Five Key Elements to Ensure Optimal Reliability and Long Life in Your Case Coding Ink Jet Printhead
By Steve Liker, Product Manager – Large Character Ink Jet
Today, many companies take advantage of the benefits of inkjet printing of barcodes, graphics and text directly onto secondary packages. Inkjet printing can cost up to eight times less than labels. At the same time having an inkjet printer on the factory floor allows for greater printing flexibility and requires less space than an inventory of assorted pre-printed secondary packages.
Stainless steel construction, automatic maintenance, a repairable design, demonstrated long lifetime and quality ink compatibility are five key elements to look for in an inkjet printhead.
Visit www.diagraph.com for a complete line up of our case coding ink jet printers.
Four Flexible Options to Enable Effective Large Character Ink Jet Case Coding Under Adverse Conditions
Case coding would be so be simple if all factories were at ideal temperature, all flooring and transports were flat; there were no space limitations and all boxes were perfectly square. But that’s typically not the case. Diagraph offers four options to make their large character Impulse Ink Jet case coder flexible and capable of printing under adverse conditions.
Low temperature printhead controller, roller retraction bracketry, angled conveyor mount, and right angle mounts offer customers flexibility to satisfy their application needs.
1) Low Temperature Printhead Control for Cold Ambient Conditions
Printing onto dairy products, frozen vegetables and other heat sensitive products requires capability to control the printhead temperature and ink viscosity at low ambient temperatures. Diagraph offers a printhead module that has additional heaters and temperature control in environments as low as 32° F.
2) Roller Retraction Bracketry for Irregular Cartons
Boxes and trays are often not square and can shift on the conveyor. Diagraph have developed spring retractable brackets that position the printheads relative to the changing surface of the cartons. This enables regular and irregular cartons to roll smoothly past the printhead rather than sliding over guide rails. This eliminates production of corrugated dust that can clog printhead nozzles. It also controls the throw distance - a primary factor in the sharpness of ink jet print.
3) Angled Conveyor Mounts (ACM) for Angled Conveyors
For angled conveyors with slant from 0 – 90 degrees, Diagraph’s ACM printhead can meet the need. The printhead swivels and locks into place to print at any angle.
4) Right Angle Mount for Restricted Conveyor Space
This right angle printhead was designed by Diagraph for applications where little room is available at conveyor side for mounting. The print engine portion of the printhead is separated from the body and turned at 90 degree angle so that the conveyor-side space is minimized. And Roller Retraction Bracketry is compatible!
So if you are facing a carton coding application challenge, Diagraph offers flexible options for Large Character Coding.
If labels don’t properly contact the carton in your case labeling application, it requires rework and wastes label stock - costing you time, money and throughput. Cutting down on the maintenance and monitoring of your label application will keep your lines at a maximum uptime and ensure the accurate labeling of your products. To rely on your marking and coding technology versus human intervention, look for these three features in your labelers to guarantee consistent label applications:
Diagraph’s smart sensing technology ensures precision label placement, reducing the need to rework improperly labelled products. The LA/4750 features key enhancements that allow it to accurately dispense hard-to-read clear labels, prevent missed products and double feeds, and auto-adjust outputs to changes in line speeds.
No matter your choice for end of line coding solution – labeling or large character inkjet – Diagraph has the expertise to help you evaluate your total cost of ownership. To better understand what hidden costs of end of line coding may be adding to your bottom line, read our full whitepaper:
The Hidden Costs of End of Line Coding Whitepaper
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.
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.
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
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.