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The Ultimate Buyer's Guide to Tire Label Automation

 

Let's talk about your tire identification strategy.

How much time, budget, and effort are you dedicating towards labeling your tires? (hint: probably more than you should!)

From Work In Progress tracking to building a foundation for Industry 4.0, accurately identifying your assets is critical in any manufacturing industry. 

Implementing an automatic identification strategy within your tire manufacturing plant or distribution center is the key to achieving data-driven systems and improved communication.

Read this guide to learn how to achieve the full value of your labeling strategy with color, RFID, durable printing, and automated application. 

Industrial Solutions for Tire

No time to read this guide now? Take it with you!

Just let us know where to send your free guide and you can get started today with designing your own automated identification strategy for your tires, focused around your goals and initiatives.

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Tire Manufacturers and Distributors, what are your growth initiatives this year?

For over 30 years we've served the tire industry, not only by supplying labels and applicators but by supporting your success and enabling you to accelerate your advancements with efficient and effective tracking solutions. 

From Work in Progress tracking to Industry 4.0, we understand that barcodes and stickers aren't necessarily what's top of mind. And A few members of our Industrial Team!even though you know that labels are important, you may not be overly excited to put much thought or effort into them. 

That's where we come in. 

You're absolutely right—you should not need to exhaust yourselves or your operators over your labeling strategy. Not only do you have better things to focus on, but you just don't need the burden. 

As you know, there isn't always a universally accepted 'best practice' or 'right way' to accomplish tasks in tire manufacturing. Your environments are so unique, and at times restrictive, that the only 'right way' to do things is the way that achieves the results you need.

With that being said, quality tire labels and effective printing and application methods are critical in fueling data-driven decisions and supporting efficiency. 

By sourcing labels you can rely on and automating ineffective processes you can relieve the headaches associated with mislabeled tires and rising costs. 

Tire Label Automation can significantly increase your throughput capabilities and reduce daily spend all while supporting production initiatives such as Lean Manufacturing. 

From vulcanized tire barcodes, to a fully automated print and apply tread labeling solution this guide will teach you everything you need to know about creating your own tire labeling strategy, focused on your goals. 

Let's get started 😃

Tire Formation

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vulcanized bead icon
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Vulcanized Tire Barcodes

 

Support WIP tracking and set the foundation for plant automation with tire bead labels. 

 

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Which of these statements sounds most like you right now?

A. My tire barcode strategy efficiently directs my tires throughout the entire manufacturing process, allowing me to confidently identify every tire and provide accurate reports.
 
B. My tire barcode strategy leaves me with several gaps in information, and I’m not sure if my tires always end up on the right manufacturing path.
 
C. Applying barcode labels by hand is taking too much time, and often leaves me with labels that don’t align with my automated scanners.

If you answered A, go ahead and skip this chapter, you’re already winning! However, I’m guessing most of you aren’t so lucky. Vulcanized labels can be tricky – they need to survive severe environments and their small size makes hand application a nightmare.

Tire Barcode Labels, Vulcanized Tire Labels, Bead Barcode Labels... What's the Deal?

Vulcanized Tire Barcode Labels Enhanced with ColorFirst of all, let's sort out what these labels are called. You're probably familiar with the skinny barcode labels applied to the bead of the tire for use during manufacturing. 

The terms 'tire barcodes', 'bead labels', 'bead barcodes', etc. all generally refer to this barcode label. 

vulcanized tire label on the other hand refers specifically to a barcode label applied pre-cure. Vulcanized tire labels undergo the vulcanization process along with the tire, and therefore need to be uniquely constructed to ensure survival.

Although a bead label applied anytime will be helpful in some capacity, vulcanized tire labels are often much more effective for WIP tracking. By applying bead labels as early as possible you can maintain a better audit trail, and gain control over your process. 

What are Tire Barcodes? 

Whether you're referring to basic bead labels or vulcanized tire labels, tire barcodes all have the same goal: to assist in manufacturing.

The alphanumeric value associated with each tire barcode is loaded into a database that stores detailed information about that tire. During manufacturing this information is located by the barcode and used to help guide each tire towards different manufacturing processes and maintain a detailed record of their journey. 

Vulcanized Tire Label Construction

If you have ever experienced labels that emerge from the curing process with the printed barcode image scratched, faded, or otherwise damaged it is likely that your labels were not constructed with the proper materials or printed with the proper technology. 

If required, a special protective coating can be added to the label material to ensure that vulcanized labels remain intact and that the barcodes remain scannable. 

Additionally, if you choose to automate your application process your labels need to be specially constructed for that as well. Applicators need to be able to quickly release the label from the liner, so both the adhesive and the liner material need to be qualified for the applicator you intend to use. 

Bead Label Construction

Simple Bead Label Construction Diagram

Beyond basic construction, there are a few additional features that can be added to your tire barcodes to help add value to your processes. You may wish to request curved labels, RFID enhanced labels, or color labels. The purpose of your bead labels are to manage your tires effectively, so however you choose to organize that is up to your individual goals and process requirements. 

However, one trend that we've seen gain widespread popularity is the desire for narrower labels. If this is something you would like to pursue, keep in mind that it may not be as simple as it sounds. Printing smaller labels is simple, but the cascading effects may cause difficulty for you downstream. Not all scanners will be able to get a successful read on your barcodes if they are too small.

Make sure your label supplier knows how you intend to use your labels, and that they are performing the proper quality tests when developing your product. 

Tire Bead ConstructionParts of a Tire: Bead

The bead of a tire is a rubber coated round loop of steel wires that connects the tire to the rim.

 

The major function of the bead is to reinforce the sidewall, and secure the connection between the tire and the wheel.

 

Proper air pressure is the key to a safe tire bead. If tires are not inflated to the correct level the bead could slip from the groove in the wheel.

 

The bead is the best location for a vulcanized label mostly due to its position with the overall tire. 

 

By placing the barcode on the bead you have easy access throughout manufacturing but it will not interfere with developing the tread pattern or the sidewall. 

 

Additionally, from an aesthetic standpoint this allows the label to be hidden by the rim once the tire reaches the consumer. 

How to Guarantee Unique Identities for Your Tires

Vulcanized tire labels act like a license plate, providing that tire with a unique identity to help track its progress and activity. 

If the sequence integrity of the labels are compromised, the risk of misdirected tires rises and often results in costly rework to rectify the break in communication. 

Ensuring unique values starts with printing the barcode labels. Typically we use advanced Digital Offset printing for our bead label customers. This method allows us to ensure closer color matches and pre-coat the label material at the same printing station—allowing for a leaner production line. 

Once the labels are printed we have multiple stages of verification to ensure accurate, unique results. 

Verification Process 

Computype Sequence Verification Process

Phase 1 – Printer Preparation

Before any job runs we begin our verification process with a series of operator checks designed to confirm the labels and inks are in order. This includes ensuring the barcode is within spec and that any requested colors are matched to the agreed upon standards. 

Phase 2 – Vision System

Immediately after the job has been printed, the barcode labels move directly into our specialized vision system. As the barcodes move through the vision system they are scanned multiple times and graded on their readability and scan success rate. Only labels that receive a passing grade will make it to the customer.

Phase 3 – Accuracy Report

Once the labels have passed through the vision system a report is prepared providing our finishing team with the location of barcodes that didn’t receive a passing grade.

Phase 4 – Manual Check

Lastly, our finishing operators utilize the report from the vision system to locate, test, and dispose of labels that receive a failing grade. They then update the report to display which labels may have been disposed of due to quality concerns.

How to Apply Tire Barcode Labels 

When it comes to tire barcodes precision, uniform placement is absolutely critical. These barcodes need to be scanned several times along your manufacturing lines and if your labels are crooked, wrinkled, or simply in the wrong place your scanners may not have a clear read path. Achieving this level of placement accuracy by hand is incredibly difficult and very unreliable. 

Many times we see plants integrate bead label application into their tire build process. Ideally what would happen is there would be an automatic tire barcode applicator positioned somewhere along the production line and the applicator will apply the barcode either to calendered rubber as it passes towards the build drum, or to the built green tire before being placed on the conveyor. 

Although there are still a large number of tire plants still applying this barcode by hand, automating the process is not only safer for your operators but will result in significantly improved accuracy. 

If you do choose to continue labeling your tires by hand, be sure to invest in a quality bead label dispenser. Your dispenser should be equipped with a scanner as a final measure towards guaranteeing sequence integrity. 

You can learn more about automated tire barcode application in Chapter 6.

How Do Vulcanized Labels Support WIP Tracking?

