Thermal Transfer Printhead Technologies in Print and Apply Labeling
By Steve Dods, Automated Labeling Products (ALP) and Thermal Transfer Overprinter (TTO) Products Manager
There are two common types of thermal transfer (TT) printheads in industrial print and apply labeling systems. One version is the Flat Head TT type, which has a relatively parallel contact between the heating elements of the printhead and the ribbon/label. The other is a Near-Edge TT type, which angles the head up to 45 degrees. There are advantages and disadvantages to these two types of technologies, which is why both existing in industrial printing.
OEM industrial print engines, such as SATO and Zebra
Labeling system manufacturer's proprietary printer (VideoJet) and TTO (Thermal Transfer Overprinters)
Typically 5 million lineal inches, with proper cleaning and care
Typically 2.5 million lineal inches, with proper cleaning and care
Price (4" wide)
Around $450 to $700
Around $1000 to $1300
Up to 16 inches per second
Up to 19.7 inches per second
Consumable Cost (600m Ribbon)
$15 to $20 per roll,
Wax, Wax Resin, or Resin
$23 to $30 per roll,
Wax Resin or Resin only
Head mount adjustments required
Less or no adjustment required
Near edge TT print heads are optimal for high-speed printing on surfaces that may have some variances, like film webs. They are mainly seen in these applications, where the alternative technology is ink jet or laser. Flat head technology is ideal for longer life, lower consumable cost, and lower overall replacement cost. As with most competing technologies, it comes down to the application requirements. For print and apply applications, the reliable and less expensive selection has been the venerable Flat Head TT print head.
For more information on print and apply applications click here. Or contact us at 800.722.1125.
Many marking and coding equipment sellers espouse the virtues of thermal transfer overprinters (TTO) over the capabilities of hot stamp coders. As a manufacturer of both thermal transfer and hot stamp technologies, we are here to tell you that there is room for both. The truth is that each technology excels for very different reasons.
Hot stamp printers consistently provide quality prints at very high speeds. These machines are nearly all mechanical, making service and maintenance easy and straightforward. It is very hard to break a hot stamp machine and even harder to run out of options when it comes to fixing it. Because hot stamp printers require manual adjustments in order to change print codes, they are more ideal for applications with only occasional changes to the print message. These machines tend to be low cost and more durable than TTO.
Don’t be fooled by sellers who try to tell you that hot stamps have drastically lower ribbon capacities. We have seen hot stamp ribbon capacities reported as low as 300’, yet our bestselling hot stamp – the Norwood K Series – accommodates rolls as large as 1500’. Unlike TTO technology, hot stamps perform well in both hard and flexible materials. Many of our hot stamp customers specifically choose hot stamp technology for the indelible, engraved mark it leaves behind on rigid and semi-rigid products and materials which serves as a second quality check. TTO isn’t compatible with rigid and semi-rigid substrates.
When it comes to printing graphics, linear and 2D barcodes and a variety of fonts onto flexible plastic, foil and paper labels, it is hard to beat the versatility of thermal transfer printers (TTO). These digitally driven print message machines can accommodate even the most complex of print messages. Our TTO technology features ribbon feed control capabilities and can accommodate both continuous and intermittent printing applications. TTO also provides more versatility in terms of the scalability of its print area. Our NGT TTO line up offers print areas as large as 8”x3.9” when used in intermittent mode or 8”x39” when operating in continuous mode.
Although TTO offers greater flexibility in terms of print areas and message creation, it does have its draw backs. Having fewer mechanical parts and more electronic components means that you will be replacing more parts over time rather than repairing them. Of course you have to weigh the bad aspects with the good. If you have a lot of short runs with frequent product and message changes, TTO is likely the best technology for you.
If you have any questions regarding hot stamp or TTO, feel free to reach out to one of our marking and coding experts here at Diagraph. We are happy to walk you through the best options to meet your specific application needs. Call 1-800-722-1125 to speak with an expert today!
3/24/05 INTRODUCING THE NEW TRIDENT-POWERED IJ/384 PRINTHEAD FOR THE IJ/3000™ IMPULSE JET SYSTEM
Diagraph, An ITW Company, introduces the new IJ/384 printhead for the IJ/3000™ Impulse Jet Large Character Ink Jet System. This IJ/384 printhead utilizes the new third generation print engine from Trident®. This printhead features a 2” imaging height at 192 vertical dpi for smooth true-type fonts and logos, as well as UPC/EAN and SCC-14 bar codes at 200 horizontal dpi. It is also the first of a new family of printheads that use the pigmented Scan True II ink. This pigmented ink minimizes the ink bleed for bar codes and small text, and offers better light fastness than dye-based inks.
