By Eric Janes, Laser Product Manager
We all know that bigger is better and we all want more. It’s what we do, right? If 10 of something is good, then getting 20 of it is great, and 30 of it is fantastic! Well that is up until we have to pay for it anyway. When cost becomes the focus of our attention, it’s safe to say that less is more. Regardless of what we are buying, we need to look at what we need, and this tampers down all the enthusiasm for bigger is better. A Bugatti Veyron could get me to the office faster than almost any other car on the road, but with a growing family that spends its time in the Suburbs and semi-rural areas, a minivan with a bunch of cup holders ranks higher on the “needs” list.
With laser coding we should take needs into consideration in each application, and power may or may not factor into it. Yes, lasers can really power up if you want to go looking for power. While much of the technology has consolidated, choices in power ratings seem to keep increasing. In some respects it’s almost as if there is a nuclear arms race in laser power rating. Sure you have 10 watt lasers in your widget plant, but the guy on the other side of the business park just got 50 watt lasers on his bottling lines. You might be missing something, and need to upgrade, right?
Probably not, and here are some straight forward concepts to keep in mind with laser coding and power ratings. First, you are going to pay for power. No if and or buts about it, regardless of laser type, as the power rating goes up, so will your cost of equipment. Economically, it’s in your interest to get the lowest power laser possible.
Second, what power really gets you is speed on production lines. Often power is thought of as “burning harder” into materials and while there is truth to that, the reason we burn harder is most likely to keep up with production rates. Low power lasers can mark most product and packaging materials…if we give them enough time. We are talking seconds for some materials, whereas for many coding operations a typical message might code in the range of 100 milliseconds, or even less for high speed lines.
So the bottom line becomes, what material are we marking and how fast is it moving through production? When we dial in on these factors with testing and sample codes, we can narrow it down to the lowest power option. This will help make the project justification and keep your line operators from slicing open the new plastic bottles on your brand new conveyors.
If you are near the top of the chosen lasers output, there is a question left to ask and it might make the case for tweaking up the power. So, what does your crystal ball say? If your line speeds and production might increase, or your materials might change, a power upgrade might be sensible. Typically, lasers last a long time without much intervention. So while some coding technology can get cycled on a regular basis, you want to plan ahead with lasers.
At Diagraph Marking & Coding, we’ve got the people and experience to work with you, in your plant and with your crystal ball, to work out the best, but not necessarily the biggest, solution. We’ll focus on coding for cost, letting you manage your business.
A different laser technology has been getting some new press lately, thanks in part to growth in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) market. Fiber lasers aren’t new, but their application in the consumer packaged goods market has definitely hit a growth spurt. Product packaging is evolving and making use of different materials, like High Density Polyethylene or HDPE which is most desirable for its high-quality presentation, durability, and versatility in handling liquids from automotive oils to shampoo and specialty drinks. It’s no mistake then that the fastest growing laser marking technology is fiber laser which has the ability to mark directly onto HDPE as well as a range of materials not previously well served with CO2 lasers.
What then, are the other key differences between CO2 and fiber lasers?:
Fiber lasers don’t necessarily use more power, but do use power differently. The laser beam produced is in a different part of the light spectrum and is a much tighter beam. This is what allows the laser to mark materials that other lasers can’t, such as HDPE. Or, mark into other materials better such as rubber and metals.
By comparison, fiber laser can be quite small and compact. Instead of a bulky tube of gas, fiber lasers use optical fiber as their lasing medium. The exact science of it can be quite detailed but the bottom line is: these lasers are compact and have a small footprint. This allows for easy and convenient installation to the packaging line.
Like most industrial equipment, fiber lasers do come with their own set of safety requirements which can be managed safely through proper guarding and training.
CO2 Versus Fiber Laser Feature Comparison
Comparison of CO2 and Fiber Laser Marking Materials
The good news in the FMCG packaging and product identification market space is that there are lot of new materials and innovative packaging designs. Even better, Linx Printing Technologies has introduced a fiber laser with easy integration, reliable operation, and the flexibility to deliver high quality codes across the widest range of materials for both static and dynamic applications. This durable product, which includes the IP54 rated marking head, enables the coders to operate in more challenging environments with the fiber laser beam source lasting more than 100,000 hours.