Work in ProgressOnce the tire is built, vulcanized barcode labels continue to play a critical role in tire Work In Progress tracking and identification. These labels communicate with your database to effectively and accurately guide your tires throughout the manufacturing process. 

From raw materials to a fully formed tire there are several different checkpoints where tires complete different stages of construction, inspection, and grading.

Tire Identification Optimized for Work in Progress

Each eventual tire needs to be cured in a specific mold at a certain temperature, and tested for a variety of performance criteria. These checkpoints may differ from tire to tire, so barcodes are used to help your systems and operators make sure your tire gets to right places.

The first, and arguably most important supporting role for a bead label is to ensure that each tire goes to the proper curing press. The curing process is where tire manufacturing is completed, and where the sidewall and tread of a tire are molded. 

The path and process your bead label takes to aim each green tire towards the correct curing press is uniquely developed by each plant, however the goal is universal.  

The alphanumeric value of each barcode is used to lookup the intended tire type within your database, thus identifying which curing station that tire needs to go to. Using the barcode to inform this process makes it easier for numerous tire types to be in production at the same time. The metal curing mold is made with the sidewall information and designated tread pattern embossed into the mold itself.

As the green tire is heated during the curing process rubber flows into the indents, forming the raised letters, numbers, and grooves. Some plants may have an assigned curing press for each mold needed, while others may need to swap out different molds when there is a demand for a different type of tire. 

Parts of a Tire: Sidewall

Tire SidewallThe sidewall of a tire connects the tire bead to the tread. 

 

During the curing process, the sidewall of a tire is printed with manufacturer and regulatory information such as Tire Class, Wheel Diameter, Load Index, Speed Rating, DOT designation, Branding Characteristics, and much more. 

 

Although tread labels are removed once the tire is purchased, and most bead labels are only used by manufacturers, the information printed into the tire's sidewall remains available. 

 

For this reason you will also find information needed by the driver, such as rotation direction for directional tires, and the maximum air pressure.  

Once the tire is cured, your bead labels can be used to build an audit trail as your tires pass through different manufacturing checkpoints. These checkpoints consist of multiple safety and performance inspections designed to ensure that each tire has been properly manufactured without any flaws, blemishes, or defects. 

Tire Safety and Performance Inspections

How Much Do Tire Barcodes Cost?

Across the market today these labels tend to range from $9-$30 per 1000 labels. Typically, the final cost of your labels is determined by their construction elements. A unique adhesive or a liner with a higher raw material cost for example would increase the cost per label. In general our bead label prices begin around $10-$15 per 1000 labels and increase based on material costs and the level of engineering required to meet your needs.

When choosing a label supplier one of the most important features to look for is some sort of verification or print system designed to guarantee sequence integrity. According to their website, Data2 also has a sequential management system in place. Check out this list of some of the top bead label suppliers in the market today (excluding ourselves).

One additional step you can take to confidently guarantee sequence integrity is to source all of your bead labels for each of your plants from the same supplier. Attempting to manage unique sets of labels from multiple suppliers is a huge added risk and will likely result in duplicate labels. 

Start Your Engines

Race CarAs of 2011, the Milan based tire manufacturer, Pirelli, became the sole supplier of tires to Formula 1 racing.

Being responsible for providing around 1,800 specially produced tires to each world championship, they needed to find a way to ensure all teams receive and use the right tires.

They began using vulcanized tire labels to ensure the barcodes could not be removed or replaced. Each and every detail about the tire can be accessed through the bead label, serving as a form of identification and certificate of authenticity for each and every tire.

With these barcodes applied, both the teams and the FIA can be assured the approved tires are being used and regulations are being followed. 

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Tire Tread Labels

 

Promote your brand and ensure legislative compliance with full color quality tread labels.

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While bead labels secure your tire's identity throughout the manufacturing process—tread labels focus on communicating that information to your customers.

 

What is a Tread Label?

Tire Manufacturer Tread Label ExampleThe tread label is the long label applied to the tread of a tire to communicate tire model information, branding, performance ratings, and safety grades. Tread labels are responsible for expressing this information clearly and effectively to each distribution channel.

In addition to supporting purchasing decisions there are many countries that legally require specific information to be included on each tread label. 

However, even in countries that have legislative regulations regarding tread labels, they are not necessarily required on every type of tire.

The goal of most tread label requirements is to spread safety and environmental awareness among consumers. Therefore, labels on tires that are not intended for retail sale may not require legislative elements. 

Where are Tread Labels Legally Required?

Japan Automobile Tyre Manufacturers AssociationMany countries require manufacturers to clearly communicate specific performance and safety ratings for each individual tire. Often this information needs to be available in multiple formats, which can include the tread label as well as online and Korean Tire Manufacturers Associationin specific written literature.

Some of these countries include Brazil, Japan, South Korea, and the United States, as well as the European Union. 

Each country has a different format for safety ratings and have chosen different features that need to be scored. The most common safety features included in tread legislation are Fuel Efficiency, Wet Grip/Rolling Resistance, and External Rolling Noise. European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers Association 

While you may have already included some of this information on your tread labels, some legislation also requires specific colors and formatting for these ratings—which may add new steps to your labeling process. 

Although the design formats and color requirements differ from country, overall these regulations are still fairly aligned internationally. One notable exception to this would be the United States. The United States follows Uniform Tire Quality Grade Standards set by the Department of Transportation that dictates grading standards for Treadwear, Traction, and Temperature. 

Although UTQG ratings use different terminology and measurements, Traction and Temperature effectively mean the same thing as Wet Grip and Rolling Resistance respectively. 

One of the easiest ways to comply with these regulations is to purchase your tread labels pre-imaged with your required country's rating template (hint: you can also use this opportunity to improve your branding!).

Admittedly, while these regulations do tend to be weakly enforced, you can be penalized for noncompliance in the form of fees and other damages.

Additionally, certain countries have begun the process of including RFID throughout certain aspects of their tread label legislation. We've included more information on this in Chapter 3, but all global tire manufacturers should keep an eye out for further updates from regulatory and manufacturing associations. 

 

                                       Tread Label Requirements by Country (United States exempt)

 
Fuel Efficiency


Wet Grip


Rolling Resistance


Rolling Noise

Europe X X   X
Brazil   X X X
South Korea   X X  
Japan X X X  

 

How to Achieve Quality Tread Labels

Quality tread labels can be tricky to achieve as they often require complex features such as on demand variable data, durable full color, and a secure application to a limited, difficult surface area. 

quality tread label featuresThere are 4 main elements to achieving quality tread labels: Material, Design, Printing, and Application. 

Each of these elements play a critical role in achieving a quality product, as well as your long-term process goals. In this chapter we'll examine each element closely allowing you to develop a tread labeling strategy suited to your needs. 

Tread Label Construction

One of the worst mistakes we see tire manufacturers and distributors making is using standard packaging labels as tread labels. If you only follow one rule from this guide let it be this – always use labels that are fit for purpose.

Using labels categorized as ‘general purpose’ or even simply ‘automotive’ will not suffice, tread labels need to be engineered specifically for the tread of a tire.

Consider the tread pattern and requirements of a tread label. First, the tread pattern leaves a limited and uneven surface area for a label to adhere to. Second, tread labels need to remain securely adhered and allow for a clean, easy removal down the line. 

Basic Tread Label Construction Diagram

Parts of a Tire: Tread

The tire tread refers to the outermost part of the tire that comes in direct contact with the road. The tread pattern is made of a special combination of grooves, blocks, sipes, and spaces developed during the curing process.

Tire Tread

 

This pattern has a significant impact both on the performance of the tire and the associated labeling requirements.

 

Tires designated for Mud & Snow, winter, eco friendly, etc. all have unique tread pattern requirements. For example, winter tires have wider spaces between tread blocks to give them more traction as compared to All Season tires. 

 

Tread Label Formatting and Design

Tire Label Design Software

There are many label design software applications available today. Of course, purchasing barcode label software is not required - you could always design your labels using Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, etc. However, many labeling programs include features that make them well worth the cost. 

BarTender ®

BarTender Label Software is available in multiple versions including: Free, Professional, Automation, and Enterprise. All paid versions include RFID encoding, over 400 pre-formatted barcode components, and 105 barcode symbologies. 

Tire Label Management Software PackageNiceLabel ®

NiceLabel divides their products into Designer and Label Management categories. As their names suggests, Designer applications are built simply to design and manage label formats, whereas the complete Label Management System is built to manage your entire labeling strategy including design, document management, printing, and more. 

Use this quiz to determine which NiceLabel package best suits your needs. 

TEKLYNX

Another major provider for barcode and label software is TEKLYNX. TEKLYNX products are divided between Label Design options, complete Label Management Solutions, and Data Collection Systems. 

