There is a debate in the packaging technology industry on which is a superior labeling power source for automated labeling equipment — pneumatic air or electric? Pneumatic labeling systems are built around timing-based commands that drive label movements depending on the reliability of the pneumatic air supply, while all-electric labeling systems are built around real time data-based commands that allow for total control of the labeling process.
The difference between the two approaches is night and day — like the difference between VHS and high-resolution digital streaming technology. The more manufacturers understand the advantages of all-electric labeling, the more pneumatic systems will go the way of VHS tapes and rotary phones.
Every labeling system, regardless of core technology, can incorporate sensors for feedback. Recall the times you have seen a product strike a pneumatic labeler’s actuator arm while moving down the packaging line. This happens all too often with pneumatic labelers because the control of the label feed and actuator arm is not reacting to real-time feedback from sensors. Instead it is following pre-programmed timing commands and relying on the programmed settings for the pneumatic air supply (regardless of the actual pressure in real-time).
Free from the timing control constraints found in pneumatic air powered machines, Diagraph’s all-electric labeling systems can interpret feedback from smart sensors in real-time to allow for total control of the label throughout transit. Combining strategically placed sensors with brushless DC servo motors allows Diagraph’s labeling systems to operate with extreme precision, guaranteeing one-to-one label-to-product matching time after time. The all-electric, servo-driven actuator maintains speed consistency, while “smart” sensors confirm that a label is present for application, and even provide the ability to control impact on the product being labeled. The system doesn’t have to rely on inconsistent air pressure to manage this process.
Another advantage of the all-electric method over the pneumatic air method centers around the tamp pad. Pneumatic driven label applicators utilize venturi vacuum technology to control the transit of the label from the tamp pad to the product. Nearly the entire surface of a pneumatic machine’s tamp pad needs to be covered by the label to maintain proper suction. Unlike pneumatic machines, Diagraph’s all-electric label applicators utilize an electric fan to create vacuum, allowing Diagraph labelers to accommodate multiple label sizes utilizing a single tamp pad. This saves time during label size changeovers as well as money.
With 130 years in the marking and coding industry, Diagraph has a rich history of providing highly durable and reliable labeling and inkjet solutions. Diagraph was the first to offer all-electric labeling solutions to handle all modes of label application including tamp, swing and tamp-blow. The result is a robust lineup of automated labeling solutions that offer benefits only found in all-electric systems that don’t compromise on labels sizes or performance.
Click here for a comparison of all-electric and pneumatic labeling systems.
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.
View The complete line of Diagraph Label Applicators
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.
Getting shipments and inventory into retail distribution and onto store shelves efficiently is a key to profitability for any manufacturer, especially when you ship high volumes of products to big‐box retailers. Since all big‐box operators have rigid requirements for shipments coming into their distribution centers and stores, it’s critical to ensure pallets and cartons are labeled precisely. Get it right and inventory will almost always sail through without a hitch. Make a mistake however, and you’ll likely see delays, rejected deliveries, extra charges and costly rework to get your products on store shelves.
The first step to preparing shipments to big‐box stores is understanding their labeling requirements. While many retailers use certain common elements and regulatory requirements may apply to labeling standards within certain product categories, no single set of pallet labeling standards applies to all industries. Each big‐box retailer establishes detailed requirements for their receiving operations.
The first thing shipping teams should do is obtain the labeling guidelines for each big‐box retailer — never assume that what’s acceptable for one will work for another. Each big‐box store will have specific requirements for everything from what goes on each label to how many labels are required to exactly where labels should be applied. For example, Walmart’s supply chain packaging guide, which runs several hundred pages, includes multiple pages of instructions and requirements just for pallet labeling.
DEPLOY A LABELING SOLUTION
Once you understand the requirements, your next step is to deploy a labeling solution that will keep you in compliance while keeping pace with shipments moving through your packaging and shipping workflows. For high‐volume operations, an automated print‐and‐apply labeling machine is an ideal solution that can be customized to your business.
With an automated print‐and‐apply labeling solution, you’ll eliminate potential slowdowns and errors associated with manual systems. Plus, you’ll take workers out of production areas where labels are applied, minimizing the potential for costly injuries and accidents.
Keep in mind that all print‐and‐apply solutions aren’t created equal. You need a solution that can keep pace with your operations while delivering the flexibility required to address the varying requirements of different big‐box distribution centers and — perhaps most importantly — ensure reliable performance day after day, shift after shift.