If you have any questions about the benefits of lasers, or specifically about the Linx FSL20 (20W fiber) or FSL50 (50W fiber), 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!
(March 1, 2017) - Linx Printing Technologies is launching two laser coders that will open up the benefits of laser technology to more companies and applications. Key benefits of the new Linx CSL range are even faster printing speeds and greater versatility, making the coders ideal for a wider variety of products. Quicker and easier installation and set-up help to make laser coding simpler and more accessible.
The Linx CSL10 (10 watt) and CSL30 (30 watt) laser coders feature a new, more powerful processing board with the ability to relay the message from the control unit to the marking head more quickly, delivering higher speeds. Ideal for the requirements of high speed packing and bottling lines, the coder can handle complex messages and graphics without any loss of quality. Both models apply crisp codes onto many different packaging materials including coated paper and card, plastic, glass, rubber, coated metal and anodized aluminum.
A new marking head has been introduced for wide web applications, enabling the coders to code across multiple lines using just a single laser where previously two machines would have been required. An area of up to 440mm x 600mm can be coded – ideal for applications such as flexible sheet for lids.
In addition, a wider range of marking heads and positions mean that the Linx lasers offer over 20,000 standard configurations, and can therefore be tailored to the precise requirements of each coding application. This unique feature makes the Linx CSL10 and CSL30 the most versatile laser coders available. Tailoring the laser application to the customer’s precise requirements means optimal use is made of the laser system, contributing to the lasers’ long tube life.
An increased choice of conduit lengths – 3, 5 and new 10m sizes – together with a more flexible conduit design, detachable marking head, connectors and conduit, and quick disconnect umbilical cable, have made installation of the coders easier, particularly where the lasers cannot be placed close to the power supply or where space is limited. These same features speed up service times and make it simpler to relocate the machines in the factory.
Both models can be specified in an IP65 version, allowing the coder to operate in harsh, wet and dusty environments such as frozen, dairy, beverage, chemicals and construction.
Both the Linx CSL10 and Linx CSL30 retain the proven features of Linx laser technology including a highly efficient operating system that delivers one of the longest tube lives on the market – around 45,000 hours – and its unique VisiCode® function for producing unsurpassed high quality codes on glass and PET while reducing energy usage by up to 50%. An enhanced version of its LinxVision® operating system allows for fast and simple set-up that minimizes errors.
About Diagraph, An ITW Company
Diagraph, An ITW Company is a leading manufacturer and distributor of marking, coding and labeling systems and supplies, and has been in the product identification industry for over 120 years. Diagraph’s products include all-electric printer applicator labeling systems, Linx continuous ink jet and laser coders, large character ink jet printing systems and thermal transfer overprinting systems. For more information, call 800.722.1125 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A look at how power efficiency impacts total cost of ownership in automated labeling systems
By Steve Dods, Automated Labeling Products (ALP) and Thermal Transfer Overprinter (TTO) Products Manager
We didn’t give much thought to the price of gasoline until it reached over $2 dollars a gallon, now we watch the price per gallon daily. The same theory holds true in regards to the power it takes to run equipment on our plant floor, until now. Take heed, power efficiency can save more than just a few pennies! Not all Label Applicators are created equal and the savings when operating a power efficient unit adds up.
True cost of ownership includes the replacement items, maintenance, downtime, and consumables that the project will use to perform the intended job. It also includes the power to run the system, which is usually thought of as “pennies to operate”. The real cost of power adds up quickly, and even though air is free, compressed air is not.
The cost of power as it relates to the national average cost of electricity is around $0.10 per Kilowatt Hour (2008, US Government, Energy Information Administration). The typical cost for generating compressed air is approximately $0.25 per cubic foot/minute and only represents the energy it takes to run a compressor, not the other factors such as maintenance and alike. Using this information, the annual cost to run the equipment can be calculated and compared.
Generally, label applicators are wipe-on units. Looking at various manufacturers, there is a difference in power consumption that is largely based on the technology used. A brushless DC motor is far more efficient than a comparable stepper motor-based unit. There is over $500 of savings to be had annually when comparing the annual cost of running a motor with a power requirement of 1.5A@115VAC versus 5A@115VAC or above.