Check out this infographic for their suggestions on stepping up print automation. 

When deciding what information to include on your tread labels, it's easy to feel caged in by regulations. However, your tread labels can express any number of branding, performance, and model features to help showcase your product.

The best way to get started with accurate tread label data is by utilizing your vulcanized tire barcode labels. As you learned in Chapter 1, bead labels are used to identify the intended tire type. They're then used to populate the tread label format.

Using the bead label to access data such as tire size and model name is the best way to ensure that you have no mislabeled tires. 

After you've ensured accurate data comes the fun part! After all, there's a reason why some people still call tread labels 'marketing labels'. Between full color imaging and QR code advancements, tread labels provide a fantastic opportunity to showcase your brand 

Tread Label Printing

Partially Pre-Printed Chromaffix Tread LabelOnce you've determined what to include on your tread labels and how to mange the design you'll need to develop a print strategy.

Feel free to take a quick look ahead at Chapter 4 for detailed information on all things printing—but in the case of tread labels we typically will recommend purchasing partially pre-printed color tread label templates, and then loading them into an automated printer applicator to complete the labels with your variable data. 

This strategy allows you to achieve the many competing aspects of tread label printing in a cost-effective manner. 

Of course, if you have fairly low volumes and do not need to print color you could manage every aspect of tread label printing in-house with relative ease. 

Parially Pre-Printed Labels Loaded in Chromaffix

Tread Label Application

Applying tread labels is a lot more nuanced than you might think. Application success comes down to two factors - label construction and your method of application.

First, you need the right label adhesive. Now we mentioned before that the adhesive needs to be able to accommodate the unique surface area of your tires, but in the case of automatic application, it also needs to accommodate the specs of your applicator. The adhesive and liner material need to be properly qualified to run smoothly through your chosen applicator without causing adhesive buildup or jams. 

Chromaffix Applicator Tamp ArmSecond, you need the right application method. Tread labels can be applied by hand or with a piece of automated hardware.

These labels need to be applied squarely and evenly which is difficult to achieve consistently through manual application.

On the other hand, most automated applicators can accomplish precise application at much higher speeds and with near perfect accuracy. 

How Much Do Tread Labels Cost?

Across the market tread label prices tend to range from $35-$60 per 1000 labels. One of the most significant factors that will affect cost is the level of engineering required to ensure compatibility between your labels and applicators. 

Check out a few of our most respected competitors for supplying tread labels here, including family owned First Tape and Label.  

If you would like to implement an automatic label applicator it is important to make sure your chosen label supplier understands the temperamental relationship between consumables and hardware.

Tires That Make a Difference

 

Environmentally FriendlyDo you know the impact your tires have on the environment?

Traditional tires are made from natural or synthetic rubber, synthetic fibers, petroleum and a number of other chemicals, several of which are hazardous.

Some of these materials can be difficult to procure without harming the environment, others become dangerous after improper disposal. As we run low on petroleum, rainforests, and space for landfills, tire companies have made their best efforts to reduce their footprint. 

In recent years many tire manufacturers have responded by making incredible efforts towards improving the environmental safety of their products.

Eco tires, or green tires are the result of the efforts of tire companies around the world to reduce the negative impact their products have on the earth.

Eco tires are different for two main reasons, their materials and their construction. Each manufacturer of eco tires does things a little bit differently but with the same goal, to reduce the carbon footprint of their end product.

In an effort to reduce petroleum usage many companies have replaced the oily substance with fruit or vegetable oils such as corn or orange oil, since they contain a similar molecule called isoprene. In addition, companies are using recycled rubber, replacing synthetic fibers with natural fibers, and incorporating silica based tread compounds.

When it comes to construction, one defining factor of eco tires is their low rolling resistance. Lower rolling resistance improves fuel economy by requiring less power to move the vehicle. Another feature some companies are incorporating into their eco tires is extended tread-wear. This does require a little extra rubber per tire but extends the life of the tire. 

Both construction factors are very appealing to customers because not only do they improve the environmental friendliness of their tires, but the cost effectiveness as well.

Eco Friendly DrivingAnybody and everybody can improve the environment with their tires, here are a couple of ways you can help. Disposing of tires properly is incredibly important, they aren’t biodegradable, but they are recyclable.

When you recycle your tires you are helping the environment by providing rubber to companies who can re-use it to build decks, mulch for parks, pavement for roads and rubber for more eco tires. 

Every little effort to improve our environment adds up, by recycling used tires and making or buying eco tires you can make an impact.

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RFID Opportunities

 

Integrate AIDC throughout your tire manufacturing and distribution strategies with RFID. 

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What is RFID?

RFID is one of the central technologies under the canopy of Automatic Identification and Data Capture systems. This technology offers a number of additional capabilities that make it stand out from other forms of identification technology including automation simplification and extended customer value. Some of the identifying features of this technology are its larger storage capacity and ability to rewrite stored data multiple times. Before we take a look at RFID solutions for tire, let's consider the main competing differences between RFID and Barcodes. 

RFID vs Barcodes

barcode 3Barcodes are a visual representation of data. The data represented using the bars and spaces is scanned by a computer system and identified within a database. 

The visual nature of barcodes lead to certain requirements for reading data. A barcode needs to be within a direct line of sight and oriented properly in relation to a reader for it to be recognized. This also means only one barcode can scan at a time. 

RFID works a bit differently. Since RFID uses radio waves to travel through the air these tags do not require visibility from the reader. RFID enhanced labels can be interrogated in batches and from an extended distance, so asset tracking can occur faster and more efficiently with a simplified process.

Another significant difference between these technologies is in the amount of data they can hold. Since RFID uses a microchip instead of a visual representation there is a greater capacity for data storage, upwards of 8KB. These labels are also rewritable, meaning the data stored within your RFID labels can act as a living document fully capturing the RFID for reagentsdetails of your product.

However, when it comes to widespread availability barcodes take the lead. Barcodes have been commonly used since the 1970’s and RFID is relatively new, resulting in limited availability from label suppliers. Barcodes are also comparatively very inexpensive. Printing a barcode onto a pressure sensitive label, or directly onto a package tends to cost less than RFID inlays. 

 
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RFID
Line of sight required YES NO
Independent of reading orientation NO YES
Ability to interrogate multiple tags NO YES
Writing capacity <20 Characters 8 Kbytes +
Electronic writing NO YES
Rewritable NO YES
Commercial availability HIGH Becoming widely adopted
Average cost per unit $0.01-$0.08 $0.03-$1.00

 

What are Hybrid RFID Labels?

Hybrid labels, or RFID enhanced labels work by integrating an RFID inlay directly within your standard barcode label, allowing you to combine the best features of RFID and barcodes into one unified identification strategy. This means you can achieve the added data value of RFID and the unique identification of a barcode in one unit. You also have the opportunity to add any other visual elements to support your label design.

For example, some facilities are enhancing their tire barcodes with RFID to track their tires throughout manufacturing by updating the information in the RFID tag at every major step along the production line. This way, if a tag were to be scanned later on in the line and any errors are noted, the situation can be easily recognized and properly assessed. 

Bottom line—hybrid RFID labels allow you to have the best of both worlds and confidently manage your data.

RFID Enhanced Basic Label Construction Diagram

RFID Printing and Encoding

RFID capable printers may not look different from standard label printers, but they do have a couple of unique features under the hood. In order to encode data to RFID tags, a printer must have a writing module. Additionally, most RFID printers include a reader to verify the information was encoded correctly.

Typically, the printing process for RFID goes a little like this:

1. Information is provided to the printer

2. The reader checks the tag to make sure it’s empty

3. The writer encodes the programmed information

4. The tag is read a second time to verify the correct information was encoded

5. Any visual information is printed onto the label.

Keep in mind that printing RFID labels will add time to your Sato CLNX Series Printerprocess due to the additional read/write steps. 

As with all labels you can choose to print your RFID enhanced labels in-house or outsource your needs to a label supplier. And while there may be slightly fewer options for suppliers when it comes to RFID, there are still opportunities to support both methods.

In-House Printing

Many newer models of label printers are RFID capable, so if you’re considering printing in-house it’s a good idea to check if your existing printers have this capability or if they can be modified to accommodate RFID. Brands like Sato, cab, and Zebra all have multiple models available for printing RFID. 

Outsourced Printing

There are two main ways to approach an outsourced labeling strategy. First, you could request that your labels simply be printed with visual information and implanted with a blank RFID chip that you can later encode within your own facility.