The IJ/3000 Impulse Jet offers unsurpassed “smart” features: the ability to print high resolution bar codes, touch screen controls, worldwide networking connectivity, around-the-clock monitoring and diagnostic functions, and convenience features such as automatic cleaning.
The IJ/384 printhead offers the automatic cleaning feature, which allows the operator to program the IJ/3000 controller to self-clean at selected times over a 24-hour period. The pump and vacuum device in the CIDS/3000 ink delivery system automatically remove accumulated contaminants from the faceplate of the printhead and transport them to a reservoir, for future disposal. This will keep the printhead clean and printing clear marks as part of the preventive maintenance process.
IJ/384 Printhead Specifications:
Image Height: 2” (51mm) Number of Orifices: 384 (3 per channel)
Vertical Resolution: 192 dpi Addressable Channels: 128
Interface boards per printhead: 2 Ink Type: Scan True II Black
Maximum line speed: 200fpm Printhead Orientation: Horizontal
With the addition of the IJ/384 (2”) printhead, customers have four IJ/3000 Impulse Jet printhead choices to satisfy virtually any marking or coding application: IJ/96 (3/4”), IJ/192 (1”), IJ/384 (2”) and IJ/768 (4”).
The IJ/3000 allows users the flexibility of multi-technology performance. It is engineered to drive either high-resolution Impulse Jet printheads, such as the IJ/384, Diagraph’s patented Integrated Valve printheads, or the PA/5000LT Label Printer/Applicator.
The Impulse Jet High Resolution bar code print solution comes with a touch screen that allows operators to control the system with the touch of a finger and enjoy previously unimagined levels of convenience and productivity. The graphical user interface visually displays menus and commands so operators can enter messages and codes in minutes. And batch codes can be changed during a run, without interrupting production.
The IJ/3000 Impulse Jet has a built-in high-speed Ethernet connection that permits networking with another printer on the other side of the factory, or on the other side of the world. For multi-location manufacturing customers with constantly changing batch codes, this smart feature is invaluable for making changes and checking status. The system is designed to work with Web browsers (including Netscape and Internet Explorer), existing local area networks (device net, arc net, etc.), or wireless (radio frequency) using off-the-shelf converters.
Another smart feature is 24/7 monitoring and diagnostics. Operating on PCs, PLCs, and LANs, it can be used to obtain up-to-the-minute system status. The IJ/3000 Impulse Jet can even be programmed to monitor ink levels and provide an alert when the supply needs to be replenished.
Like all Diagraph ink jet printing systems, the IJ/3000 Impulse Jet is built to last, with minimal maintenance, even in hostile industrial environments. It provides reliable performance in all kinds of conditions—hot, cold, wet and dry.
For more information, please contact Diagraph using the method most convenient for you:
Diagraph, an innovator in product identification technology for over 100 years, manufactures and distributes marking, coding and labeling systems and supplies. Diagraph offers a complete line of RFID; barcode label printers; small character ink jet, large character ink jet and high-resolution ink jet systems; label printer-applicators and label applicators; thermal transfer label printers; stock and custom labels; labeling consumables; and traditional marking and stenciling equipment and supplies. Diagraph is a global supplier, with sales and service offices located across the United States and throughout the world.
DIAGRAPH is a registered trademark of Illinois Tool Works Inc. TRIDENT is a registered trademark of Illinois Tool Works Inc.
Bar Code Printer Related Quick Links: Barcode Printer Case Studies Zebra Barcode Label Printers Datamax Barcode Label Printers Sato Barcode Label Printers
Common GS1 Barcodes Pictured Above. The following can be printed by Print and Apply Labeling and most High-Resolution Inkjet Technologies:
Barcodes: UPC-A, EAN-13, UPC-E, EAN-8, GS1 DataMatrix, GS1 QR Code, GS1-128, ITF-14
GTIN Types: GTIN-8, GTIN-12, GTIN-13, GTIN-14
Many major retailers and distribution centers require manufacturers to display important information on all four sides of cartons and cases that are intended for backroom storage purposes. This offers retailers ultimate flexibility for their inventory management programs.
The following information is important to effectively manage inventory:
Having this information visible on your box is usually not enough. Manufacturers need to ensure that this important information is large enough and clear enough to read from a distance.
4-Side Print Solutions
Unfortunately, there are not any one-size-fits-all solutions to accomplish four-sided printing on cartons. Flexographic and lithographic pre-printed boxes are not practical for the important variable information needed with every shipment (i.e., best by date and lot/batch code). Manufacturers can turn to a combination of pre-printed information and print-on-demand information if flexographic elements are required. However, complete print-on-demand solutions offer manufacturers the greatest flexibility in terms of cost and supplies.
