Product-coding-marking with industrial-inkjet-printerSeveral factors are driving the increasing need for Industrial Product Coding/Marking Systems. The primary drivers are regulatory requirements, traceability needs and display of information, such as expiration dates for consumers.

Many manufacturers are using Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) printers to mark and code their products. These printers offer a cost-effective solution with superior print quality. And, this type of printing technology is suitable for a wide range of applications. Some of the industries using industrial inkjet printers are: automotive, beverage, building products, consumer packaged goods, electronics, glass products, pharmaceutical & medical, plastics and rubber goods.

So, here we have listed some of the important factors that you need to consider when selecting a Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) printer:

1. Material / Substrate type – the type of material that information will be printed determines the type of ink that will be used in the printer. So, if you will be printing on a porous (absorbent) surface such as paper, cardboard, textiles, carpet, non-woven fabrics, wood, organic surfaces, etc., then the ink type will be different than if you are printing on a non-porous (non-absorbent) surface such as metal, glass, ceramics, stone, plastic, rubber, foils, etc. Therefore, you need to know that type of substrate the printer can print on.

Variable data inkjet printing on metal, glass and cardboard

Printing on porous and non-porous surfaces

2. Shape of object – printing on small diameter cable or pipe could require a different print head than printing on a juice carton.

3. Characteristics of the printer ink – 3 important aspects of printer ink should be considered:

Ink color: will be you using your corporate colors in marking your products? Will the marking ink color be incorporated in overall product packaging design? Will your product variants be differentiated with ink color?

Ink type: does your application require a food safe ink?

Ink drying time: if you have a fast moving production line where product markings have to dry quickly before the next line operation, then you need a fast drying printer ink.

4. Image size and quality – what quantity of information do you need to mark on your product? Will there be coding on primary or secondary packing or both? Does the printed information need to be machine readable? What is the size of the area to be printed on? Answering these questions will help you to determine the required print resolution and character size that the printer is capable of producing.

5. Line Speed – to prevent bottle necks on your manufacturing line, you need to know the line speed of your production line. A common measure of printer line speed is meters per second. So, among the various measures of production line speed, make sure that you know your line speed in meters or feet per second.

6. Inventory of pre-printed packaging – an industrial marking system can help you to reduce or eliminate the need to keep an inventory of pre-printed packaging, which has to be stored and managed for each unique product. And, since you can print on demand, package markings can be changed without having to scrap pre-printed packaging.

7. Manufacturing environment – how many manufacturing lines require a printer? Will the printer be installed in a humid or dusty environment and be subject to vibration and temperature fluctuations? Can the print head withstand knocks occasionally delivered by products colliding into it? Can the printer be placed in a network of printers and be controlled through a network? A networked solution helps to diminish the amount of time that needs to be spent message set-up and maintenance.

unique device identifier (UDI) in human- and machine-readable form

Unique Device Identification (UDI) label

8. Data to be printed – what type of data needs to be coded or marked on your product packaging – do you need to print static data such as, company information and product name or, will there be a dynamic variable data such as date, time, counter, shift code, serial numbers, Unique Device Identification (UDI), etc.

9. Print head technology – Based on your manufacturing line, you may require the print head of the printer to be tilted at an angle, in order to mark the product in the required location. In this case, a print system with a remote print head could be a suitable choice. Also, given that print heads need to be periodically cleaned, it is important to consider the speed and process for print head cleaning.

10. Ease of operation and set-up – in order to minimize your costs, check if the printing system is essentially plug and play and requires a minimal amount of set-up and user training to get the system operational.