Second, depending on your supplier, you could request that your RFID chips be pre-encoded with specific data in addition to your printed elements. For example, you could request that the alphanumeric value represented by your barcode also be encoded to your RFID chip to ensure accurate, universal data records. This type of request will likely add to both your cost and lead time, but may be worth it in the end. And remember, RFID chips can be continually be written and rewritten! 

How Much Does it Cost to Include RFID in Your Process

Standard professional answer—it depends. 

Right off the bat I can tell you that RFID enhanced bead or tread labels will both be more expensive than typical labels, so the question is how much more? 

This is where it starts to get complicated. Whether your tags are active or passive, use high frequency or ultra high frequency wave lengths, are made from copper or aluminum—all of these factors will affect the cost of your RFID tag. The amount of memory included in your RFID tag will be the factor that affects its price most significantly. 

And, in addition to the cost of the tag you need to be prepared for the cost of printers, readers, perhaps a new data management software application, etc. 

As a general rule of thumb you could expect a single blank RFID enhanced small label to cost anywhere between $0.10 and $1.00. 

The complexity of these solutions is why we will always stress the importance of finding a trusted partner before you take any concrete steps. We've outline what it would look like to take these steps with our own RFID team below, but another great option would be FineLine Technologies. Their approach is similar to ours in that they also appear to consider RFID a complete solution, rather than a simple product. 

RFID Tire Opportunities

RFID can be utilized within your existing labels, or embedded directly into the rubber of a tire. When considering direct tire possibilities it is important to note that the carbon in the tire has a strong effect on the read range of the RFID tag, so a special type of tag called a spring tag needs to be used in this type of application. Most often these types of tags are too large for passenger tires so they are most often found on truck and racing tires.

spring tag

However, including the RFID inlay within your labels allows you to achieve the expected flexibility and efficiency that makes the technology so unique.

Tread Labels

RFID can be used to enhance tread labels for post-manufacture tracking and logistics purposes and present unique possibilities for marketing. In fact, tread label marketing is an ideal place for NFC in the tire industry. Tread labels are where customers look when they are seeking information about the tires they are purchasing, so including a chip that leads the customer directly to a ratings and reviews page, an FAQ, or an informational blog or video provides an opportunity to build trust with the customer prior to purchase. For companies who offer tire sales and servicing, customers can easily opt in to tire rotation or replacement reminders.  

Bead Labels

When it comes to bead labels, RFID is incredibly useful. Since the barcode is used for tracking and identification, it serves as the perfect opportunity implement RFID. Currently we are seeing RFID being applied to vulcanization barcode labels in hybrid form. Since RFID labels are capable of being rewritten, writing modules can be added along your conveyor line to provide status updates directly to the tag. Without RFID your tires can only be represented by the alphanumeric value associated with the barcode. 

RFID Tread Label Legislation

Due to the widespread integration of RFID and the future expectations for the technology, countries are beginning to implement legislation around RFID. In the Tire industry this can be seen in the United Arab Emirates, Europe, and China.
The UAE has passed legislation requiring all tire tread labels to contain RFID tags which store a link to the ESMA database and tire specific information. This legislation has had implications on tire manufacturers around the world that work with distributors in the UAE, as those who weren’t already using RFID had to make the decision to implement RFID or risk losing a customer.

rfid for tiresTire manufacturers in China and Europe have teamed up to discuss legislation as it pertains to the inevitable global implementation of RFID. These manufacturers are discussing possibilities for global standards in tire RFID in an effort ease the transition for global companies.

As RFID becomes part of the tire industry in more countries, manufacturers need to continue to look out for new legislation as it may pertain to their company.

How to Get Started with RFID

The first thing you want to ask yourself when you begin considering RFID is, what do you feel like you’re not getting from barcodes? If you’re going to invest in RFID you need a solid business case to justify that decision or your plan could fall flat. Oftentimes we find people have misguided intentions with RFID, typically caused by some common misconceptions regarding what RFID can and cannot accomplish.

Before taking any steps to implement an RFID solution, you need a system integration partner. 

RFID systems consist of the tag or label, the asset to be identified, the antenna and reader, and an associated computer system. In cases where NFC is utilized, a smartphone can take the place of the antenna, reader, and computer.

It is important to find a partner that can supply or develop each of these components so that you do not need to maintain multiple partnerships for one solution. 

We approach our RFID solutions as an opportunity for joint development with our customers. We believe these solutions are most effective when both parties are equally involved. Here's a look at how our development process typically works:

Computype RFID Development Process for Tire

1. Evaluate Your RFID Intentions

First, a member of our development team will reach out with a series of questions related to your current tracking process, automation goals, and overall objectives you’re hoping to accomplish with RFID. Oftentimes we find that people have unrealistic goals with RFID or are utilizing the technology without having a justified business case. This evaluation helps you understand what RFID should and should not do, and helps us to understand your goals and challenges. 

2. Collaborative Innovation Agreement

Once we've established the value that RFID can provide for your processes we’ll enter into to a formal Collaborative Innovation Agreement. This will include key stakeholders and will outline the expected deliverables from both parties in the initial stages of the project.

3. Product Development

Next, we'll begin developing each component of your solution. You can expect regular check-ins and project updates throughout this process. At some point during the development we'll provide a computer simulation and selection of physical models for your approval. 

4. Manufacturing and Integration

Pending the prototype meets your expectations, the next step is a production pilot, followed by a ramp-up in manufacturing. We'll continue working closely with you during this stage to assist with preparing your facility for system integration. 

5. Continued Partnership

We’ll be there every step of the way to ensure that your expectations are met, that your complete RFID solution is implemented properly, and that your team is well trained so that you can optimize the full capabilities of this technology.

Reinvent Service with RFID for Commercial Truck Tires

Michelin’s Tire Care program, originally launched in 2015, began utilizing RFID to add value to their customers in early 2017. The Tire Care program is targeted towards commercial truck tires, accurately and efficiently tracking individual tire data by implanting RFID chips directly within each tire.

Using recorded tire history, and information from the latest inspection, Michelin Tire Care employees are able to use their custom software application to provide fleet managers with an up to date in depth analysis on the state of their truck’s tires.

These teams can utilize the information they receive from status updates to prevent unnecessary downtime and costs by ensuring they have safe and compliant tires on every vehicle.

Tracking such details not only helps with effective fleet Fleet Truckmanagement efforts but also can provide Michelin greater visibility into the performance of their products, allowing for more significant future advancements.

You can learn more about Michelin's advancements here, but this program is a terrific example of the unique value RFID can add to the tire industry. 

 

 

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Pre-Printed Labels vs. Print on Demand

 

Develop a print vs. purchase strategy for your tire bead, tread, and RFID labels. 

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Deciding whether to print or purchase your labels can be tricky—as making the right choice is critical to support lean manufacturing efforts, data integrity, and effective branding. 

Your printing strategy will also impact your internal processes as it has the power to limit or expand your application opportunities. 

Tire Label Print Technologies

First, let's take a look at some of the most common print technologies used to print bead, tread, and RFID enhanced labels.  

Flexographic 

Flexographic printing is distinguished by its use of flexible rubber or plastic plates to transfer ink onto the substrate.

These plates are unique to the specific image being printed, and each color requires its own plate. These plates are mounted on quickly rotating cylinders and are typically coated with aqueous or UV inks that transfer to the label material as it passes between the plate and the impression roller.

The actual flexographic press being used will dictate how many different colors can be added to the image based on how many cylinders it has. Flexographic technology can achieve high speed, high volume printing at a much lower overall cost than digital.

Flexographic PrintingFlexo printing requires a large amount of initial setup in terms of both cost and labor, but easily makes up the difference with its penchant towards lean manufacturing. This method of printing allows for continuous production as every step of the process (imaging, die cutting, packaging, etc.) can be accomplished without needing to move to a different station. Additionally, although this is a Tire Label Color Matching static print method, flexographic printing can produce durable labels without the need of additional protective coatings and can precisely match colors.

This method typically uses the standardized Pantone Color System to match exact colors for your graphics. And in our case, we have implemented a secondary verification software system that allows us to ensure acceptable color matches. However, when considering color it is important to keep in mind that not only is every supplier different, but every job is different, so it is important to discuss your color requirements in detail. 

Digital UV Inkjet 

Digital printing drops ink directly onto the substrate, but instead of permeating the material it forms a layer on top that is cured with ultra violet light. Because this generates heat, materials that are heat sensitive cannot run on digital presses.

That being said, one of the greatest advantages of digital printing is its ability to print variable data and alter designs without much setup. This allows for a faster turn-around time and more cost-effective opportunities for low volume jobs.

