Selecting the Right Ribbon
The packaging of your product is extremely important, it is a first impression and we all know how important those are. There is a whole science when it comes to packaging, from the way that the consumers place the packaging in their minds to the appeal that the packaging has on their emotions. As manufacturers we want the packaging to look good, but sometimes that extra shine that the film supplier said would enhance your packaging throws a curveball when it comes to printing important information such as lot numbers, date codes or even pricing.
For example, at Diagraph we sometimes hear from customers that say “your ribbon was working fine until it just stopped working halfway through the roll. What happened with the last 300’ of ribbon?” The reason is usually simple. The ribbon formula has not changed. However, that new batch of film that you received from your film supplier may contain a bit more Silicone or Teflon to prevent the film from sticking on the roll or to make the appearance a tad bit shinier. These are instances when you want to inquire about the foil formula with your supplier.
The good news is that you have options. In fact, Diagraph offers many different formulations of Norwood ribbon to allow us to offer solutions for most films. The coating and chemical make-up of the film is what drives the ribbon formulation. We offer wax, wax/resin, and resin ribbons and within each of these 3 categories we offer a number of formulas and colors. If you have a new film or want to know what formulation will be the best option for your film, our Norwood Ribbon experts offer free film testing.
As if that wasn’t enough complexity for a simple 5 digit code, there is also the print head type that will determine which formula will work. Thermal transfer has 3 different print head technologies: true, flat and near. The most common of the 3 are near and flat and they are defined by the angle that the print head has relative to the actual substrate. Different formulas of ribbon are designed for the different print head technologies. A near edge ribbon cannot be expected to work on a flat edge printer and vice versa.
So next time that the film supplier calls and says “We just got this new coating in and it will make your packaging sparkle and shine” ask for a sample of that film to be sent over to Diagraph to see if that “sparkle and shine” is something that can keep your thermal code sticking. We can help you proactively address any issues to ensure that you have the right ribbon for your new foil.
At Diagraph, we are dedicated to solving your coding and labeling challenges. Diagraph has been assisting customers for over 120 years by improving production line efficiencies with simple, reliable and cost-effective coding and labeling solutions. Contact us to learn more about the Norwood ribbon line. Visit us at www.diagraph.com or contact us at 800.722.1125.
Thermal Transfer Printhead Technologies in Print and Apply Labeling
By Steve Dods, Automated Labeling Products (ALP) and Thermal Transfer Overprinter (TTO) Products Manager
There are two common types of thermal transfer (TT) printheads in industrial print and apply labeling systems. One version is the Flat Head TT type, which has a relatively parallel contact between the heating elements of the printhead and the ribbon/label. The other is a Near-Edge TT type, which angles the head up to 45 degrees. There are advantages and disadvantages to these two types of technologies, which is why both existing in industrial printing.
OEM industrial print engines, such as SATO and Zebra
Labeling system manufacturer's proprietary printer (VideoJet) and TTO (Thermal Transfer Overprinters)
Typically 5 million lineal inches, with proper cleaning and care
Typically 2.5 million lineal inches, with proper cleaning and care
Price (4" wide)
Around $450 to $700
Around $1000 to $1300
Up to 16 inches per second
Up to 19.7 inches per second
Consumable Cost (600m Ribbon)
$15 to $20 per roll,
Wax, Wax Resin, or Resin
$23 to $30 per roll,
Wax Resin or Resin only
Head mount adjustments required
Less or no adjustment required
Near edge TT print heads are optimal for high-speed printing on surfaces that may have some variances, like film webs. They are mainly seen in these applications, where the alternative technology is ink jet or laser. Flat head technology is ideal for longer life, lower consumable cost, and lower overall replacement cost. As with most competing technologies, it comes down to the application requirements. For print and apply applications, the reliable and less expensive selection has been the venerable Flat Head TT print head.
For more information on print and apply applications click here. Or contact us at 800.722.1125.
All-inclusive service agreements have their perks:
But how do you know if an all-inclusive service agreement is right for your facility?
There are several factors to consider, including:
At Diagraph, we offer our Premier Service Program to deliver predictable on-going service and maintenance costs even when customers are faced with worst-case scenarios. All repair costs, including parts and labor, are covered by the program. The program package is purchased for a specified number of years at the time of purchasing the equipment. The cost of the program can be paid entirely upfront or can be broken out over a series of months when bundled into an equipment leasing package.
Interested in purchasing Diagraph coding and labeling equipment with Premier Service Program coverage? Speak with a Diagraph representative today by calling 1.800.722.1125 or contacting us through the website.
Have you ever purchased an item from the store, and later at home wondered why they used a label that doesn't easily come off of your new item? Have you seen labels that are hardly attached to the side of an item at Home Depot and wonder how many of those labels never even made the trip to the destination store? Well, you are not alone, sadly, and the better question is how much is that adding cost in the supply chain or turning off customers? Now that sticker wisdom can be found in a simple table below:
Good initial tack
Not easily removed
Primary product marketing label
Label will be a heavier weight - may require additional labeler system set up specifics
Label rolls should be stored at room temperature - heating device needed on label roll in point of use area
Air-knives to clear as much water as possible recommended
Bottling / Jars
Very heavy adhesive that generally does not do well with paper label substrates
Fruit, vegetable, and nut case-level packaging
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.
If you haven’t had a top-to-bottom review of your coding and labeling operations within the past 5 to 10 years, you are probably overdue for a comprehensive product identification site audit. Technological advancements have allowed for manufacturers to achieve greater efficiencies and accuracy with their product coding efforts for all levels of packaging – from primary products all the way to pallet level labeling.
Diagraph can take the guess work out of coding and labeling operational best practices by offering free comprehensive site audits. We make a series of recommendations that span anywhere from making modifications to current equipment or practices for enhanced productivity to the complete retooling of your product identification operation to help you achieve your production and packaging compliance goals.
Our site audits include a close review of the following key areas:
After reviewing these key areas and other aspects of your packaging compliance requirements, we provide a site audit report with simple recommendations that you can implement immediately as well as bigger picture recommendations that can be implemented overtime with planning and support. At Diagraph, our goal is to make it easy for our customers to achieve the perfect mark on their products. Regular site audits and account reviews are just one of the ways we work in partnership with our customers.
Call us today at 800.722.1125 to learn more about how Diagraph partners with manufacturers to achieve product identification and packaging compliance success.
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.