Print and Apply Labeling 4-Side Print Solutions
Because manufacturers have more options when choosing to use a labeling solution for their four-sided print requirements, the best solution for your particular operation depends largely on the speed of your line and your product throughput. The most efficient option in terms of the equipment required would be to opt for two opposing E-FASA (swing arm) print and apply labeling machines. One machine would apply the label to the front and the side of the box while the other would apply to the opposite side and the rear panel. This solution does not require a bump turn material handling mechanism.
The Diagraph PA/6000 with E-FASA tamp applicator module offers the greatest flexibility for manufacturers. The all-electric design frees the labeler from shop air, allowing it to be placed anywhere on the packaging line. Additionally, the servo motor and smart sensing technology unique to the PA/6000 system ensure that labels are precisely placed on time, every time.
If retailers and distribution centers require flexographic and lithographic printed barcodes, you can more easily manage pre-printed label stock than a large pre-printed box inventory. Utilize flexographic printed labels for all information that will remain the same and utilize the labeler’s printing capability to print the important variable information on demand. With that being stated, it is important to point out that printing barcodes using a wax-resin ribbon and a thermal print head onto consistent label stock is a highly reliable print method. The recommendation to get pre-printed label stock depends entirely on retailer requirements, but is not necessary if you want the print and apply labeler to handle your entire print message – including the barcodes.
Large Character Inkjet 4-Side Print Solutions
Many manufacturers can get away with only displaying information on one or two sides of a case. To accomplish print on two opposing sides, manufacturers need inkjet printers installed on opposite sides of the packaging line. At Diagraph, our high resolution large character inkjet system – Diagraph IJ4000 – can drive printheads on opposing sides of a single line from a single system. The unique centralized ink delivery system in the Diagraph IJ4000 allows floor operators to monitor and change fluids from a single location rather than having to monitor each individual print head.
Additional material handling is required when setting up your packaging line for four-sided printing. A “bump turn” material handling method is required to rotate the box 90° to present the remaining two panels for printing. Two additional opposing printheads need to be installed further down the line, positioned after the bump turn mechanism, to print on the remaining panels. Four-sided box printing can easily be accomplished using the Diagraph IJ4000 once the bump turn mechanism is in place on the packaging line. A single IJ4000 system can drive all four required printheads from a single system, allowing up to a 2” print height for the printed information.
Printing variable information using a Diagraph IJ384e printhead offering a maximum of 2” characters satisfies size requirements for most retailers. If larger characters or a larger print area is desired, manufacturers can opt for the Diagraph IJ768e printhead, which offers up to 4” of print height. A single Diagraph IJ4000 system can drive two IJ768e printheads, which means two systems would be required for a four-sided printing application. Many of our customers opt for the IJ768e 4” printhead to take advantage of the larger print area and future-proof for expanding retailer requirements.
The Diagraph IJ4000 system prints high resolution text, graphics and machine readable barcodes, including GTIN, ITF and GS1 varieties.
Additional Quality Assurance Measures
Both high resolution inkjet and print and apply labeling technologies can print machine readable barcodes with high quality resolution. Many of our customers install a fixed mount barcode imager to test the barcode quality. This information is sent to a PLC which reads the good or bad output from the barcode imager and stops the conveyor when a barcode gives a bad result. This extra quality measure ensures that only readable barcodes reach retailers.
Material Handling Solutions Provided by Diagraph
At Diagraph, we have customers large and small who have varying degrees of internal resources and packaging line expertise. We offer project management services for manufacturers who choose a Diagraph solution and need to outsource the material handling changes to their lines. Our dedicated engineers work closely with manufacturers to design a material handling solution that will meet their unique application need.
Still have questions about printing variable information on all four sides of a box? Contact us today to learn more about your options: Call 1-800-722-1125 or email email@example.com.
Simple enough…I just want to mark the outside of my box. Looking for marking and coding equipment for a production line and haven’t a clue where to start? Now, ask yourself, where do I start, and the search begins.
A big mistake most Original Equipment Manufactures (OEM) make is that they assume the customer/buyer looking to purchase equipment: know the industry, know the technical jargon and acronyms, and know what their options are. We can’t clarify every equipment dilemma; however we can simplify the process when it comes to large character marking and coding solutions.
