Coming Unglued: How to Select the Best Barcode Scanner and Label Media for Cold Applications
Just as you would protect your cold storage workers with warm shoes, gloves, hat and warm clothing, the mobile devices they use need to be protected as well if you want them to perform optimally. That means using a barcode scanning device designed specifically for extreme cold environments if you’re looking for productive workflows and zero downtime.
Cold air, frost, and condensation wreak havoc on a mobile computing device (even industrial grade devices). If users are unable to read the screen clearly, productivity slows, and accuracy may be reduced. For barcode scanning applications in cold environments, the scan window can also be affected, resulting in slower transaction times and the possibility of human error if data is being entered manually. Condensation is even more of a threat because it can reach components inside the unit, causing corrosion, short circuits and other failures. On top of that, the battery in some units may not release enough energy to operate the device below a certain temperature threshold.
If you’re in search of a mobile computer that can stand up to your cold storage and freezer areas, then you’ll want to research models designed with integrated heaters and components that withstand the cold, along with housing that’s not only rugged, but reliably sealed to prevent entry of moisture and condensation. You’ll also want to look for an IP (Ingress Protection) rating of 65 or higher; this indicates proper sealing to withstand dust and water sprays. In addition, devices designed for extreme temperatures are likely to offer low-impedance lithium-ion batteries that release their charge in colder temperatures unlike common Li-Ion batteries.
The Honeywell CK75 offers a cold storage version with both touch screen and scan window heaters to support extended use in freezers as well as transitions into and out of freezer areas. This device is ideal for multiple users, gloved hands, and a temperature range of -30°C to +60°C (-22°F to +140°F).
Consider the labels for your cold environment
Just as workers and devices have to adapt to the environment, so does your media. From packing slips and item labels to shelf labels and more, you want to make sure your labels are going to stay put, be easy to read and aren’t curling or peeling from dock to stock and back out again. Commercial-grade labels don’t often work well in extreme temperatures because the adhesive becomes brittle and may crack; eventually weakening the tack.
Labels ideal for cold storage and other cold-temperature application are designed with a specialized freezer or deep-freeze adhesive to ensure they adhere to the item in cold temps as well as well as fluctuations in temperature when goods are going from regular temps to cold temps. There are even heavy-duty freezer labels designed to withstand temps as low as -320° F!
It’s not all about storage temperature
Another consideration is the temperature of the item being labeled before it goes into storage. If you have a requirement for labels that can withstand very cold temps (down to -65F), it may not necessarily require specialized media. If the surface temperature of the product is above 32°F or higher, most standard thermal transfer and direct thermal labels may work. The Honeywell Duratran™ II label, for example, is rated for service down to -65F storage. The minimum application temperature of the product is 32°F. As long as the product itself is at or above freezing, the label can be applied and remain fixed to the item down to -65°F.
What to look for in a cold storage adhesive label:
- Ability to apply to already-frozen surfaces (if required)
- Resistant to moisture
- Withstands low and below-freezing temperatures
- Resistant to freeze and thaw cycles
- Will not smear or scratch easily
Before purchasing a volume of labels, we always recommend thoroughly testing any labels you are considering to be sure they work well in your environment and processes. Taylor Data Systems specializes in a variety of barcode media – labels, tags and ribbons. Talk to us about your requirements and we’ll find the right media for you.