And because the final image is printed at the same time as opposed to adding each color individually, the image quality ends up being more precise and overall higher in quality when compared to flexographic printing. Additionally, this method of printing produces extremely durable images. However, it is much more difficult to achieve color matches with digital printing. Digital printing uses a 4 color CMYK model to mix colors, resulting in close, but not perfect color matches.

Digital vs Flexographic Printing Cost ConsiderationA quick note about the cost comparison between flexographic and digital printing: digital printing has a higher cost per label when compared to flexographic, but does not require the same level of setup. Flexographic printing has a much lower cost per label, but the setup required to develop the plates and the image registration is significant.

Therefore, at low volumes digital printing is the more cost effective option, and at high volumes flexographic printing is much more ideal. There will always be a crossover point between these two methods wherein the setup cost of flexographic printing will begin to be offset by the number of labels needing to be printed, so it is important to discuss these factors with your label supplier.

Digital Offset

Traditional offset printing uses unique plates to transfer ink to a rubber material, and then to the substrate. Modern digital offset printing has streamlined this process to allow for much quicker print setup and design changes. These advanced presses often have a pre-coat unit to prepare the label material for the ink. 

print press 3Digital offset printing uses high-speed laser writing heads to etch the label design onto the imaging plate. When an operator sets up a new job they can simply program a new design for the press to print onto the plate instead of needing to switch out unique plates like flexographic presses. Just like digital inkjet this is a variable printing method and can be relatively more cost effective for short run jobs.

In terms of color, generally speaking these presses can match colors within 10%.  

Thermal Transfer

Thermal transfer print technology is one of the leading solutions for printing barcodes.

This method uses wax or resin ribbons as transfer agents to melt ink onto the substrate. The thermal transfer printer or print engine is equipped with a print head. The ribbon comes in contact with the substrate as they pass under the print head transferring the image at 100% density. Resin ribbons are much more durable, but also more expensive than wax.

As long as you are using the proper mix of consumables this method of print technology can produce lasting, chemical resistant labels at 200, 300, and 600 dpi resolutions. Thermal transfer printers tend to be reasonably priced and require very little maintenance to run.

Thermal Transfer Print TechnologyUtilizing thermal transfer print technology can mean many different things in terms of your overall process or strategy. For example, you could purchase a simple  industrial or tabletop thermal transfer printer such as the cab SQUIX, or you could integrate a thermal transfer print engine, such as the Zebra ZE500, into an automated applicator.

Either method makes thermal transfer printing a great option for black and white, in-house, variable data printing. Some thermal transfer printers also have RFID Read/Write capabilities. 

Desktop Inkjet

Desktop inkjet printers use Line Inkjet or Dot Matrix print technologies. As its name suggests, dot matrix technology is measured in dots, whereas digital inkjet printing is measured in pixels.

This method is generally used in full color desktop label printers, such as Epson printers. This is a great way to bring full color printing in-house to provide some flexibility to your labeling process. Similar to digital printing, dot matrix printing uses a 4 color model for reasonably accurate color matches.

Many of these printers can print at much higher speeds than thermal transfer printers, however the resulting image is not as durable or resistant to harsh environments. 

Print VS. Purchase

So, now that you know more about the print technologies available, how do you go about putting together your own printing strategy?  

Pre-Printed

Purchasing labels that have been fully pre-printed and arrive ready to apply can provide time, labor, inventory, and space savings for your operations. However, this method is tricky if you need to populate variable data at the time of printing. 

Print on Demand

Printing labels in-house and on demand can allow added flexibility to your process, but it also requires you to store label inventory and purchase and maintain label printers. 

Partially Pre-Printed

Purchasing labels that have been partially pre-printed allows you to have the best of both worlds—full color label templates with superior image quality and the ability to print variable data inline with your manufacturing operations.  

 

Pre-Printed

Partially Pre-Printed

Print on Demand

Operating Cost Low Low High 
Design Flexibility Variable Variable High 
Data/Sequence Integrity Guaranteed Guaranteed  High Risk
On Demand Variable Data N/A Moderated Unlimited 
Image Quality High High  Variable
Color Match Best Best  Lesser

 

Bead Label Printing

Based on the technology, bead label printing could be efficiently and effectively achieved by either thermal transfer, digital inkjet, or digital offset printing methods. So, this decision will likely come down to whether or not you need to print your bead labels in-house.

If your process does not require you to print your own tire barcodes, you should consider purchasing fully pre-printed bead labels from a supplier or partner. If you do so, your chosen supplier, ourselves included, will likely use digital print technology to complete your order.

In our case, we choose this technology because the advanced technology in our digital presses allow us to print at higher speeds than thermal transfer, pre-coat the label material in line with production to ensure that your labels survive vulcanization, and verify accurate sequence integrity all at the same workstation. This results in a much more streamlined process for our operators, and any efficiencies we can save ourselves we can translate into savings for you.

If you do choose to print your bead labels in house it is unlikely that you'll purchase a high speed digital press so you're probably looking at thermal transfer print technology. Make sure that if you choose this approach that your printer has a strong, industrial chassis and a scanner built-in to verify each label for accurate sequencing. 

Our favorite thermal transfer printer for tire barcodes is the cab Hermes+. In chapter 6 you'll learn how to use this printer to custom build your own print and apply automation solution for bead label application. 

Cab Hermes2B Printer Applicator

 

Tread Label Printing

When it comes to printing tread labels, the number one thing you need to know is whether or not you need to print color. Remember, certain legislative regulations require color elements, so it is likely that at least some of your tread labels will need to be printed in color.

Whether or not you need color will help determine whether you should print or purchase your tread labels. Oftentimes it is more cost-effective to purchase pre-printed or partially pre-printed color labels from a supplier than it is to print color in-house.

Additionally, it is unlikely that you could match the same level of image quality or color matches as your supplier could. So, for labels that need to have color elements printed, we recommend a pre-printed or partially pre-printed approach.

However, if you only need to print black and white, you may want to keep all of your printing in-house. Thermal transfer printing is a great, reliable method for printing black and white variable data on demand. Furthermore, adding a thermal transfer print engine to your automated tread label applicator will greatly improve both efficiency and data accuracy – we’ll explain how that works in Chapter 7.

Because these decisions are based on label design you may need to combine multiple print and purchase strategies for tread labels. Work with your label supplier to evaluate the most cost-effective scenario for your business case. 

Best Tread Label Desktop Printers 

If you're not ready for a print and apply automation solution, or you simply need to expand your printing capabilities in other areas of your processes, a tabletop tread label printer may be worth your while. Here is a selection of our favorite desktop tread label printers at the moment. 

Epson C7500 

Epson C7500 ColorWorks Inkjet Desktop PrinterThe Epson C7500 Inkjet Printer is one of our favorite full color desktop printers. This model can print at up to 12 inches per second without losing print quality, more than twice the speed of the average thermal transfer printer. This printer typically costs around $8,500 -$10,000, but will greatly improve printing efficiencies. 

Epson C7500 Barcode Label Printer Review and Demo

 

SATO CL4NX Thermal Transfer Printer with RFID

Sato CLNX Series

Our top choice for printing and encoding RFID tread labels comes from Sato. Their CL4NX Thermal Transfer printer can encode both HF and UHF RFID tags while printing barcodes and human readable text. RFID enhanced tread labels give you the opportunity to creatively brand your tires and support distributor data while still complying with legislative requirements.  The CL4NX has a starting price of $3,100.

Zebra ZT610

Zebra ZT610 Thermal Transfer PrintingZebra has long ago proven their strength in the printing industry so it should come as no surprise that one of our most trusted favorites for reliability comes from them. The Zebra ZT610 Thermal Transfer printer is an ideal choice for 24/7 large batch printing. Zebra's Link-OS software allows for simple updates and offers a user-friendly platform. The ZT610 has a starting price of $2,800. 

What is Print and Apply Automation?

Print and Apply automation is an approach to automatic label application wherein each label is printed and applied on-demand in the same motion. This method of automation supports Lean Manufacturing efforts and can increase throughput abilities, ensure information accuracy, and guarantee precise label placement. Print and apply automation is an ideal solution when you have variable data that needs to be printed in-house, and can also be paired with a pre-printed label purchasing strategy. 

In later chapters, we'll take a look at this approach in much more detail. 

 

 

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Manual vs. Automatic Label Application

 

Determine whether your tire plant has the appropriate business case to justify an automatic application solution. 

 

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So far you've learned how to achieve quality tire labels and how to balance your printing strategy, so now comes the tricky part - deciding how to apply those labels to your tires. 

To help with your decision, here are 4 factors that will impact your application strategy most significantly. 

Labor

One of the clear advantages of automation is reduced labor.