Most printer applicator systems are “tamp” or “air-tamp” and require compressed air. The label dispenses from the printer off the label carrier and is positioned onto a vacuumed surface that holds the label in place until it is applied to the substrate. Making efficient use of the vacuum bore size of the cylinder, and using a higher quality of pneumatic components, some manufacturers are able to use less CFM than most others. An average cost savings of over $600 was confirmed when comparing printer applicators using 2.5 CFM verses 5 CFM.
Looking at the cost of ownership in terms of power reveals that pennies do add up, and the manufacturer using a brushless DC motor offers its customers continued savings throughout the life of the unit. For more information on power efficiency and Automated Labeling Products visit www.diagraph.com or call 1-800-722-1125.
You went to the trouble to build a factory, develop a product, built the production line, worked out operations, purchased all the raw materials, toiled hours longer than you should have on the perfect package design, and then do what at the end of it? Smear some code on the corner that’s supposed to stand out to the customer? Good news – you don’t have to deal with smudged codes anymore.
To avoid smeared, smudged and illegible date and lot codes, turn to the high print quality made possible from today’s scribing lasers. Yes, there is a past where lasers were producing a “dot matrix” type of code too, but thanks to better controllers and development, we’re past all that history. Today’s lasers fire a single beam that is digitally controlled and “writes” across the surface being marked with smooth fonts, high quality graphics and bar codes when needed.
A lot of end user packaging is coated paper and, when coupled with scribing lasers, produces exceptional print quality. No, lasers won’t print in color – that’s a technology off in the future. We achieve the high contrast by ablating away the top layer of print exposing the lower bleached or kraft paper color.
Simple messages are a slam dunk in this type of application, but complex messages such as those with bar codes or graphics are not too difficult either. They do require some design, and a good software package to drive the laser. Most likely you will want to control separately the different elements of the message. This allows setting different mark delays and times to correctly image those elements on the package.
Using the Linx Laser Systems, Diagraph can help you produce great marks on your products. We have the latest in lasers and software to produce the best mark without overpowering, or overselling, the application.
View The complete line of Diagraph Label Applicators
It is estimated by the US Grocery Manufacturers Association that over half of recalls cost companies over $10M. In addition to the financial implications, recalls for defective products could be harmful to the health of your customers and ultimately damaging to your reputation. These two major factors support the necessity of product identification in the form of date codes, lot codes and batch codes to track and trace in the event of a recall.
Two common automated marking and coding solutions for food packaging are continuous inkjet and laser coding. Which solution best fits your application is dependent on a number of factors. To help you in this evaluation process, we have outlined a few consideration questions:
Continuous Inkjet Considerations
Continuous inkjet (CIJ) can mark onto virtually any substrate type, rounded or flat, ranging from plastic bags, glass jars, metal cans, paper cartons and more. Because of the variety of ink types and colors available, you can achieve a high-contrast mark on nearly any color packaging.
Laser Coding Considerations
Laser, by comparison, creates a permanent mark on most surfaces although not all packaging types will guarantee a high-contrast batch, lot or date code. The etched marks from laser will last, although on clear plastics and glass the coding may not be as easily visible as black ink from CIJ.
Continuous Inkjet & Laser Coding Considerations
Accurate batch, date and expiration codes are essential for customers and retailers alike. If your production lines perform multiple changeovers for different products each shift, this leaves room for errors. Leading CIJ and laser solutions have features for storing unique, variable messages and icon-based interfaces that can be operated without extensive training for message creation and retrieval. Reliable, accurate coding methods will keep your line running in uptime and ensure speedy recall of products in that event.
If your products have high retail value, they may be susceptible to counterfeiting. There are internal tracking and security codes that can be made on a product discreetly, that are only visible under certain circumstances by the manufacturer to verify authenticity and product origin. For CIJ, one option is security UV inks that are nearly invisible until exposed to UV light.
The low-contrast, permanent marks created from laser etching are a benefit in the case of anti-counterfeiting codes. Codes can be applied to packaging in an inconspicuous location without compromising the appeal of the packaging design.
These are only a few considerations to keep in mind when selecting between continuous inkjet and laser coding for your food or beverage packaging line. For more information on how coding ties into food safety and traceability, download our full whitepaper.
Coding for Safety & Traceability in the Food Supply Chain: A Comparison of Continuous Inkjet & Laser Coding