Let’s start with the basics, what’s being printed, marked or coded and what’s it being printed on? Large Character Printing is defined by character heights typically falling between ¼” to 4”. There are basically two large character ink jet technologies; Integrated Valve (I.V.), also known as Drop on Demand (DOD) and Impulse Jet (I.J.), also known as Piezoelectric High Resolution or Trident technology. The industrial marking and coding industry uses the term “inkjet technology” as a description when one deposits ink directly on substrates.
Companies with production lines and a high volume of product moving through it will find their marking and coding solution in Integrated Valve (I.V.) series of print heads. Integrated Valve (I.V.) is a low resolution technology that precisely controls ink flow via powerful solenoids to a print head that perfectly forms ink drops, resulting in sharp, clean characters ranging from ½” to 2” in height. Marking at a print speed of over 650 feet per minute most manufacturing environments find that the I.V. system exceeds their minimum speed requirements.
Integrated Valve is ideal for printing text, auto codes (such as product counts, time and date stamps) product identification and simple graphics onto porous (absorbent) and non-porous products as they travel by conveyor past stationary print heads. Some companies place multiple print systems throughout their production facility, marking on the product itself and/or the package it is shipped in.
There are several major advantages with the Integrated Valve print head. Where print mobility is an issue the Integrated Valve print head offers 360 degree orientation, allowing for coding on the top, side and bottom of most substrates. Another advantage with the I.V. print head is the throw distance. Depending on the substrate (what its printing on) the distance away from what is being coded may be limited by size. With the Integrated Valve print head the throw distance is up to ½” accommodating even the bulkiest of product.
Integrated Valve print heads are designed for high-speed printing applications in harsh environments using porous and non-porous inks. Created for the hashes environment, look for an I.V. print head that has an anodized enclosure which is environmentally sealed and a strong stainless steel front plate.
Whereas Integrated Valve is perfect for printing, boxes, containers, and tray packs, it lacks the defined print quality necessary for bar codes and high resolution graphics. When looking for print speed and marking for identification purposes Integrated Valve (I.V.) is the ticket. For high resolution printing, Impulse Jet technology is the way to go.
So how does Integrated Valve work in laymen’s terms? Dots. Yes, a bunch of dots formed together perfectly to create a code that is marked onto your product.
Not all marking and coding applications are alike. High resolution bar codes and company graphics often demand a more precise print quality. Companies looking for an all encompassed print solution that delivers their marking and coding requirements will find Impulse Jet technology their best bet. The Impulse Jet print head delivers the capability of printing high resolution bar codes, product identification, nutritional statements, descriptions, lot codes, and company logos. Impulse Jet technology supplies a voltage pulse to ink via piezoelectric crystals. Combining the voltage pulse with pressure the ink then flows to the print engine and into minuet holes which in turn produces small ink drops that form a code and is marked onto the product. The ink drops appear continuous and smooth with almost no imperfections which make it perfect for graphics. The result is a high resolution image that prints onto a porous surface.
Impulse Jet print head options offer print height ranging from ¾” to 4” from a single print head and is often used in applications where more than one print head is utilized to create multiple messages on the same substrate. Don’t let the definition “large character” classification of the Impulse Jet print solution mislead you. Impulse Jet technology is capable of printing fine print nutritional fact statements and we know how small that print can be. As long as the graphic image does not exceed 4” the details of the image can be very defined.
Whereas the Impulse head provides high resolution print quality, it will not deliver the same print speed as its large character counter part, Integrated Valve. Impulse Jet print heads however will run at over 200 feet per minute and taking into consideration the quality of the print, that’s not too bad. The throw distance is another variance between the two technologies. Due to the definition in print quality the Impulse jet delivers, the head can be no further away then ¼” from the substrate being printed.
A direct cost savings is associated with the Impulse Jet print system. Cost savings can be found in the reduction of pre-printed inventory and shipping cartons. Imagine printing custom shipping cartons just in time, rather then taking up premium warehouse space.
Another key feature to look for when choosing an Impulse Jet print head is an Automatic Cleaning System (ACS). Because of the smaller size of the ink nozzles, keeping them free of dust and debris is important. ACS removes dirt and debris from the face plate offering the added benefit of low maintenance and again saving the company time and money. Look for an ACS feature that allows manual initiation by pushing the purge button or better yet one that can be programmed to run at specified times.
It is more the rule than not that a company will need to mark their products with various style, size and definition and therefore dual technology (using more than one type of print head) is necessary. Look for a manufacturer of marking and coding equipment that has designed an operating system that seamlessly integrates most print head technologies for your solution. This should be a common practice throughout the print industry however it proves to the contrary.
