By Steve Liker, Product Manager – Large Character Ink Jet
Ink Jet printing enables variable information to be printed on multiple substrates including uncoated and coated corrugated cartons, gypsum, PVC piping, lumber and other materials. When choosing the ink to jet from your ink jet five criteria should be considered:
1) Substrate Type
The ink ultimately needs to contact the substrate, spread, dry and adhere with acceptable adhesion and durability. The substrate needs to be categorized as “porous” – absorbing the ink, or “non-porous” – ink spreading, but ink sits on the surface of the substrate. Inks printed onto porous substrates dry through absorption into the substrate fibers. Inks printed onto non-porous substrates dry through evaporation. Why not chose non-porous for all applications? Because the evaporative inks tend to require more maintenance than the less evaporative porous inks. Diagraph offers ink jet inks for both porous and non-porous substrates.
2) Dry Time and Adhesion
The choice of inks could be determined by the time period between printing and contacting conveyor rails and rollers or with contacting other cartons or products. Do some investigation taking into consideration conveyor speed and location of objects that may contact the print. For example, a carton is traveling at 100 feet per minute (20 inches per second). A roller is located 60 inches away and contacts the ink jet printed image. Therefore the dry time with acceptable adhesion must be less than 3 seconds to avoid chance of smudging. Diagraph has data on dry times and adhesion or could perform print samples on your substrate and measure the dry time and adhesion to help you chose the right ink.
Will the substrate ultimately be exposed to direct outdoor light or to indoor light? If it will be exposed to outdoor light for days or weeks at a time then “pigmented” inks are recommended. Pigments are particles of colorant in solution. Dyes are liquids in liquids. Particles tend to maintain lightfastness much better than dye colorants. Diagraph offers both dye based and pigment based inks with information available on the ink lightfastness.
Are you planning on printing text or barcodes? Since barcodes will be scanned and measured with a barcode scanner they require finer control over the dot spread than text. Dyes tend to spread more than pigment particles by wicking along the corrugated carton fibers. Therefore, pigmented inks may be your best choice for barcode printing.
You may wish to consider printing with spot colors to readily identify and differentiate your products. That way for example your employees and your customers can learn to identify the carton containing your lime flavored soda from afar by seeing the Green text. Diagraph offers multiple ink colors.
So when deciding on the ink jet inks consider the above criteria. Diagraph’s Customer Service Associates and Applications Engineers are also available to guide you through this ink decision process.
6 Factors to Consider when Choosing a Coding Solution for the Meat Processing Industry
Products containing animal milk are on a constant time clock. Cows must be milked every day, meaning it is possible for dairy operations to be running 24/7 to get products with under a 20-day expiration period out the door and onto shelves. In these fast-paced manufacturing environments for fluid milk, cheese, yogurt, butter and ice cream products, there are several reasons that impact the method and features required for achieving legible marks and labels onto packaging.
With perishability of dairy products, there is an even greater urgency for products containing milk to make it to grocers’ shelves with the right product identification. Without proper codes, products won’t even be allowed to ship. Any delay could have health risks for consumers and potential financial impact on the manufacturer.
Look for non-contact coders with features focused on maintaining maximum uptime such as:
Cold, wet environments characterize dairy manufacturing facilities. Fluid milks and cheeses can perish quickly and require constant refrigeration from the production line to the delivery truck all the way to the grocery store. Mixing and filling stations call for washdown procedures to prevent contamination and create a damp environment for coding and involved equipment.
It is crucial that coding equipment upholds against these environmental factors with features found in leading inkjet coders like:
At Diagraph, we recommend the Linx 8900 Series printers for their reliable performance in dairy processing environments. To further improve your batch and date coding in the dairy industry, we can suggest additional accessories like fork style photocell sensors for the most accurate coding, positive air added in the printer cabinet to protect against contaminants entering system, and end coders. Contact us today to learn more about how these small character inkjet printers can improve your date and batch coding operation.
