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Different Types of Printed Indicators – And How They Can Benefit Your Product

Types of Printed Indicators and Benefits

In both life and product development, simple is usually better. If your product needs to monitor or indicate a change of a specific environmental factor, electronic sensors could get the job done – but they can be bulky, complicated, and expensive.

A simpler and smarter product solution may be a printed indicator. Featuring special colorimetric inks, these indicators change color in response to the presence or change of an environmental factor. Since they're printed, they can be applied directly to products or included in packaging – making them cost-efficient and easy to implement.

Here are 5 common uses for printed indicators.

Sterilization process

When cleanliness is paramount, a printed indicator can be used to confirm the product has completed a sterilization process. Printed indicators can detect multiple sterilization methods, including radiation (gamma), ethylene oxide gas, or steam.

Common applications:

  • Pouches
  • Labels
  • Tags
  • Tapes
  • Strips
  • Dots

UV light

Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can degrade materials and cause health risks in food and pharmaceuticals. A printed indicator can help alleviate these issues by changing or presenting a color when the surface is exposed to UV light. Depending on your needs, it can also reverse color when the UV source is eliminated.

Common applications:

  • Medical devices
  • Stick-to-skin wearables
  • Food packaging


The wrong humidity level can wreak havoc on a wide range of sensitive products. A printed indicator with moisture-detecting ink can alert you when the relative humidity level reaches a point that is too low or high. Since these indicators are compact and inexpensive, they can easily be applied in small areas, including inside packaging.

Common applications:

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Electronics
  • Military equipment
  • Food packaging


Extreme temperatures or fluctuation can result in product degradation or spoilage. Thermochromic indicators are designed to activate when the temperature exits a specific range. Once the threshold is crossed, the color change can be permanent — or can turn back to its original state when the temperature returns to the proper range. Also, because temperature printed indicators can be activated by body heat, they can be used for tamper-evident applications.

Common applications:

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Medical devices
  • Industrial paints and chemicals
  • Shipping of temperature-sensitive products
  • Food and beverage

Chemical (gas or liquid)

Chemical contamination can be dangerous and difficult to detect, especially toxic gases that are odorless. This is where a chemical printed indicator can be effective and potentially lifesaving. Indicators can be used to identify oxygen, CO2, and other chemicals for product protection and leak detection in work environments.

Common applications:

  • Industrial gas companies
  • Food safety

Get started with printed indicators.

At Tapecon, we have over 100 years of experience helping customers solve their complex product challenges. Learn more about our printed indicators applications.

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