Ready to Eat Meals are terrifically convenient and, in a world where time is a premium, are part of a growing market. In addition to convenience and taste, Ready to Eat Meal producers look to differentiate themselves from competitors with clever use of packaging. As a result, meal packaging can be found in a variety of substrates; shrink wrap trays, pouches, chip board carton, and plastic cups to name a few.
Ready to Eat Meal producers need to put expiration dates on these various substrates. Although laws vary by state and only baby formula has a federal regulation on “Use By”, “Sell By” or “Best Before” date coding, consumers look for this information before making a purchase. Continuous Inkjet Printing (CIJ) is often the preferred method to achieve date coding. Continuous Inkjet offers high-speed, non-contact marking using solvent based inks to print variable information on a wide variety of substrates.
Efficiency is of utmost importance to food producers and packagers. It is critical for all machinery on a food packaging production line to operate with maximum uptime and reliability. To meet that expectation Linx Printing Technologies introduces their CIJ model 8900. The Linx 8900 was designed with features that keep your coding machine ready to run and running reliably. The 8900 is a CIJ printer capable of printing up to three lines of text, logos and barcodes, and was designed for maximum efficiency and minimal effort. Its stainless steel cabinet boasts an IP55 rating which makes it suitable for a wash-down environment.
Maintenance is a key component with CIJ technology. CIJ printers require cleaning and periodic changes of filters. Keeping a printer and printhead clean is the key to peak performance. The 8900 model has proven Linx components along with new features all designed to run clean and increase uptime.
Like all Linx CIJ printers, the 8900 features a hermetically sealed printhead with no adjustable parts. No adjustments results in more uptime and less risk of damage which could lead to unplanned downtime. The printhead automatically flushes at both start up and shut down which allows you to go up to 100 starts and stops (3 months) without manual cleaning, and delivers strong performance in harsh, dusty or wet environments.
Incorrect fluids refills will shut a coding printer and thus a production line down. Linx is known for their commitment to mess free and mistake proof fluids refills. They’ve taken this commitment to the next level with the introduction of a larger capacity one-touch cartridge fluid refill system. It could not be simpler. Open the front cabinet, insert a cartridge and shut the door. Solvent and Ink cartridges incorporate RFID technology which communicates with the printer to assure proper fluids are being installed. Fluids can be filled while printing.
Also contributing to maximum uptime is the ability for customers to service printers themselves. Filter changes can be predictably scheduled around production time with the use of Easi-Change® Service Modules. Changing out the filters is a simple 15 minute procedure.
The sealed printhead, auto-flushing procedure, cartridge fluid system and the ability to complete your own service maintenance all contribute to the 8900 printers’ ability to be ready to print when you are.
Fast-paced lifestyles of the working class and a growing number of Millennials demanding on-the-go options are two contributing factors to the rise in the ready-to-eat (RTE) prepared foods market with a projected CAGR of 7.2% between 2016-2026. (Source: Ready-to-Eat Food Market: Meat/Poultry Segment Expected to Dominate Market from 2016 to 2026: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment, 2016-2026)
What exactly classifies a product as RTE? According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a ready-to-eat product is defined as “animal or plant derived food that is cooked, frozen, washed, cooked for hot holding, cooled, and processed to be consumed directly or after heating.”
Packaging for RTE food products can come in many forms or in a variety of materials including aluminum foils, extruded polyethylene, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and cellophane. These types of materials offer versatility for keeping food shelf-stable, while utilizing less shelf space and materials than traditional tin cans and many allow for cooking food directly within the package for eating or serving. A common RTE package used for microwaveable soups, sauces, rice and pasta dishes are stand-up pouches. This flexible packaging format is also commonly seen in prepared baby foods, juices, yogurts and wet pet foods.