ALL‐ELECTRIC PRINT & APPLY LABELING MACHINE
At Diagraph, a key component of our all‐electric PA7100 print‐and‐apply labeling machine is the Zebra ZE500 Series OEM thermal printer engine. We know from experience that we can count on Zebra printer engines to deliver industry‐leading print performance and durability for 4‐ and 6‐inch carton and pallet labels in your print‐and‐apply solutions. They feature durable, all‐metal construction for long‐lasting durability and deliver print speeds that can match the throughput of high‐volume production lines. Plus, they’re easy to set up, manage and maintain onsite or remotely to help schedule maintenance and prevent unexpected interruptions.
With an all‐electric Diagraph PA7100 print‐and‐apply labeling machine using a Zebra OEM print engine, you’ll have a pallet and case labeling system that can help you maximize performance, compliance and profitability. To learn more, contact your Diagraph representative.
Did you know there were 80 GMO labeling bills introduced in 20 states in 2015? On July 1, 2016 the first GMO labeling law will go into effect in Vermont. The Vermont law requires raw agricultural commodity and processed food producers who sell food products in or into the state of Vermont to mark the lowest saleable unit of food packaging with a disclaimer that clearly and conspicuously reads “produced with genetic engineering.”
Although the labeling message requirement is clear, the law does not specify exactly how manufacturers need to apply the mark to the packaging container. Determining how to apply the mark is entirely up to the manufacturer’s discretion.
Moving forward, food producers need to keep a keen eye on the changing regulations regarding labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Unless or until there is a federal law regarding labeling, individual states make the rules on whether or not products sold in their state need to have labeling that includes warnings such as “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering”. Companies need to decide whether to change their formulations to eliminate GMOs, adjust the geographical markets they sell into, or modify their labeling to meet individual state requirements. The path of least resistance and expense will usually be to change the labeling.
If your product has regional or national distribution, how do you manage specific variable information for sales to a specific state? Diagraph provides a solution with its Linx 8900 Series Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) printers.
If you can use the same GMO call out to cover the requirements of all the regions you sell into, then you can create, store, and easily select the GMO message to be printed onto your product. If different GMO messages are required, you can choose to print all of the necessary GMO messages on each package or easily create different messages and select the appropriate one for a specific manufacturing run. Regardless of the flexibility you need and the type of packaging material you are marking on, the Linx 8900 Series has you covered.
The 8900 family of CIJ printers is capable of printing between one to five lines of text, logos, and barcodes, and is designed for maximum efficiency and minimal effort. The stainless steel cabinet boasts a minimum IP55 rating, which makes it suitable for a wash-down environment. The 8900 Series printers are designed to run reliably and feature the ability to program 4 to 50 production line settings and up to 1,000 unique messages to enable quick and painless change overs and message updates.
With easy change overs and high quality, high speed print, companies can easily add any required GMO text to existing packaging using Linx CIJ.
Although CIJ technology is ideal for meeting nearly every GMO labeling need, there are a variety of technologies available to you to stay in compliance with the law. All-electric label applicators and thermal inkjet printers may be good alternatives depending on your operation. Contact us today for a free consultation to determine which technology is best suited to meet your unique needs: 800-722-1125 or email info @ diagraph.com.
Download the full whitepaper, “Pallet Labeling: The Final Step In Your Production Tracking Process”
The final step in your production process can often easily be overlooked. After rigorously completing all the upstream processing, packaging and coding processes, the final palletized product seems to be a small step before crossing the finish line. However, labeling at the pallet level is a crucial process for identifying palletized products being shipped to retailers.
Imagine this: You’re completing a custom job for products specific to one regional retail chain. To differentiate the pallets for the custom job from your standard products, you plan on printing the identifying batch information on the license plate label and applying it to the outside of the shrink-wrapped pallet. When the time comes, your shipment is sent to the retailer only to discover that the products sent are not the custom printed containers they ordered. Now not only is your relationship with this retailer tarnished, but you are on the hook for reprinting all of their products at your own cost.
This scenario might sound familiar if you’re still in the business of manually applying labels. Some level of human error is always a risk and it can be a costly one. Ensuring a consistent, accurate label on every pallet that leaves your facility doesn’t have to be a trying task. It is possible to guarantee proper label placement while also avoiding common safety issues often occurring from the entanglement of the labeler in the pallet shrink wrap.
Our pallet labeling experts at Diagraph have complied a helpful guide for assessing automated pallet labelers for your production line. This guide steps through the main questions you should ask when evaluating your pallet labeling automation process and reviews the top areas of consideration you should work through before you make any kind of investment.
Download the full whitepaper, “Pallet Labeling: The Final Step In Your Production Tracking Process”, here to learn more.