System uptime is the average length of time a piece of equipment runs between interventions are required to keep it operating smoothly. When comparing system uptime when assessing coding equipment, it is important to look at several factors including:
To understand system uptime better, let’s take a closer look at each of these key areas:
Consumable replenishment is the most common and necessary interaction with any given piece of coding equipment. The amount of time a system can go between consumable replenishment, like adding more ink to an inkjet coder, replacing ribbon stock in a thermal transfer printer, or replacing labeling stock on a labeler largely depends on the capacity of the individual piece of coding equipment. There are additional factors to consider when assessing consumable replenishment.
For inkjet coders, it is important to understand how long a printer can run after the bottle or cartridge of ink has run out of fluids. Does the system provide an advanced notice warning giving a countdown to when the coder will be truly empty? Does it provide enough of a warning that allows for fluids to be replenished at ideal production times like before and after shift changes? Can the fluids be replaced while the system is actively coding?
For thermal transfer printers, ribbon capacity as well as total ribbon usage are important to maximizing the length of time between replacing ribbon stock. For ribbon capacity, look at the maximum size of the ribbon roll for your chosen ribbon type. To maximize ribbon usage, look for thermal transfer printers that offer ribbon saving features that utilize as much surface area of the ribbon before advancing it for ribbon waste collection.
Although replenish consumables is unavoidable for the most common types of coding equipment, the very act of replacing or replenishing a bottle of ink or solvent, a roll of ribbon, or a roll of label stock can be made easier and less time consuming for system operators.
Inkjet coders tend to be the easiest type of coding equipment when it comes to consumable replenishment since most inkjet coders can keep running while being refilled. Look for inkjet coders that offer mess free, mistake free refill options like needle and septum systems that prevent leakage and dripping when swapping fluid bottles. This is ideal compared to inkjet coders that require fluid bottles to be manually poured into the system. Another factor to consider is how many touches or actions are required to complete the fluid refill process. Look for systems that provide one-touch fluid refill options as well as variations in shapes and sizes between ink and solvent bottles to simplify the process as much as possible while preventing the wrong fluids from going in the wrong compartments.
Due to the nature of thermal transfer printing, the printer will become temporarily unavailable for coding while ribbon stock needs to be replaced. Look for thermal transfer printers that have an easy-to-web design as well as easy to remove and replace ribbon cassettes. Investing in an additional ribbon cassette that can be loaded and ready to go when ribbon is low minimizes downtime on thermal transfer printers as much as possible.
Like thermal transfer printers, automated labelers also become temporarily available for use when label stock needs to be replaced. Look for an automated labeling system that has an easy label webbing design to make it easy to unload spent stock and load a fresh roll. Manufacturers with high production commands benefit from having alternate labeling machines available. When one machine signals that its label stock is low, the other starts applying labels so that the low system can be replaced. This virtually eliminates downtime with automated labelers.
Although consumable replenishment is required more frequently than maintenance, preventive maintenance procedures take more time to complete and often require the coding equipment to be completely unavailable for printing while being serviced. Not all coding systems are created equal. Service intervals are usually stated in the amount of system hours that can pass before preventive maintenance is required. Things like ink type, manufacturing environment, and overall wear and tear caused by the application can impact recommended system intervals.
For inkjet coders, look for systems that can run as long as a year or more before maintenance is required. Better yet, look for systems that provide advanced warnings about upcoming maintenance so that you can schedule interventions around your production schedule. Another factor to consider is how easy or complicated it is to perform maintenance. Look for systems that have self-contained service modules that can be easily swapped out without the need for a service engineer. Systems that have screen-guided instructions for service interventions tend to be the easiest to use.
For thermal transfer printers, take a look at preventive maintenance requirements that are recommended by the manufacturer. How many parts require replacement? How long does the manufacturer state it will take to perform maintenance? How easy is it to access parts that need to be replaced? These are all important questions to ask when evaluating thermal transfer printers.