Manual application represents a stop in your processes. To meet most manufacturer's daily volume goals a team of workers need to be hand applying labels around the clock. While this is happening your tires are sitting idle. 

Automation significantly reduces the amount of effort and attention required for label application, and eliminates variables caused by human error and limitations—making it the clear leader in this category.

Cost

The total cost of tire label application depends entirely on your existing processes and needs.

money balanceMost people assume manual application is the less expensive option, however this strategy requires constant overhead from time and labor costs. 

Although automation equipment typically requires an initial capital investment, the benefits associated with streamlining your processes will likely yield stronger savings in the long run.

At the end of the day whichever method is most cost effective for you will depend on your volume and overall goals. 

Accuracy

While we admit that applying a label is not a terribly difficult task, humans do make mistakes. You and your employees are likely all too familiar with the frustration caused when the line has to be stopped to remove a tire for reworking.

Automated label applicators are designed to place labels in the same place every time with no bubbles, wrinkles, or tears, and many of them even include features to prevent mislabeled tires—once again confidently overpowering a manual approach.

Throughput

Another major benefit of automation is its ability to greatly improve the speed of your labeling process.

Automation equipment is capable of applying labels much faster than human hands. It probably goes without saying that any automatic applicator can beat the speeds of manual application. However to give an example, hand applying tread labels takes 10 second per tire on average, while our Chromaffix applicator can maintain a consistent rate of 2-3 seconds per tire. 

 Manual Tread Label Application ExampleAutomatic Tread Label Application Example

 

 

 

 

 

On paper there are endless benefits to an automated solution. However, each of these factors needs to be examined carefully in your own terms. There's no sense in automation simply for the sake of it, first make sure that it will help you meet your own goals. 

Why Do Tire Facilities Continue to Label by Hand?

There are definitely times when labeling by hand is the rational choice. Often this is due to space constraints or having daily volumes too low to justify the expense. However, we frequently find companies who are better suited for automation still using a manual approach, these are the most common reasons given for doing so:

Status Quo

Companies often tell us they have always applied labels manually and it works, giving them no incentive to change.

Sure, placing labels on tires by hand gets the job done, but it can’t get the job done with the same levels of speed and accuracy as automation equipment—which could limit your growth opportunities.

Investment Anxiety

Another common reason for hesitating to make the switch is the presumed cost of the machinery. Automation equipment is of course an undeniably significant investment, however the comparative cost of manual application is often overlooked.

Before you rule out automation on the basis of assumed expenses, first consider what you are currently spending on your labeling strategy.

Do You Have the Business Case to Support Automation?

Most companies who choose to automate do so for one of two reasons—either their volume has grown to a level that manual application simply cannot accommodate, or they are seeking company growth. 

Automating your labeling strategy can support growth both by streamlining your internal processes and allowing for advancements in technology and data. Let's take a closer look at 2 examples of how this is achieved. 

1. Lean Manufacturing

7 Wastes of Lean ManufacturingAre you familiar with the 7 Wastes of Lean Manufacturing? These common but deadly wastes are some of the worst growth inhibitors faced by any manufacturing facility. 

Automating your labeling strategy all but eliminates several of these wastes. 

Faster labeling speeds and integrated applicators reduces the time spent Waiting. Defects are far less likely as the risk of human error are limited and many automated applicators are designed to protect  your labels from harsh environments. Using an automated print and apply system can reduce the risk of Overproduction and Unnecessary Inventory. Integrating your automated applicator into your existing production lines will also limit the need for Excess Motion and Transporting. 

Labeling tends to be an afterthought for most manufacturers, resulting in fairly inefficient strategies. By automating your label application you will be one step closer to achieving a 100% Lean Factory. 

2. Industry 4.0 

We don't need to tell you that new technology advancements are happening every day. In fact, the process of manufacturing and producing products is 4 Key Principles of Industrial 4.0in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution referred to as Industry 4.0. 

Industry 4.0 focuses on machine learning, automation, and real time data in manufacturing technologies designed around 4 key principles. 

All of these principles need to be supported by accurate and complete data, so your tire labels will play an integral role in preparing for Industry 4.0.

Once you have labels that can provide you with accurate data for each of your tires you can begin to implement automated systems to build upon these principles. 

 

So, take a look at your existing needs and your plans for future growth and carefully consider each of the factors explained in this chapter to understand how they will affect your business.

After you've done so you can feel more confident in your decision to either stick to your current plan, or take the next steps towards change. However, if you ever need assistance in making this decision we're always happy to help. 

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Automatic Tire Barcode Applicators

 

Enhance your tire build process with an automated tire bead label applicator. 

 

 

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Getting Started

When thinking about bead label automation you first need to ask yourself two questions:

1. Will you be applying bead labels to calendered rubber, green tires, or cured tires?

2. Are you looking for a print and apply automation solution or an apply-only solution?

Frankly, there is no universally recommended answer to the first question. The best choice for you may depend on the amount of space you have available, the specs of your tire build machine, etc. With that being said, if it is possible for you to apply your barcodes anytime pre-cure that is always better than anytime post-cure. 

The answer to the second question comes down to your label printing strategy. A print and apply approach would utilize a print on demand strategy whereas an apply-only approach would utilize a pre-printed strategy. 

The main thing to remember before you get started with a bead label automation solution is the importance of sequence integrity. In Chapter 1 we outlined our process for guaranteeing sequence integrity, and other quality suppliers will likely have their own processes for this goal. It is absolutely vital that each of your tires have their own unique identity, so both your print method and your application method need to support that priority. 

Purchasing pre-printed labels from a trusted supplier allows you to guarantee sequence integrity before you've even received your labels. This means you'll be able to load your labels and get started without hesitation. 

Now, both print on demand and manual application strategies do allow for some level of verification as well. Bead label printer/applicators can come with a built in verifier to ensure accurate sequences, rejecting and forcing a reprint before applying the label if there are any errors upon scanning.

Additionally, if you use a label dispenser to support applying tire barcodes by hand you can also include a verification scanner that will alert you if there are any misreads or duplicate labels. 

However, this puts it all on your shoulders. You'll have to have an operator watching each and every label, addressing any errors on the spot. This greatly increases the risk of human error, and simply adds a task to your process that just isn't necessary.

As you read and learn more about bead label automation imagine your own processes and consider what style might fit your needs best. Begin by speaking with your supplier and your team to decide how you will manage sequences, this decision will help you narrow down your options for bead label application.

Additionally, regardless of your applicator style, please note that if you proceed with an automatic bead label application solution you'll most likely need to commission a custom engineered product. Due to the complexity and space restrictions of most tire build machines, off the shelf bead label applicators are rare. 

Print and Apply Bead Label Automation

The concept of Print and Apply automation is exactly what it sounds like – a machine will both print and apply a label to an asset in the same motion.

Because all you need is a printer and an applicator there are several ways to achieve this style of automation.

Success with print and apply bead label automation comes down to choosing the right printer/applicator for your tire build machine. This system needs to have a strong and durable chassis, the ability to print small labels, and an accurate applicator attachment.

Cab Hermes Automated Label ApplicatorOur favorite model for print and apply bead label automation is the Cab Hermes +. This printer has a variety different options for applicator arms, is sturdy enough to fit into any industrial environment, and can fit into a wide variety of build machines. 

The Cab Hermes has applicator extensions available to facilitate application to both flat rubber and formed green tires. The application process for each method can be tailored to fit your environment, but the theory is similar for both print and apply and apply-only automation—continue reading to learn more. 

Apply-Only Bead Label Automation

Apply-only bead label automation utilizes verified pre-printed barcodes. Just like print and apply automation this approach has options to apply labels to flat rubber and pre-cure tires. 

These applicators are designed to integrate within your tire build machine so there are no interruptions to your workflow. 

We have two base models for apply-only automation, the LA3100 and the LA3200. (LA for 'Label Applicator' — clever right? 😉) We'll start with the LA3200. 

LA3200 Barcode Applicator

This applicator is built to apply vulcanized tire barcode labels to flat calendered rubber as it moves along your production line towards your tire build machine. This applicator typically mounts above the production line and wipes each barcode onto the flat rubber before it's assembled around the build drum. The location of the label placement is programmed by a PLC so that every barcode ends up in the exact same position on each eventual tire. 

Tire Bead Label Applicator - LA3200 Demo

 

LA3100 Barcode Applicator

This applicator is built to apply vulcanized tire barcode labels to green tires, or pre-cure tires. This machine typically is housed within a secure cage, and is setup to tamp on a barcode to each tire as they are presented to the applicator. Tires are presented to the automated applicator by an articulating robot arm, which then directs the labeled tire to the conveyor where it will continue on towards curing and inspection stages. 

