By Jen Arnold, Hot Stamp Account Manager
Hot stamp machines or imprinters, often referred to as hot foil coders, utilize simple and reliable mechanical technology. Hot stamp printing is a process in which heated type is pressed firmly against the item you are printing with a ribbon/foil between. The ribbon/foil transfers pigment from a polyester carrier onto the product. It can produce a high quality, permanent smudge-resistant mark. Hot stamp machines are typically used to mark non-variable codes such as date codes, lot numbers, expiration dates and product codes on labels or packaging.
Hot stamp coders feature engraved or cast type characters, dies or wheel numbering units – typically made out of metal or silicone. To change the code, the machine operator must manually change the type characters or slugs. This is a relatively easy task and can be easily achieved with basic training.
To make the mark, the block of characters/logo is heated and then stamped down by means of pneumatic air pressure. The raised surface of the characters makes contact with the pigmented foil/ribbon, pressing it onto the surface of the substrate. The result is a clean code.
This technology is considered extremely durable and reliable. Blocks of characters can last for tens of thousands of impressions over the course of many years. Hot stamp machines offer a clean and simple coding solution; the technology is widely used throughout the food and pharmaceutical industry. Hot stamp coders are also ideal for dusty and sticky manufacturing environments which are considered challenging for delicate non-contact inkjet coders.
Hot stamping machines also integrate nicely with reel fed labeling or packaging machines.
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!
Did you know there were 80 GMO labeling bills introduced in 20 states in 2015? On July 1, 2016 the first GMO labeling law will go into effect in Vermont. The Vermont law requires raw agricultural commodity and processed food producers who sell food products in or into the state of Vermont to mark the lowest saleable unit of food packaging with a disclaimer that clearly and conspicuously reads “produced with genetic engineering.”
Although the labeling message requirement is clear, the law does not specify exactly how manufacturers need to apply the mark to the packaging container. Determining how to apply the mark is entirely up to the manufacturer’s discretion.
Moving forward, food producers need to keep a keen eye on the changing regulations regarding labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Unless or until there is a federal law regarding labeling, individual states make the rules on whether or not products sold in their state need to have labeling that includes warnings such as “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering”. Companies need to decide whether to change their formulations to eliminate GMOs, adjust the geographical markets they sell into, or modify their labeling to meet individual state requirements. The path of least resistance and expense will usually be to change the labeling.
If your product has regional or national distribution, how do you manage specific variable information for sales to a specific state? Diagraph provides a solution with its Linx 8900 Series Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) printers.
If you can use the same GMO call out to cover the requirements of all the regions you sell into, then you can create, store, and easily select the GMO message to be printed onto your product. If different GMO messages are required, you can choose to print all of the necessary GMO messages on each package or easily create different messages and select the appropriate one for a specific manufacturing run. Regardless of the flexibility you need and the type of packaging material you are marking on, the Linx 8900 Series has you covered.
The 8900 family of CIJ printers is capable of printing between one to five lines of text, logos, and barcodes, and is designed for maximum efficiency and minimal effort. The stainless steel cabinet boasts a minimum IP55 rating, which makes it suitable for a wash-down environment. The 8900 Series printers are designed to run reliably and feature the ability to program 4 to 50 production line settings and up to 1,000 unique messages to enable quick and painless change overs and message updates.
With easy change overs and high quality, high speed print, companies can easily add any required GMO text to existing packaging using Linx CIJ.
Although CIJ technology is ideal for meeting nearly every GMO labeling need, there are a variety of technologies available to you to stay in compliance with the law. All-electric label applicators and thermal inkjet printers may be good alternatives depending on your operation. Contact us today for a free consultation to determine which technology is best suited to meet your unique needs: 800-722-1125 or email info @ diagraph.com.
Downtime in your production simply isn’t an option. But at any moment, an unpredictable event can arise like low ink levels, maintenance and clogging, putting your operations on hold anywhere from an hour to an entire shift. So how do you prepare for the unexpected? One option that we see put into practice by many customers is the investment in a spare inkjet printer – a reliable, on-hand system that can quickly be fired up on a production line when your regular systems suddenly quit.
So what exactly should you be looking for in a reliable back-up inkjet printer?
Extended shutdown features – There is no planning when you might need to pull in a spare printer, meaning it could be sitting idle for an undefined amount of time. Many small character printers take time to boot up and flush printheads that have not been in use for some time. These printers often require full system flushes or draining when being prepared for extended shutdown periods. When purchasing a small character printer to use a spare, choose one that doesn’t have extensive shut down procedures and is designed to fire right up and start printing after sitting idle for as long as 3 months at a time.
Long shelf-life – Thermal inkjet printers that utilize snap-in and -out replacement ink cartridges make great spare candidates. Ink cartridges can be kept in-stock and on-shelf so your printer is guaranteed to have a supply of ink when it is pulled into operation at a moment’s notice.
Additionally, for high-resolution inkjet printers that take fluids from bottles, industry-leading inks are formulated to last as long as 18 months on the shelf and still consistently deliver high contrast print messages. Similarly for your case coding, look for printheads that remain start-up ready for up to 12 months. To ensure peak performance of ink fluids and printheads, always store according to recommended temperature and humidity conditions.
Protected internal electronics – Look for systems that have a protective covering to maintain and preserve the internal electronics. Not only is thermal jet printer technology a low investment option that produces high resolution text, graphics and barcodes up to 1” high, but the easy-to-change cartridges are simple to store on-shelf in case of emergencies.