When it comes to automated labeling systems, all-electric systems allow you to replace wear parts while relying on pre-programmed settings to get the labeler operating as quickly as possible. Pneumatically operated labeling systems require extensive adjustments after replacing wear parts, making maintenance interventions anything but fast. Also look for labeling systems that offer screen-guided instructions for quick and simple service interventions. Another advantage of all-electric labeling systems over pneumatic is that electric options allow for a gentler application of the label to the substrate. This cuts down on overall wear and tear, allowing the system to go for longer between maintenance intervals.
If you have any questions about how to calculate the uptime of your current coding equipment compared to new coding equipment technology, we are here to help. Contact a Diagraph product identification expert today by calling 1.800.722.1125 or contacting us through our website.
Selecting ink for your inkjet technology – impulse jet, valve jet or thermal jet – requires an understanding of your application and some basic qualities of the inks available. We asked our inkjet experts for key information to help shine some light on understanding the ink options available in the market:
A: All inks are made up of essentially the same things; a solvent, colorant, resins and other additives. It’s the resins and additives that give inks certain properties that allow them to adhere to specific substrates better than others. Solvent is the carrier of the ink. Colorant is what gives the ink the color you see. The resin gives the ink the ability to stick to substrates. The additives are anything else added to the ink to give it a desired property (surface tension modifiers, dispersing aids, gloss reducers, etc.)
A: Simply put, the surface tension of the ink and surface energy of the substrate determine an ink’s adherence. An ink droplet is made up of many molecules of ink. These molecules of ink have to be attracted to each other to form this drop of ink. So, the surface tension is how much they are attracted to each other. If they are highly attracted to each other (water) then the molecules are close together and hold on tightly to each other. When the molecules are not very attracted to each other then they barely hold onto each other and spread out more. It has to do with the charges of the molecule, or lack thereof.
Water is polar, which means it has a negatively charged and a positively charged end. These negative and positive charges attract to each other like magnets do. For example, when the water is placed on a glass, it just beads up and runs off because the glass has no charge (non-polar). The water is not attracted to the glass. However, if we add soap to the water we alter the surface tension and the dynamic changes. Soap molecules have a charged side (polar) and a non-charged side (non-polar). When the soap dissolves in the water it allows the non-polar side to be attracted to other non-polar substances, like glass.
So, to make an ink better adhere to a substrate, additives are used to change the surface tension of the ink to more closely match the surface energy of the substrate.
A: VOC stands for volatile organic compound. With some exceptions, the solvents used in products such as coatings, inks and adhesives are generally classified as VOCs. Unless they are controlled, these solvents are emitted into the air after they perform their function. Thus, solvent emissions from products and industrial operations are one of several significant sources of VOC emissions. Emissions of VOCs, in and of themselves, do not necessarily give rise to health or environmental concerns. In many areas, however, they react with oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in the presence of heat and sunlight to form ground-level ozone – the primary component of “smog.” For that reason, they are regulated as “ozone precursors” under the federal Clean Air Act and similar state laws.
A: Dyes and pigments are both colorants. Dyes are soluble liquids and dissolve into the ink base. They do fade over time. Pigments do not dissolve as they are solids and do not fade. Since they are solid they may settle, or sink, to the bottom of a container if the ink has a low viscosity, or is thin and watery in texture. The weight of the pigments causes the inherent problems with pigmented ink. First, they can actually clog printheads if they’re too large. Secondly, if they are allowed to settle the ink will not have the same color.
It’s the same concept as pouring Italian dressing on your salad without shaking it. The dressing will have a different taste because the ingredients are not mixed.
A: One component of ink that helps it adhere to substrates is resin. The resins allow the ink to spread creating more surface area helping promote adhesion. Resins can be categorized as either brittle, semi-brittle or flexible. If an ink containing a brittle resin, like acrylic, is used to print on film it can ‘flake’ off the film because the resin is stiff and is not able to adhere and conform to the shape of the plastic. If an ink with a flexible resin was used, the resin would be pliable and therefore be able to bend or flex with the film.