Tire Bead Label Applicator - LA3100 Demo

 

Both of these label applicators will scan the tire barcode after application to ensure a successful read, marking the completion of the tire and the last phase of the build process before sending the tire along the conveyor for curing, inspection, etc. 

Partnered Development Opportunities

As we stated, these examples are simply base models, starting points we can use to develop a tailored solution to fit your environment. We understand the space restraints and unique components of your processes and a 'one-size fits all' product won't suffice. 

By working together on a joint development project we can design a custom solution you can rely on. Here's how this process works.

Computype Partnered Development for Bead Label Automation

Step 1: Assessment

One of our product developers will reach out for an initial consultation. During this time you'll discuss your goals for tire barcode automation in addition to understanding any roadblocks or challenges that are currently holding you back. 

Step 2: Label Evaluation

Next, we need to understand the makeup of your bead labels as not all labels are compatible with automation. It is likely that as you pursue automation you may also need to consider and qualify upgraded labels. 

Step 3: Process Evaluation

During this step we'll work with you to understand your current processes, space constraints, and any other environmental or procedural factors that may influence the type of applicator you need. This is the time where we'll establish which base model to work from. 

Step 4: Product Development 

Next, our engineers will take all the notes gathered and put together a concept for your applicator. We'll work with you to design any requested features, and this is also the time we'll begin to negotiate pricing. The design concept and quote will be presented back to you for feedback, where you'll be able to request modifications. 

Step 5: Production

Pending the concept meets your expectations and the business case is justified, the next step is manufacturing production. We’ll provide you with a clear timeline, and get to work!

How Much Do Bead Label Applicators Cost

The starting price for a print and apply solution using the Cab Hermes + as a base has a starting price of $20,000. 

The LA3200 applicator has a starting price of $18,000, and the LA3100 applicator has a starting price of $28,000. 

As each of these are simply base models, these prices will likely increase as a result of custom modifications and engineering. 

As we understand it, many solutions from other automation partners are competitively priced. One of the most notable alternatives in this area is Gislotica, known for developing deep relationships with their customers and partners and providing a wide variety of unique solutions for the tire industry. 

Big Data and Artificial Intelligence Pave the Way for Autonomous Tire Plants

If you've been keeping up with the latest forecasting from industry experts you'll know that the existence of completely autonomous tire manufacturing facilities aren't that far off.

Big Data and Artificial Intelligence are making huge strides in the tire world, and possibilities for adoption and advancement are endless. 

Speaking at the Future Tire Conference in 2018 hosted in Cologne, Germany, Technology Director of Cimcorp Oy, Jyrki Anttonen presented a vision of advanced machine learning and AI management as 'the new normal'.

Mr. Anttonen urged tire manufacturers not to think of these advancements as 'something mystical or unreachable', and clarified, "Also, you don't need to be able to develop AI, you only need to be able to utilize it."  

Robotic Handling in Tire ManufacturingEnsuring that you are prepared to adapt to these advancements starts with collecting and managing accurate data, as well as automating as many outdated and ineffective processes as possible.

Keep in mind that proper planning is absolutely critical when taking on new technology. From Bill Gates, "The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency."    

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Automatic Tire Tread Label Applicators 

 

Complete your tire identification strategy with a fully automated print and apply labeling solution. 

 

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By this point, you’re probably starting to see all of your labeling strategies connect in some way, culminating right here with tread label automation. Generating and applying your tread labels is the last step of a complete tire labeling strategy, this is the stage at which all your hard work and decision making comes together.

Print and Apply Tread Label Automation

Print and apply automation is the best way to accomplish automated tread label application. Similar to barcode applicators, this method of automation can be achieved in a variety of custom configurations, all you need is a printer and an applicator.

For example, desktop printers like the cab SQUIX or print engines like the cab PX are designed to accommodate optional applicators to support print and apply automation. However, it is important to ensure that your applicator is engineered specifically for tires—basic applicators may not be able to conform properly to the curve of a tire. 

There are several labeling partners who have developed a variety of systems for print and apply tread label automation. These systems range from basic desktop systems to complex solutions designed to integrate within your facility. 

Take a look at the Chromaffix Solution, our answer to automated tread label application.

 

Dynamic Tire Tread Labeling Automation (1) (1)

 

How Does Chromaffix Work?

Complete Chromaffix Tire Labeling SolutionChromaffix operations are very straightforward. First, the unit sources the information from the barcode by accessing your database via the custom Chromaffix software application. This application will then pull the proper label format, send it to the print engine, and generate the label. Finally, the articulating tamp arm will apply the label precisely to the center of a wide variety of tire sizes.

This allows you to reduce the need for manual labor, significantly increase throughput, and support growth initiatives such as Lean Manufacturing and Industry 4.0.   

Chromaffix was designed as a solution based on Voice of Customer insight and built on a foundation of Hardware, Software, Consumables, and Service. We believe each of these components are vital to a successful labeling solution. 

 

How It Works- Automatic Tire Tread Label Applicator (1) (1)

 

1. Hardware

The Chromaffix unit consists of many intricately engineered components including a scan bridge, a thermal transfer print engine, a flexible articulating applicator arm and more. Chromaffix does not come with its own conveyor as this unit is built to integrate directly inline with your existing conveyor system. This unit can label a wide variety of tire sizes at a rate of 2-3 seconds per tire—more than 3 times the average rate of manual application.  

2. Software

Our Chromaffix Control custom software application aligns your data and provides an easy to use interface for your operators. This application can support multiple languages upon request, a manual run mode, and clearly communicates any errors or warnings. 

Chromaffix Control Panel

3. Consumables

Chromaffix tread labels have been designed specifically for this applicator and are necessary to ensure optimal performance. These labels are available either blank or pre-imaged with full color. (Chromaffix label strategy is explained in detail below.)

4. Service

Our support begins before you even decide to purchase a Chromaffix unit with our On-Site Audit. If you choose to continue with Chromaffix we are committed to supporting your success with service options such as preventative maintenance and remote technical support. 

Chromaffix Automatic Tread Labeling Machine

 

The Complete Guide to Chromaffix If you're considering Chromaffix as your automation solution, check out our newly published Complete Guide to Chromaffix. This guide includes a detailed explanation of Chromaffix's operations and components, as well as extended cost and savings details.

 

Chromaffix Labels 

So, as you know the relationship between hardware and consumables in label application is paramount. Applicators need to be designed to accommodate labels without damaging the face stock or compromising the adhesive. Labels need to be constructed to cleanly release from their liners and flow evenly through the mechanism.

We designed and constructed both the Chromaffix unit and our Chromaffix labels in tandem, guaranteeing successful cooperation between the two.

When it comes to the label design you can run blank or partially pre-printed tread labels through Chromaffix, and the deciding factor here is whether or not you need to print color.

And again, you’ll likely need a combination of both blank and pre-printed labels within your overall solution.

Blank Chromaffix Labels

For labels that don’t need color, Chromaffix can print your entire tread label in black and white by scanning the tire barcode, looking up the associated tire type and tread label format, and printing that exact design on demand at the time of application. By utilizing your tire barcodes and associated database you can correctly inform printing and guarantee accurately labeled tires.

This also allows you to have multiple different tire types being labeled by Chromaffix at once, you would not need to stop production or employ an additional Chromaffix unit to change media formats.

But again, the downside to this strategy is that it cannot accommodate color printing.

Partially Pre-Printed Chromaffix Labels

For labels that do need printed color, you can purchase partially pre-printed Chromaffix labels. In this scenario we would print legislative templates, branding details, and any other color elements you request while leaving room on your label for Chromaffix to complete the black and white printing during application.

And don’t get me wrong, we love color labels, but the tradeoff here is the limitations in production ease. While your pre-printed labels are loaded in Chromaffix you can only run tires that need that particular label design, and any changes in media would either require a short stop in production or additional Chromaffix units.

With that being said, do not underestimate the value of color tread labels. There are definitely instances where the slight added complexity to production is well worth the value of well designed, powerfully branded color labels.

Chromaffix Label on Tire

How Much Does Chromaffix Cost?

We’ve developed our Chromaffix pricing strategy based on financing arrangements, service offerings, and consumable agreements. The price of a Chromaffix unit tops out around $250,000however, we’ve seen every Chromaffix installation to date provide a full ROI in less than 1 year.

The constant overhead costs found in time, labor, waste, error, etc. all add significantly to the price of your labeling strategy. Nearly any automated tread label applicator will be far more cost-effective than continuing to apply tread labels by hand. We don’t expect Chromaffix to be for everybody, but consider this our PSA to urge the end of manual tread labeling.