The easiest way to remember what print technology you need for printing onto a box is: when looking for print speed and marking for identification purposes Integrated Valve (I.V.) will be the right choice for you. For high resolution printing, Impulse Jet technology will give you superior graphic perfection. For more information on the print head technology visit www.diagraph.com or call 1-800-526-2531.
Learn More About Large Character Ink Jet
IJ/768 High-Resolution 4" Printhead 1/1/04 DIAGRAPH® INTRODUCES 4-INCH PRINTHEAD FOR IJ 3000™ IMPULSE JET HIGH-RESOLUTION INK JET PRINTER
St. Louis, MO. . .Diagraph introduces a new printhead for its new generation IJ/3000™ Impulse Jet large character ink jet printers. With the addition of the IJ/768 (4”) printhead, customers have four IJ/3000 Impulse Jet printhead choices to satisfy virtually any marking or coding application: IJ/96 (3/4”), IJ/192 (1”), IJ/352 (2”) and IJ/768 (4”).
The new IJ/768 printhead delivers sharp, clear, high-resolution printing of alphanumeric information, graphics, bar codes and logos at production line speeds up to 200 fpm. For true-type fonts and logos, it provides 192 vertical dpi. For bar codes, such as UPC/EAN and SCC-14, it provides 200 horizontal dpi.
Like other IJ/3000 Impulse Jet printheads, the new IJ/768 offers an automatic cleaning feature which allows operators to program the unit to self-clean at any selected times over
a 24-hour period. At the programmed times, the pump and vacuum device in the central ink delivery system (CIDS) are automatically activated to remove accumulated contaminants from the faceplate of the printhead and transport them to a reservoir for future disposal. The automatic cleaning system enhances preventive maintenance, improves print quality consistency, and prolongs printhead life.
The IJ/3000 allows users the flexibility of multi-technology performance. It is engineered to drive either high-resolution Impulse Jet printheads, such as the IJ/768, Diagraph’s patented Integrated Valve printheads, or the PA/5000LT Label Printer/Applicator.
The IJ/3000 Impulse Jet offers unsurpassed “smart” features: touch screen controls, worldwide networking connectivity, around-the-clock monitoring and diagnostic functions, high-resolution printing, and convenience features such as automatic cleaning.
The touch screen allows operators to control the system with the touch of a finger and enjoy previously unimagined levels of convenience and productivity. The graphical user interface visually displays menus and commands so operators can enter messages and codes in minutes. And batch codes can be changed during a run, without interrupting production.
For more information, call Marketing Services for Diagraph Large Character Ink Jet Systems at 800-722-1125 or send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diagraph, a division of Illinois Tool Works Inc., manufactures and distributes automated industrial marking systems and supplies. Primary product lines include: small character ink jet systems, large character ink jet systems, and automated labeling systems. With sales and service offices located across the United States and throughout the world, Diagraph is a leading international supplier of product identification marking systems.
Diagraph Inkjet Printer Links:
Industrial Labeling Products, Industrial Inkjet Printers & Applications Industrial Inkjet Printer Case Studies
Every package printed with a noncompliant mark is a package you can't ship, costing your company time and money. Improving print technology can help improve packaging compliance. Diagraph's industrial inkjet printing technology was built specifically to improve print quality and production line uptime for manufacturing environments.
With a single actuation, Diagraph’s push-mode piezo print technology can dispense three times the volume of ink compared to a shared bend-mode piezo print system. The push-mode piezo technology fires once per pixel while bend-mode print engines fire three or more times per pixel.
Reduced firing actuations lengthen the life of Diagraph’s print engine by three times compared to other engines on the market. The darker, single drop provides greater ink contrast for better code scanning and package compliance.
Push-mode piezo print technology provides several benefits above and beyond those available with bend-mode piezo print systems.
Diagraph’s print engine technology is designed to be repairable so it can be fixed easily and cost effectively. A Diagraph repaired printhead can be ordered for an online swap of a current print system at less than 40-50% the cost of a new printhead. Replacing a bend-mode inkjet printhead costs 100% of the original printhead.
The working life of a Diagraph inkjet printing system using a push-mode piezo print engine is up to 10 years when properly maintained. The working life for a bend-mode printhead that sees the same amount of use is 2 to 3 years. The cost savings add up very quickly for any company printing and shipping large amounts of product.
Diagraph’s push-mode print engine has a published lifetime of >90 billion firings—almost four times longer than some competitive systems that claim 25 billion firings. Diagraph’s industrial inkjet print technology provides fast, accurate and reliable printing on packaging—ensuring all packages are compliant with shipping regulations.
Watch our animation to learn more.
Click here to request a free sample of your logo printed by our push-mode piezo print engine and see the difference!