Industrial Labeling Machine Troubleshooting: How To Fix Feed Errors

Label applicators are common fixtures throughout the packaging industry. Primarily used to quickly label secondary and tertiary packaging, print-and-apply labeling machines (PALM), such as the Evolabel®, enable operators to improve their operations in a number of ways. 

For example, when placed on a production or assembly line, PALM systems aid line operators by:

With these benefits, companies are able to increase their productivity and minimize the risk of labeling errors. As such, PALM systems are widely used by a variety of industries to label everything from cheese pouches and pharmaceutical cartons to shipping containers and pallets

Given how important PALM systems can be to a company’s daily operations, it can be a major issue when they experience problems. If a PALM system isn’t able to properly apply labels, it can lead to extended periods of profit-draining downtime. One of the most common of these label applicator problems is the feed error. 

Fortunately, feed errors are often easy to fix with a little bit of direction. If you’re struggling to resolve your feed error problems, follow these labeling machine troubleshooting steps to swiftly resolve the issues and get production back on track.

Feed Errors: What They Are and How To Fix Them

A feed error is exactly what it sounds like—an error that occurs when a labeling machine is feeding a label towards the labeling head. 

The labeling head itself is simply a stepping motor connected to two sensors: a product sensor and a labeling sensor. The product sensor triggers the machine to feed a label while the label sensor triggers the machine to stop the label feeding. Accordingly, if you set the labeling head to feed five inches of material and the motor fails to do so, you have a feed error. 

Feed errors are problematic, as they prevent applicators from accurately placing labels onto substrates. If you’re experiencing feed errors, follow these three labeling machine troubleshooting tips to fix the issue.

Make Sure the Label Sensor Is Turned On and Properly Set Up

While this may sound overly simple, shut off/improperly set up label sensors are the most common cause of feed errors. Although you may not remember shutting the sensor off, if you change label material, there’s a good chance that you need to reset the sensor’s sensitivity setting. Without the proper sensitivity, the sensor won’t be able to accurately judge the gap between the labels, thus creating a feed error. 

Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to reset a label sensor. Generally speaking, the user often only has to readjust the liner, press a few buttons on the machine, and realign the liner/label material. To ensure that you’re following the correct process, check your labeling machine’s manual for specific instructions. 

Check Your System’s Labeler Settings

By resetting the sensor, you have instructed the sensor on how to detect both the low threshold of the liner as well as the high threshold of the label on the liner. This enables the sensor to properly judge the gap in between the label and the liner in order to properly feed the system. However, if the labeling machine’s labeler settings aren’t properly calibrated, a feed error is still inevitable. 

The computer interface on your labeling machine likely has a “Setup” or “Settings” button on the home screen. Within the setup menu, select “Labeler Settings,” and find the “Feed Error” value. The feed error value instructs the machine when to stop dispensing values. If this value is too small for your application, you are guaranteed to experience a feed error.

As we mentioned earlier, labeling machines operate with the help of a product sensor and a label sensor. When the product sensor is triggered, it turns on the labeling head so that it can begin dispensing labels. Once the label sensor detects that the label has been applied, it instructs the labeling machine to stop feeding labels. 

For example, say that a labeling machine has a feed error value of two inches. This value tells the machine to register a feed error if the label sensor isn’t triggered after dispensing two inches of label material. Accordingly, if one is attempting to apply a five-inch label onto a substrate with a feed error value of two inches, the machine will automatically detect a feed error two inches into the application process. 

To resolve this issue, set the “Feed Error” value to a number substantially higher than the label size (e.g., if you’re using 5” labels, set the value to 15 inches).

Inspect the Labeling Machine’s Mechanical Features

In certain cases, a labeling machine may appear to be in perfect working order, except for the fact that the labeling material won’t move onto the substrate. For instance, the motor may be moving, but it won’t feed the label towards the substrate. 

If this is the case, the machine is likely experiencing one of the following complications:

  • The drive roller is loose or otherwise defective
  • The drive belt is loose
  • One of the system’s pulleys is loose

In these scenarios, we recommend contacting either the labeling machine’s manufacturer or an expert technician in order to fix the system and get it back to running order. 

Tired of Performing Labeling Machine Troubleshooting and Fixing Feed Errors? Invest in an Evolabel

With most PALM systems, feed errors are a common occurrence, and fixing them can be a real pain. Want a permanent solution to feed errors? Invest in an Evolabel print-and-apply labeler. 

Every Evolabel PALM system is built with an auto-adjusting media sensor that ensures new media is properly calibrated before operation. If your labeling machine refuses to work properly and you’re tired of wasting time and effort dealing with it, contact InkJet, Inc. today to learn how an Evolabel system can benefit your operation.

For more information on labeling machine troubleshooting, or to inquire about our label machine product line, contact us online today or call 1(800) 280-3245