Application Cost_ Chromaffix vs Manual

As we said, our pricing strategy is impacted significantly by the financing, service, and consumable agreements that we make with our customers. The length of your consumables agreement with us will affect the price of your Chromaffix unit most drastically. This again goes back to how important labels are to successful hardware performance.

Additionally, we consider Chromaffix to be a base product – designed to be tailored to meet your needs. When building each unit our expectation is that we'll work together with your team to seamlessly integrate Chromaffix into your facility. This means that there will likely be modifications needed or requested, including additional alerts or RFID capabilities. Keep this in mind as you consider what Chromaffix will do for you. If you're not sure whether Chromaffix can meet your needs, check out these additional automation system providers.

 

Automated Tire Tread Labeling System Backed By World Class Service (2)

 

Chromaffix Buying Journey

Choosing to invest in a Chromaffix system means entering into an equal partnership dedicated to achieving success in all areas of your manufacturing and distribution processes. Here's what the Chromaffix Buying Journey looks like:

1. Source Effective Tire Barcodes

As we've explained, bead labels are an integral component of successful Chromaffix performance. Therefore, the first step in achieving a successful automation solution requires accurate, unique tire barcodes. (Note: Unlike tread labels, it is not required to source bead labels from Computype when purchasing Chromaffix)

2. Site Survey

Before we go any further we'll need to conduct an on-site audit at your facility to determine whether Chromaffix is a good fit, as well as evaluating your current tread labels. It is important to note that this step needs to be completed before you make any purchasing decisions regarding consumables or hardware.  

3. Source Quality Tread Labels

So long as the site survey has been completed, sourcing your actual tread labels can occur at a number of different times. Most often we'll include the cost of consumables in the Chromaffix proposal and quote, however after the initial survey you can begin designing your label formats at any time. 

4. Recommendations

Once we've had a chance to observe your facility and speak with you about your goals and challenges we can provide tailored recommendations to help improve efficiency and support advancements.  

5. Agreement

AgreementNext comes the time when we'll hammer out the details. We'll go through any modification requests you may have and begin pricing negotiations. We'll outline service agreements, implementation procedures, and address any other concerns or questions you might have.

6. Development

After the paperwork has been finalized we'll begin development immediately. Along with efforts from our automation partner we'll engineer your additional part requests and build your customized Chromaffix unit(s). 

7. Factory Acceptance Testing

Next, we'll put it to the test. We'll schedule time for your team to come out to our development site and see your actual unit in action. This is a great opportunity to ensure that everything is functioning to your exacting specifications. You'll be able to request specific tests to be performed and understand the next steps in preparing for your unit. 

8. Installation and Training

Finally, we'll ship your Chromaffix unit(s) to your site and meet you there to complete the installation. Our team will remain on-site with you to help train your operators and ensure that you are well prepared to be successful with Chromaffix.  

 

Why Chromaffix Should Be Your Tire Tread Labeling System (2)

 

 

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Cost of Tire Label Automation

 

Calculate the total cost of ownership for your current labeling solution to understand the savings automation can provide. 

 

 

 

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With the rising cost of steel and carbon black adding pressure to many tire manufacturers, reducing overall manufacturing costs is essential. The savings achieved by streamlining efficiencies with automation can help pad that bottom line.

Tire Label Automation Pricing Rewind

As a reminder, here are the general price points to expect when considering each element of automatic tire identification. Keep in mind, these are general ranges based on the market climate today, final prices will be determined by each individual supplier. 

Vulcanized Tire Barcodes: $9-$30 per 1000 labels

Tread Labels: $35-$60 per 1000 labels

RFID Enhanced Tire Labels: $0.10-$1.00 per label

In-House Printing Solutions: $2,000-$10,000 

Tire Barcode Applicators: $18,000-$60,000

Tread Label Applicators: $100,000-$300,000

Why Do Computype Labels Cost More?

I’ll be honest with you, it is likely that you could find bead, tread and RFID labels that cost less than our products.

However – our engineers, product developers, and even our customers have proven time and time again that the label itself is key to building a successful identification solution.

Bead Label Manual VerificationYou will often hear us speak about using labels that are fit for purpose, something that is important for any industry. And while that’s a great start – it’s best to use labels that are not only fit for purpose, but also fit for you.

There are tire manufacturers all over the world, but none will have your exact needs. Your environment, your equipment, your operators, they all can affect the success of your labels. 

Our engineers test our base products against your exacting specifications and adjust every detail necessary to ensure your success. We store the final specs of your labels in our system so that you can confidently re-order or request adjustments. 

Understanding our Pricing

We understand that terms like 'starting price' can be frustrating — after all, you need to know how to plan for your bottom line right? 

The truth is, we tailor our solutions to fit you, so until we know your requirements we cannot confidently determine what you should expect for a final cost. 

The list and starting prices we've established reflect the cost of our base products — which are rarely sold without some level of customization. However, this is generally what you could expect should you choose to work with Computype. 

Tire Starting Price Table

Lowest Cost of Ownership

Although our solutions aren't for everyone, from a budgetary standpoint our goal is always to provide the option that has the lowest total cost of ownership. 

Manual processes not only result in costs caused by errors, stops in production, and reduced throughput, but the labor spend alone is typically higher than the cost of an automated unit. In fact, some of our customers have seen a full ROI in as little as 6 months, and continue to see considerable daily savings. 

The consideration and effort we put into each of our solutions allow you to streamline your processes and refocus your attention to your actual business—instead of wasting energy on basic labeling. 

However, our worth comes from much more than just our solutions, our continued support and the partnerships we build with our customers strongly adds to our value. 

How to Calculate Your Total Cost of Ownership

Total Cost of OwnershipBefore you make any purchasing decisions make sure you know the Total Cost of Ownership for every solution.

You can calculate your TCO by using the formula shown here.

This formula can apply to any labeling strategy, including manual application. In general, when considering tire label automation the lowest cost of ownership is determined by the balance between initial cost and operating expenses. Although a manual application strategy has no initial cost, it will accumulate significantly higher operating costs.

So, when choosing an automated applicator you simply need make sure the initial cost can be made up by savings from operating expenses and production costs. 

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Service and Support

 

Committed partnerships dedicated to achieving your business goals. 

 

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Serving Your Bottom Line

Computype Service Offerings for TireNo matter what you are aiming to accomplish this year we promise you’ll be able to do more with a little help and support. You may be looking to build a better foundation for technology advancements, reduce overall manufacturing costs, increase annual sales, etc.

Having a trusted partner in your corner can be the difference between achieving your goals and exceeding them. While there are label suppliers and automation engineers all over the world, we specialize in providing complete, tailored solutions – not products.

Our goal isn't just to help you automate your tread label application, our goal is to support your growth initiatives. Our experience and abilities allow us to provide unique insight into your manufacturing strategies and call attention to areas we can make more efficient or take off your plate entirely.

Choose Your Level of Support

Our support offerings can be tailored to your individual needs as well as the solution or service you've chosen.

For example, before pursuing a Chromaffix partnership we perform an on-site audit with the potential customer to determine whether or not Chromaffix will meet their goals, and what customizations need to be made.

However, this type of service likely is not necessary for those who simply wish to source our labels. 

No matter how you choose to employ our abilities we are committed to supporting your efforts from initial planning to product maintenance. 

A Few Members of our Support and Services Team

Trusted Partners for More Than 30 Years

We have been serving the tire industry for more than 30 years and are proud to have worked with many of the world's leading tire manufacturers. During those years we have designed some truly creative solutions to support our customer's success. 

We are confident in our abilities to take your tire identification strategy beyond basic tracking and towards a data-driven system reliably built to accelerate growth. 

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Get Started

 

 

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Ready to get started with Tire Label Automation?

 

Chromaffix Labeled Tires 515We know labeling may not be first on your priority list, and it shouldn’t have to be. Labeling concerns place an unnecessary burden on companies and their employees, which is why it’s our goal to help you worry less about labeling and leave it to the experts.

It’s growing increasingly important for manufacturers to look at the tools in front of them and assess which ones will offer the most value to their processes. Today, things like color, durability, RFID, and automation are extremely valuable in the tire industry as they improve tire identification and reduce employee involvement in the labeling process.

As time moves forward these tools will only be utilized more and more as they continue to prove useful in allowing for increased accuracy, leaner processes and an overall improved workflow.

Whether you’re looking to implement a complete tire identification strategy, or just looking for some high quality labels, this guide should have helped you identify the ideal path towards meeting your goals, and we’re here to help you get started. If you're ready to get in touch simply click below to get started! We look forward to hearing from you!

 Hey, Let's Talk! Schedule your free consultation with one of our tire identification experts

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