These newly designed packages raise questions on how to properly make required expiration and identification marks. Consider the following factors:
Packaging substrate – Most common RTE meal packaging is made up of non-porous plastics or foils, meaning your mark either requires ink or ribbon that will adhere to non-porous surfaces for a permanent mark solution
Branding – Consumers value freshness, portion control, and perceived health benefits of these RTE products meaning new creative packaging innovations are necessary to stand out on the shelves. This requires finesse from the manufacturer or packager in strategically placing freshness dates in locations on the product that are easily visible by consumers and maintain permanency without compromising the integrity of the brand packaging
Integration – If your product is packaged via a vertical or horizontal form fill and seal machine, consider marking and coding printers that will most easily integrate into that process to still achieve demanding throughput goals
If you’re a food manufacturer focused on the ready-to-eat meal or snack market, it is critical to have the right partner in place to assist with marking and coding solutions that won’t disrupt your operation. According to the study Ready-to-Eat Food Market, the North American RTE market is forecasted to be valued at $78.73 billion. (Source: Ready-to-Eat Food Market: Meat/Poultry Segment Expected to Dominate Market from 2016 to 2026: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment, 2016-2026)
Our experts are ready to speak with you about how our thermal transfer overprinters or continuous inkjet systems can meet your product identification needs.
No longer is it the case that snacks are packaged specifically for children’s lunch boxes. Today, the snack market is heavily geared towards adults with 94% of adults snacking at least once a day and 50% snacking 2 to 3 times a day.* Snack producers are tasked with changing traditional packaging to address a different kind of consumer.
To stay on top of fluctuating snack market trends, food companies find they need to develop new packaging such as single-serve packs, convenient on-the-go solutions, and sustainable “green” packaging. Aside from creating a trendy and appealing packaging aesthetic, snack packaging frequently requires variable codes such as “Best By” or expiration dates. With consumers growing more and more health-conscious, some code requirements include allergen information, genetic modification information, and country of origin.
Many snack food companies make use of continuous ink jet (CIJ) printing technology to meet these coding requirements. CIJ is cost- effective and has a wide range of fluids to ensure coding adhesion and legibility on both porous and non-porous packaging like cardboard, plastics, metal, glass, or flexible packaging. At a minimum, your CIJ equipment must be able to produce legible and durable date, lot, and identification codes on a variety of substrates. However, there are other key features to look for when selecting a continuous ink jet printer to keep your snack packaging operations in uptime by minimizing maintenance and human errors including:
Given the wide variety of packages and product types at snack food manufacturers, the flexibility offered by CIJ is also considered an appealing benefit. Leading systems’ printheads can be used in any orientation with 360 degree printhead positioning and many can be moved from line to line to accommodate many shapes, sizes, and levels of packaging.
Diagraph offers the Linx 8900 Series CIJ printers to help our customers produce a long lasting, quality mark on a variety of packaging materials. The 8900 Series is designed with many smart, easy-to-use features to keep your production line up and running. Live chat with one of our equipment specialists to learn more. Or, read up on the latest innovations in snack food packaging in our latest whitepaper.
2018: Innovations in Snack Food Packaging
Analogue coding technology is still found throughout the meat processing industry, such as hot stamp or roller coders. As a relatively cheap printing solution, these could be used by meat processors to keep costs down on their fast production lines.
Of all the analogue coding technologies available, hot foil stamping is perhaps the most common in meat processing. Our best-of-industry Norwood hot stamp printers are still widely used today. With that being said, relying on analogue based technology can have its drawbacks, and that’s where digital coders come in.
The drawbacks of analogue coding technology
When it comes to analogue coding, the messages that are available for coding are restricted by the amount of information that can actually fit on the die wheel. Therefore, the coders are not as flexible as they could be when it comes to having to incorporate larger messages on the pack. Also, with hot stamp technology, there is a wait for the coder to ‘warm up’ – meaning that valuable coding time is lost through setup.
In an industry dealing with fresh produce where packers need to respond to changing legislation quickly and efficiently, having a technology that needs this amount of time to set up is not ideal in many meat processing lines. Also, errors in coding cannot easily be amended, as codes are manually changed on the die wheel which means stopping the printer, removing the die wheel and replacing individual characters which is a fiddly and time-consuming process. Worn code wheels can also potentially lead to perforation of the packaging, something that could potentially lead to scrappage.
Hot foil stamping is also a contact technology, something that could further constrain the speed of the production line, and even present packers with problems when it comes to maintaining the hygiene of their line.
Digital coding and marking technology in meat processing
SmithersPira has recently examined the benefits of digital coding for many industries including food manufacturing. Their analysis of other industries helps to highlight the advantages of digital coders within the meat processing sector.
For example, when looking at drug production lines, the requirement for frequent and error-free changeovers would appear to be a driver towards the implementation of digital technologies. This is no different in the meat processing industry, where errors in coding could lead to potentially costly downtime or scrappage.
