Linear or Rotary Labeling For Your Next Application?

First Published: October 9, 2023
Channel: Technology


Pressure-sensitive labeling machines are crucial in packaging for applying labels to products, which is vital for providing product information and for branding. These machines are divided into three main types: stand-alone applicators, linear labeling machines and rotary labeling machines. The differences in the characteristics of these machines determine their applications in various industries.

In this article, I’m going to discuss the attributes and best applications for the two integrated systems – linear labelers and rotary labelers.

Of all the labeling systems sold, linear labelers make up about 50% of the total market and rotary labelers 3 – 5%; the rest being the stand-alone label applicators. (Source CB Consulting).

Linear Labeling Machines:

Front and Back Labeling System from Herma


1. Design: Linear labeling machines have a horizontal, straight-line design, which accommodates products in a linear manner.

2. Speed: These machines typically (although not always) work at a lower speed than rotary machines and are suitable for small to medium-scale production.

3. Flexibility: Linear machines are generally more flexible and adaptable to different product shapes and sizes. Changes in bottle shapes and size can often be accommodated without the need for change parts, which helps reduce cost and speeds up changeover.

4. Footprint: They usually have a smaller footprint and require less floor space, making them suitable for facilities with space constraints. Having said that, adding additional labeling heads to a linear labeler can extend the length considerably.

5. Cost: Linear machines are generally less expensive and are easier to set up and operate.


Linear labeling machines are often used when:

– There is a need for flexibility in labeling various products.

– The production volume is low to medium.

– Space is a limiting factor.

Rotary Labeling Machines:

Rotary Labeling System from Quadrel


1. Design: Rotary labeling machines have a rotating turret design, allowing products to move in a circular motion during the labeling process. The bottle location plates on the turrets are shaped to position the products accurately and they are usually servo-controlled to allow the products to be presented in various orientations to the labeling heads.

2. Speed: These machines can operate at high speeds and efficiently handle high-volume production.

3. Precision: Rotary machines offer higher precision and accuracy in label placement, even at high speeds. This improved accuracy is due to a rotary labeler’s more precise container location and handling.

4. Customization: They can be customized and equipped with various modules to accommodate different labeling techniques and types. In some cases, one labeler might be able to handle cold glue labels as well as pressure-sensitive.

5. Footprint: They usually require more floor space due to their design and additional modules.


Rotary labeling machines are preferably used when:

– High-speed labeling is required.

– The label must be applied in register with a feature on the container, such as a handle or a molded emblem.  

– High precision and accuracy are paramount.

– There is ample space available for machine installation.

Linear and Rotary Use Cases:

1. Beverage Industry: The beverage industry predominantly uses rotary labeling machines due to the high-volume production of beverage bottles. The precision and speed offered by rotary machines are essential for maintaining productivity and efficiency.

2. Pharmaceuticals: Linear labeling machines are commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry, where precision is crucial, but production volumes may not be as high as in the beverage industry. They are ideal for labeling small containers like vials and bottles.

3. Cosmetics and Personal Care: Both linear and rotary labeling machines find applications in this sector. Rotary machines are used for high-volume products like shampoos and lotions, while linear machines are used for smaller, niche products or when space is a constraint.

4. Food Industry: The food industry utilizes both types of labeling machines. Rotary machines are used for mass-produced items, while linear machines are suitable for smaller batches and varied products due to their adaptability.

5. Labeling Empty Plastic Containers: Many plastic containers are flexible and unstable when empty. Using a rotary labeler allows the bottle to be filled with compressed air during the labeling cycle. This allows it to be controlled and the labels to be accurately applied and pressed into place.


Both linear and rotary labeling machines play a pivotal role in the packaging industry, with their characteristics defining their suitable application areas. Linear labeling machines, with their flexible and compact nature, are apt for small to medium-scale production, especially when dealing with varied product types and sizes. On the other hand, rotary labeling machines, with their high-speed and precise operations, are indispensable in industries where large-scale production and accuracy are crucial. The choice between the two largely depends on the specific needs and constraints of the production facility.

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