the variable data is provided and through which the data is viewed when the label is affixed to an object or item.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
A method for making a modifiable heat transfer label includes providing a support surface, a portion of the support surface having a modifiable area for data and/or graphics and removing, selectively, portions of the modifiable area of the support surface such that a substrate is visible through the selectively removed portions of the heat transfer label. The support surface includes a portion for fixed data and/or graphics. The modifiable area is an ink-coated area. The modifiable area is punched and/or etched manually and/or by programmable machine. The label is positioned on a substrate and a substrate is visible through the modifiable area. A heat transfer label made using the methods disclosed includes a supporting substrate, the supporting substrate having a region of fixed data and a modifiable region, the modifiable region including a removable ink coating over the supporting substrate.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS
The benefits and advantages of the present invention will become more readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the relevant art after reviewing the following detailed description and accompanying drawings, wherein:
FIG. 1 is a bottom view of a heat transfer label having a solid block of ink;
FIG. 2 is a bottom view of a heat transfer label after variable data or graphic has been punched or etched into the solid block of ink;
FIG. 3 is a top view of a heat transfer label as applied to a substrate with an ink portion of the label punched through, etched into, or selectively removed from the label;
FIG. 4 is a flow chart of an embodiment of a method of making the heat transfer label; and
FIG. 5 is a flow chart of another embodiment of a method of making the heat transfer label.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
While the present invention is susceptible of embodiment in various forms, there is shown in the drawings and will hereinafter be described a presently preferred embodiment with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered an exemplification of the invention and is not intended to limit the invention to the specific embodiment illustrated.
It should be further understood that the title of this section of this specification, namely, "Detailed Description Of The Invention", relates to a requirement of the United States Patent Office, and does not imply, nor should be inferred to limit the subject matter disclosed herein.
The present invention pertains to a heat transfer label, and a method of making the same, that can be modified by an end user in order to indicate variable data, such as dates or codes, prior to transferring the heat transfer label onto a substrate. The label provides the flexibility to provide variable data or graphics on-site immediately prior to applying the label to a substrate. The label can include some manner of fixed data and a region in which the variable data is provided or applied. The variable data is viewed when the label is affixed to an object or item.
A method for marking the variable data or graphic into the heat transfer label at the end user location prior to or during use includes "punching" holes through, or selectively removing ink from, the heat transfer label tape or strips. The heat transfer label is designed to include modifiable areas, such as blocks or strips of inked areas. The modifiable areas are punched through or the ink is selectively removed (e.g., by etching or selective heat transfer) from portions of the inked area to form a pattern and/or code correlating to the data or graphic. At these modified area, no ink is transferred to the substrate and the substrate is seen through the modified area, providing a readable reverse print of the variable data or graphic. The data or graphic pattern may be configured to be read by human or machine.
Turning now to the figures, in particular FIG. 1, a heat transfer label 100 is shown. The heat transfer label 100 has a support surface 112 onto which an ink transfer 114 of fixed data or graphic is printed. In the present example, an alphanumeric fixed transfer 114 is shown; however, the transfer 114 may be a bar code or shapes in a multitude of sizes or may have no fixed data or graphic. A modifiable area 116 of, for example, a solid block of ink, for variable data or graphics is located on the support surface 112 as well. The modifiable area 116 may be repeated as many times as necessary on the support surface 112 and can be formed in a plurality of shapes.
An end user can insert variable or customizable information 118 onto the heat transfer label 100 (FIG. 2) prior to applying the label 100 to the substrate 120 (FIG. 3). Thus, after insertion of the variable or customizable information 118, the modifiable area 116 is selectively transparent or possesses pass-through areas wherein the substrate onto which the label 100 is positioned is visible through the modifiable area 116.
The variable data or graphic 118 is inserted into the heat transfer label 100 by several methods herein disclosed. In a first embodiment, illustrated in FIG. 4, in conjunction with FIGS. 1-3, a surface support is provided having a modifiable area, block 402. Data and/or graphic is mechanically punched or cut through the supporting substrate at the modifiable area, block 404. A programmable punch or etching machine may be used to enter variable data or graphic 118. As the heat transfer label 100 passes through the programmable machine variable data or graphic designs 118 are punched or etched in the solid block of ink 116. Alternately, the punching/etching may be done manually with manual punch devices, scratch or by etching devices, such as lasers or knives or traditional etching tools. The format of the punched or etched area of variable data or graphic 118 can be any number of shapes and sizes including, but not limited to, alphanumeric codes, bar codes, or geometric shapes that can be read by human or machine to represent the desired variable data or graphics to be placed on the substrate 120.
The punch or etching may pass entirely through the label 100 including the support layer 112 or may remove only portions of the transfer layer 114. In either case, the substrate 120 is visible through the now transparent or partially transparent areas. In other words, the substrate 120 onto which the transfer 114 of the heat transfer label 100 is applied is visible through the punched or etched area of the solid block of ink 116 of the heat transfer label 100, as shown in FIG. 3. FIG. 3 illustrates the heat transfer label 100 having variable data 118 as applied to a substrate 120. The variable data 118, in this example "Jan. 2009", is visible in the solid block of ink 116. It is anticipated that the variable data 118 is readable by human or by machine before or after application to the substrate 120.