Diagraph’s top-performing ink, ScanTrue II Plus, and all valve jet inks are produced in our Marion, Illinois manufacturing facility. All of our inks have been designed to perform at the highest level with Diagraph manufactured inkjet equipment. If you have any questions, or wish to better understand what kind of ink would be optimal for your inkjet application, reach out to our experts!
Continuous inkjet (CIJ) is the technology of choice for food packaging coding as the solvent based inks adhere to a variety of materials like cartons, plastics, films, foils, metal and glass. CIJ is ideal for food packaging in that it offers high speed, non-contact small character printing and enables food processors to incorporate inkjet codes into their functional safety and traceability processes.
Companies that produce food products are very aware of the financial and public health risks of a recall and therefore understand the necessity of being able to track products through the supply chain. For added food safety security, continuous inkjet printers can utilize specialty functional inks:
Thermochromic inks are developed for the canning industry and show a color change effect when processed through a retort or autoclave process. In addition to visual confirmation of successful canning it is a robust ink that penetrates thin coatings of oil and grease and resists removal by oils, waxes, fats and varnishes.
For secure coding of high-end products subject to counterfeiting or for products and packaging that require discrete codes for internal track and trace, identifying origin or verifying authenticity, there are inks that are nearly invisible to the naked eye but fluoresce under UV light. These fast drying, solvent based inks are water resistant once dry.
Traceability of food product is key to a company’s ability to react to a recall. In addition to providing coding technology that allows companies to trace product, Diagraph and Linx offer the following specialty functional coding inks that enhance food safety:
Linx Thermochromic 1281 or 1291
Our choice for fully functional, easy to use inkjet coders are the Linx 8900 Series line of printers. The Linx 8900 Series inkjet printers provide high quality batch, date, lot and expiration codes which are critical components for supply chain traceability. The Linx models are also durable workhorses in wash down environments and are easy-to-use featuring a robust, sealed printhead, one-touch fluid refills, a highly visible touch screen user interface and point-of-print viscosity control. The Linx 8900 Series line of printers support both thermochromic and UV fluorescent ink applications.
Continuous inkjet is just one option for adding essential date codes, lot codes and batch codes to your food and beverage products. Want to learn more about how your choice of coding solution contributes to food safety and traceability? Download our full whitepaper.
Coding for Safety & Traceability in the Food Supply Chain: A Comparison of Continuous Inkjet & Laser Coding
Shopping for a new case coder? Three factors to consider other than price…
Determining case coding costs is more involved than simply locating the sticker price. As it is, we are all prone to compare purchase prices and lean towards the least expensive model. However, when shopping for any case coding ink jet printer, there are three main factors you want to keep in mind.
We have all heard the saying “You get what you pay for,” and this rings especially true with ink jet printers. While they are all created to perform the same purpose, the differences can be seen in how they drive, reliability and longevity. Which makes you have to decide, do you want to pay more now for a higher quality machine, or pay later for costly repairs and downtime with a lesser machine?
Downtime & Maintenance Costs:
10 minutes to start up your printer each morning may seem like a brief time, but when you think about it, that is almost one hour per workweek. One hour per week that your production line is not running, and one hour per week of unnecessary labor costs. This adds up to be a significant amount of money very quickly.
Do not forget to account for routine maintenance. Do you have to shut down the production line in order to add solvents and inks? Or can these be added as needed without any disruption? Less downtime equals more production, which leads to a larger profit.
The last thing you need to take into consideration when purchasing your next printer is the cost of consumables such as inks, solvents and replacement parts. Think not only in terms of the price, but the frequency at which they need to be replaced.
Even though there may be a difference in sticker price initially, the total cost of ownership is what you should take into consideration. For a complete cost analysis on your next printer, contact us here.