By Chris Pangallo, Product Manager – Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) and Laser
Many companies have the need to mark discrete variable information such as lot codes and expiration dates on their products. One of the best solutions available to address this need is Continuous Ink Jet printers (CIJ). CIJ offers non-contact high speed coding with immediate dry times resulting from the solvent based inks that are used.
Back in the day, CIJ technology relied on factory supplied air to produce the pressure required to both push drops of ink out of a printhead and to suction drops through a gutter to be recycled into the ink delivery system (this recycling is the “Continuous” part of CIJ). Linx Printing Technologies was the first CIJ producer to introduce a printer that generates its own pressure by using an internal pump. This provided both operational savings and increased printer uptime. CIJ was free of factory air!
So, why would you want to add air back to a CIJ printer?
CIJ fluid is returned to the ink delivery system via a gutter in the printhead. With this cycle there is a risk for contaminants such as water vapor, dust, or other particulates to be introduced into the ink system. The addition of Positive Air minimizes the introduction of contaminants.
Positive Air is an option for Linx printers. It does not rely on factory air. It is a pump connected by tubing to a CIJ printhead. The pump provides a consistent 8 psi airflow that pressurizes the printhead cover without disturbing the ink jet stream. The airflow acts to prohibit the introduction of contaminants into the ink delivery system, resulting in longer ink life. With the reduction in contaminants, the ink has better retention of conductivity and less variance in viscosity. Overall printer performance is improved with less wear on internal filters and in some cases extends the amount of time between Preventative Maintenance.
There is a small effect of solvent loss from the jet as the air flows over it, but this is marginal. And there is no real increase in gutter flow, as the air flows down and out of the hole at the front of the printhead cover tube.
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.
By Chris Pangallo, Product Manager -- Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) & Laser
Meat packers face challenges in maintaining compliance with coding regulations not found in other production environments. As in many industries, traceability and expiration dates are required for their products, but successfully executing this coding is a challenge because many meat packing plants run 24/7 in an extremely cold, damp and humid environment. This combination of environmental factors is hard on all marking and coding equipment. One solution for meat packing plants is Continuous Ink Jet (CIJ) printing. CIJ is a non-contact, indelible, high speed coding solution, perfect for applying variable data onto packaged meats. What is not so perfect for CIJ is the environment found in refrigerated meat plants.
But we have good news. There are options available with Linx CIJ printers that address the specific challenges found in the harsh meat plant production environment. The following options are recommended to keep your printers and your production running with maximum uptime.
Want a full review of which coding technologies make the cut in meat processing environments? Download our latest whitepaper for details.
The Linx model 5900 and 7900 printers have clamshell design cold-drawn stainless steel enclosures. The printers are available with IP55 or IP65 ratings, and are suitable for wash-down environments that are part of overall hygiene standards required in meat packaging.
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!
During the COVID-19 pandemic, manufacturers in essential industries such as food, hygiene products, and medical supplies are needed more than ever. It’s critical that these products continue to be produced and shipped in a timely manner, to support the growing demand. Current manufacturers are doing the best they can to keep their production up at this time. And moreover, companies in industries from cosmetics to breweries to sustainable clothing are pivoting in the face of the COVID-19 disaster.
But maintaining or increasing production to meet demand during this time, while vital, also brings challenges -- including gaps in the supply chain, dealing with new and heightened hygiene and safety requirements, and navigating new packaging compliance requirements during a company pivot.
There’s no place on the planet that is not being impacted by COVID-19. With the globalization of manufacturer supply chains over the past several decades, this means that almost no supply chain will be unaffected by the crisis. Freight shipping has been drastically reduced in an attempt to help slow the spread of the virus. Truck driver shortages were already being reported before the spread of COVID-19, and now the demand for their services has only increased. With shelter in place orders, regions closing and opening on an unpredictable schedule, facilities having to follow quarantine restrictions, even essential manufacturers will be seeing shifts in their businesses.
To further complicate matters, supply chain disruptions cause food that is desperately needed to instead be wasted, as perishable food products are unable to reach market. Milk, for example, has been hit particularly hard already, as the U.S. government has been asking dairy farmers to dump their supply. Meat and produce can be frozen, grain can be moved into siloes, but milk and many other dairy products cannot be kept from spoiling over the long term and those dairy farmers are scrambling to pivot their bulk production to retail packaging.
Your company will be dealing with many potential points of failure across the supply chain. And there are more challenges to overcome as well.
Food, medical supplies, and other essential industries cannot afford to cut back production like other industries. But the workers in these industries are already seeing a much higher rate of infection than the general population. In North Carolina, 23 meatpacking plants have reported outbreaks, with more than 1,300 workers testing positive for COVID-19. And a meatpacking plant in Minnesota has reported almost 200 cases among its workers.
It’s more important than ever that companies implement good hygienic practices to keep workers safe. Proper deep cleaning procedures and 2-week quarantine periods can take time away from the production output of goods or shut down a plant all together. However, these measures ensure the health and safety of essential employees who are mission critical to meeting production demands that fuel the economy.
A number of companies in non-essential industries are pivoting to provide essential supplies during this crisis. Breweries and distilleries are producing and shipping hand sanitizer, due to having the majority of the ingredients already in-house. Meanwhile, restaurants are selling groceries, and the dairy farms that previously sold in bulk are switching over to serve more direct retail clients.
But switching over production means new compliance requirements. Additionally, processing and coding technologies that worked well for previous product needs may not be suited to print on new substrates. With so many challenges being faced, how can manufacturers keep up? Luckily, it can be fast and easy to shift to a new product coding solution.
Small character inkjet coders, for instance, are a great solution for manufacturers wanting to add new printers on their line or for those manufacturers who have switched over to packaging hand sanitizer or more retail packaged foods. Alcohol resistant inks are even available to ensure proper code adhesion even on hand sanitizer products or to withstand more rigorous cleaning procedures. More advanced continuous inkjet systems have simple set-up requirements, making self-installation achievable for facilities keeping a lockdown on visitors.
And in this time of economic uncertainty, manufacturers can lease coding equipment, spreading out payments instead of having to spend a large amount of capital upfront for new printing systems. For operations requiring consumables like inks, ribbons or on-the-shelf spare parts, supplier partners can work up blanket contracts to ensure savings over the long-run. There are multiple ways manufacturers during this time of crisis can meet current and new coding demands in a cost-efficient way.
The landscape of business everywhere is changing rapidly and even essential business manufacturers will be feeling the impact of these changes.
Your company will be dealing with many challenges during this time -- potential points of failure across the supply chain, the dangers of pivoting, rigorous new safety and hygiene requirements. Don’t let your product coding be one of these new challenges. Not when the solution can be so simple. Talk with a Diagraph Marking & Coding consultant to understand your options if you’re being met with coding challenges in your production and we will help you understand your solution options and how to implement them.
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.