The research also identifies how digital coders can help packers deliver consistent traceability. With late-stage customization for example, when codes need to be added or changed at the last moment, flexibility becomes a primary concern for packers – something that is not delivered as effectively with analogue coding technology. And with a reduction in errors as mentioned above comes more effective traceability.
Not only can all of this be delivered by digital coders, but the non-contact nature of the machinery can help to maintain hygiene and even deliver codes at faster speeds.
Therefore with fewer errors, flexibility, and faster, more consistent coding, digital technology represents a more cost effective solution for meat processors in the long term. And with uncontrollable variables such as adverse weather events, disease outbreaks and increased competition from seafood, meat processors need to deliver codes in an effective way that allows margins to be maintained.
To discover more about what digital coding technologies are suited for the meat industry, have a look at our meat processing industry white paper.
Want help analyzing the best use of analogue and digital coding technologies in your meat packing facility? We manufacture, sell and service both analogue and digital coding solutions. We work closely with customers like you to determine which coding solution is right for your manufacturing environment and application needs. Contact us today to get the conversation started.
Read a version of this article specific to European meat and poultry manufacturers.
Not all inkjet printheads are created equal. Some printheads are designed to offer superior uptime performance, making them easier to operate and use when coding product. Look for the following features when choosing an inkjet coder, whether it is a small character inkjet coder for printing on primary product packaging or a high resolution large character inkjet coder for printing on cases:
Inkjet printheads featuring stainless steel construction and sealed designs withstand wear and tear better than those constructed with plastic. When examining the printhead materials, also look for whether or not wires are exposed during the cleaning process and whether or not printheads allow for adjustments. Exposed wires and printhead adjustments put the printhead at risk of damage, making them less durable and reliable. Opt for an inkjet coder that features a printhead that is durable enough to require no printhead adjustments for long-term ease of use.
Inkjet printheads that offer automatic cleaning capabilities allow for less human handling of the equipment, minimizing the opportunity to damage the equipment. Hands free cleaning capabilities also allow for printheads to run cleaner for longer, giving manufacturers as much run-time before interventions are required. The best cleaning systems allow printheads to code onto products without encountering printer faults or degrading code quality, with manufacturers able to run the inkjet coders for weeks and months before manual cleaning of the printheads are required.
Although inkjet coders are considered non-contact coders, it never fails that a product is sent down the packaging line skewed, causing it to come into direct contact with the printhead. When this happens, poorly designed and constructed printheads encounter major issues with internal components falling out of alignment and air pockets being introduced into the ink lines. Well-constructed printheads have potted components that are strong enough to withstand these types of impacts. Some inkjet coders also feature material handling mechanisms that gently guide the printhead away from the product to minimize the impact on the printhead.
Interested in upgrading your inkjet coding technology, but not sure where to start? Speak with a Diagraph product identification expert today by calling 1.800.722.1125 or contacting us through the website.
No one wants to risk their health or the health of their family by bringing home dairy products with indistinguishable expiration dates. Regardless if your dairy plant produces fluid milk, cheese, yogurt or ice cream, if your product does not have a legible expiration date on it, chances are your product will remain on grocer’s shelves but too many instances of poor quality codes will put the dairy processors relationship with the grocer at risk.
Non-contact coders such as the Linx 8900 Series continuous inkjet (CIJ) are an ideal choice for dairy packaging as it allows high speed printing of variable information on a variety of substrates such as PET bottles, foil sealed cups and resealable pouches. The printer is built for harsh industrial environments with refrigeration and washdown requirements. It has a completely sealed printhead and solid stainless steel construction.
Linx 8900 Series printers are right at home in dairies, but how do you ensure your code adhesion and readability? Linx offers a variety of functional coding inks. Here are our top 5 recommended inks designed to meet the performance needs of dairy products.
Not sure which ink type is right for your coding application? Contact Diagraph today to learn more about our Linx ink selection and to request print samples for your diary product coding application. Call 1.800.722.1125 or contact us through the website.
Coding is a CRAFT
Top 3 Tips for Choosing a Coding Provider
It can be difficult to choose a marking, coding and labeling equipment provider with so many available. These tips will help you find the best provider for your business:
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. Visit us at www.diagraph.com or contact us at 800.722.1125.