In another embodiment, the ink is applied to the heat transfer label in layers such that a top layer may be removed and a second layer becomes visible or readable indicating the variable data, which is subsequently transferred to the substrate. It is anticipated that a different color ink would be readable or a different pattern would be readable, not necessarily a transparent area alone.
In the invention as described in FIG. 5, ink is selectively removed using a second supporting surface, such as an over laminate. A first transparent supporting surface (also referred to herein as a carrier film) includes a modifiable portion, block 502. The second supporting substrate has a chemical to facilitate removal of ink from the first ribbon, block 504 or is made of a special material that is receptive to ink removed from the first ribbon, block 504. The supporting surfaces are pressed together, the ink side of the first supporting surface pressed against the second supporting surface, block 506. A heated press or heated die, or laser or other form of energy transfer, is configured with the data or graphic desired is used to heat selected portions of the ink or modifiable area on the first supporting surface, block 508. The over laminate supporting surface only attaches to areas that have been heat treated. As the second supporting surface (over-laminate) is drawn away from the first supporting substrate, the ink is selectively removed at the heat-treated areas, block 510. The over-laminate is of a material that is receptive to the ink to facilitate adherence to the ink from the modifiable area of the first supporting surface when the over-laminate is exposed to heat or other form of energy. The heat or energy transfers the selected portion of ink from the first supporting surface to the second supporting surface and the second supporting surface may then be discarded or used for other purposes. The first supporting surface then contains a modified portion having selected portions of the ink removed in the form of the desired data and/or graphic. The finished label may then be applied to the substrate.
There are several advantages to the present invention. The present invention allows end users to customize the information applied onto the substrate regardless of the quantity of items. Long print runs of standard decoration such as brand and specification information is possible. Such heat transfer labels are devoid of variable data or graphics and would, therefore, be "non-perishable". There is increased customer flexibility in that there is no need to pre-order pre-determined specific quantities and types of heat transfer labels for specific production runs. The present invention also lowers customer costs while increasing the amount of types of variable data that can be applied to the products.
All patents referred to herein, are incorporated herein by reference, whether or not specifically done so within the text of this disclosure.
In the present disclosure, the words "a" or "an" are to be taken to include both the singular and the plural. Conversely, any reference to plural items shall, where appropriate, include the singular.
It is to be understood that no limitation with respect to the specific embodiments illustrated is intended or should be inferred. The disclosure is intended to cover by the appended claims all such modifications as fall within the scope of the claims.
Verfahren zum Herstellen eines modifizierbaren Thermotransferetiketts (100), wobei das Verfahren Folgendes umfasst:
Bereitstellen einer ersten Stützoberfläche (112), wobei ein Abschnitt der Stützoberfläche einen modifizierbaren Bereich (116) für Daten und/oder Grafiken aufweist; und
selektives Entfernen von Abschnitten des modifizierbaren Bereichs der ersten Stützoberfläche unter Verwendung einer zweiten Stützoberfläche, so dass ein Substrat (120) durch die selektiv entfernten Abschnitte des Thermotransferetiketts sichtbar ist, wobei die erste und zweite Stützoberfläche zusammengedrückt werden und ausgewählte Abschnitte des modifizierbaren Bereits erwärmt werden, so dass die zweite Stützoberfläche an den ausgewählten Abschnmitten haftet, die erwärmt werden, und wobei die zweite Stützoberfläche von der ersten Stützoberfläche abgezogen wird, um die ausgewählten Abschnitte von der ersten Stützoberfläche zu entfernen und wobei
die Stützoberfläche einen Abschnitt (114) für feste Daten und/oder feste Grafiken enthält.
2. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der modifizierbare Bereich (116) ein mit Druckfarbe beschichteter Bereich ist.
3. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei das Etikett (100) auf einem Substrat (120) positioniert wird und ein Substrat (120) durch den modifizierbaren Bereich sichtbar ist.
4. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Stützoberflächen einen Abschnitt für feste Daten und/oder Grafiken enthalten.
5. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der modifizierbare Bereich (116) ein mit Druckfarbe beschichteter Bereich ist.
Procédé de fabrication d'une étiquette pour transfert à chaud (100) modifiable, le procédé comprenant:
prévoir une première surface de support (112), une partie de la surface de support comportant une région modifiable (116) pour des données et/ou des éléments graphiques ; et
enlever, de manière sélective, des parties de la région modifiable de la première surface de support à l'aide d'une seconde surface de support de telle sorte qu'un substrat (120) soit visible à travers les parties enlevées de manière sélective de l'étiquette pour transfert à chaud, dans lequel les première et seconde surfaces de support sont pressées ensemble et des parties sélectionnées de la région modifiable sont chauffées de telle sorte que la seconde surface de support soit attachée aux parties sélectionnées qui sont chauffées, et dans lequel la seconde surface de support est écartée de la première surface de support pour enlever les parties sélectionnées de la première surface de support; et dans lequel
la surface de support comprend une partie (114) pour des données fixes et/ou des éléments graphiques fixes.
2. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel la région modifiable (116) est une région revêtue d'encre.
3. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel l'étiquette (100) est positionnée sur un substrat (120) et un substrat (120) est visible à travers la région modifiable.
4. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel les surfaces de support comprennent une partie pour des données fixes et/ou des éléments graphiques.
5. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel la région modifiable (116) est une région revêtue d'encre.