Ask yourself whether it is more costly to invest in spare printers for your food production line or to risk unplanned downtime. The investment to protect your productivity is more than likely to pay off if you’re making an informed decision about the inkjet systems you’re keeping as back-ups. Our product specialists can help you determine what the best spare system type is for your application needs. Call today or send us an email for our recommendation.
What would you do with 3 months?
By Chris Pangallo, CIJ and Laser Product Manager
Linx Printing Technologies introduced their latest Continuous Inkjet Printer (CIJ) model 8900 in September of 2015. The new printer reflects the fundamental Linx design philosophies of Ease of Use and Reliability, supported by a hermetically sealed printhead with no moving parts, self-service Easi Change module and new features such as one-touch cartridge refills and a 10” capacitive touch screen with customizable menu. The 8900 introduces a new iteration of Linx Hermetically sealed printhead model MK11. The new design improves upon the already impressive model MK9 design for maximum reliability.
Ø The MK11 printhead makes use of Push-pull drop positioning in the deflector fields.
o More drop control means better print quality.
Ø The MK11 has a unique auto flush process at shut-down, and solvent flush at start-up.
o This means a cleaner operation – less downtime.
Ø The MK11 introduces a new “figure-8” 2 tube style conduit for maximum support and flexibility
o This means reliable performance, even in challenging environments.
These improvements have been tested and reveal with typical inks and in typical application environments, customers can expect 100 starts and stops without the need to clean the printhead. Testing actually found 3 months as typical, and in some cases can go up to 6 months.
What would you do with the time saved by only having to clean your printhead once every 3 months?
At Diagraph, we are dedicated in solving your coding and labeling challenges. Diagraph has been assisting customers for over 120 years improving production line efficiencies with simple, reliable, cost-effective coding and labeling solutions. Contact us to learn more about the Linx product line. Visit us at www.diagraph.com or contact us at 800.722.1125.
And our message to our Beer customers this week is… Wait, What?
By Chris Pangallo, Product Manager – Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) and Laser
So, you and your buddies have brewed the perfect beer. It is really catching on. You’ve gone from bottling batches in your garage to production with bottling, canning, sales, distribution, quality control and marketing. You are not alone. Many Craft brewers are following this path to success.
Coding on cans is a necessary part of the distribution process and Continuous Inkjet Printing (CIJ) is the best fit technology for this coding requirement. CIJ is non-contact printing using solvent based inks that allow for superior adherence, quick dry times and are designed to print variable information such as batch codes and born on dates.
While born on dates and batch codes serve a quality control function, there is also an opportunity for some marketing with CIJ. You’re marking on the cans anyway. Why not add a fun message for your customers at the same time?
Craft Brewer Sun King Brewing out of Indianapolis has a process in place where their line workers not only update the date code on their cans each day, but also include a message for the customer. Recently, Sun King produced a limited edition run of 20,000 beer cans with a special message, and Sun King found themselves a discussion point on Fox News, CBS Sports and local media. Apparently a line worker took the opportunity to express his true feelings about quarterback Tom Brady.
Not every craft brewer may feel comfortable allowing their staff to input messages without approval. Linx CIJ can accommodate your message security requirements, whatever they may be. In addition to being reliable, easy to set up and work with, Linx CIJ printers have a standard feature of programmable passcodes that can be a big benefit to manufacturers that wish to maintain control of their company’s message.
All models of Linx have security levels that you can set with passwords as standard.
Select a Message to Print, Start, Pause and Stop the printer
Additional access to Printer functions plus Create and Edit a Message
Even more access to Printer functions, plus ability to delete a message or change the production line set up.
Increasing in popularity among big box chains is retail-ready packaging (RRP). A retail-ready package refers to secondary packaging that is branded appropriately to be able to move to retail shelves in a quick, “one touch” movement. RRP should be intentionally designed to self-contain individually packaged products, this eliminates the need for stock workers to unpack and individually display each product. This comes as a huge advantage to the big box retailers like Walmart or Kroger, because it reduces labor by cutting out the need for workers to unpack or hang individually packaged items. Effort is reduced to five simple phases: pack, ship, stock, display, shop.
For the manufacturers or co-packers packaging the product, the challenge of retail ready packaging is having the corrugate case function as both a shipping case and display piece. Considerations here would be having product flavor and count information, SKUs, barcodes, lot codes and expiration dates visible while creating a package that is appealing to consumers on a marketing level. Making the switch to RRP may be an investment, but it has been proven to pay off in terms of keeping good relationships with big box retailers like Walmart. Simply put: If you make your product easy to stock, retailers will continue to stock it again and again.
The key characteristics of retail-ready packaging are:
Changes in the market are directly influencing the rise manufacturers are seeing in the demand for RRP. As larger chains begin to open smaller, neighborhood stores with fewer employees, the speed in which products can get to shelves grows in importance. The Millennial generation is also waiting until later in life to begin having a family, so smaller portioned packaging continues to be purchased far more often. Millennials are also drivers of online grocery shopping fulfillment. Well-implemented retail-ready packaging makes it easier for the warehouse staff fulfilling the online orders to quickly identify and select the correct items to ship out.
For these reasons and many others, retail-ready packaging is a strategy for retailers to boost sales. In order to move more product, this means your packaging production will have to appease retail distributors while still meeting coding and labeling requirements for consumers and traceability. Our experts can help you strategize your operations around this RRP trend. Reach out to us today to discuss what we’re seeing in the retail market and how we can partner with you to make a retail-ready packaging strategy a profitable endeavor for your company.