Continuous inkjet (CIJ) is the technology of choice for food packaging coding as the solvent based inks adhere to a variety of materials like cartons, plastics, films, foils, metal and glass. CIJ is ideal for food packaging in that it offers high speed, non-contact small character printing and enables food processors to incorporate inkjet codes into their functional safety and traceability processes.
Companies that produce food products are very aware of the financial and public health risks of a recall and therefore understand the necessity of being able to track products through the supply chain. For added food safety security, continuous inkjet printers can utilize specialty functional inks:
Thermochromic inks are developed for the canning industry and show a color change effect when processed through a retort or autoclave process. In addition to visual confirmation of successful canning it is a robust ink that penetrates thin coatings of oil and grease and resists removal by oils, waxes, fats and varnishes.
For secure coding of high-end products subject to counterfeiting or for products and packaging that require discrete codes for internal track and trace, identifying origin or verifying authenticity, there are inks that are nearly invisible to the naked eye but fluoresce under UV light. These fast drying, solvent based inks are water resistant once dry.
Traceability of food product is key to a company’s ability to react to a recall. In addition to providing coding technology that allows companies to trace product, Diagraph and Linx offer the following specialty functional coding inks that enhance food safety:
Linx Thermochromic 1281 or 1291
Our choice for fully functional, easy to use inkjet coders are the Linx 8900 Series line of printers. The Linx 8900 Series inkjet printers provide high quality batch, date, lot and expiration codes which are critical components for supply chain traceability. The Linx models are also durable workhorses in wash down environments and are easy-to-use featuring a robust, sealed printhead, one-touch fluid refills, a highly visible touch screen user interface and point-of-print viscosity control. The Linx 8900 Series line of printers support both thermochromic and UV fluorescent ink applications.
Continuous inkjet is just one option for adding essential date codes, lot codes and batch codes to your food and beverage products. Want to learn more about how your choice of coding solution contributes to food safety and traceability? Download our full whitepaper.
Coding for Safety & Traceability in the Food Supply Chain: A Comparison of Continuous Inkjet & Laser Coding
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
What: U.S. regulatory agencies recently announced a new preference to standardize on the use of the quality-based date label of "Best If Used By" on packaged foods. This recommendation is voluntary and based on research-based industry best practices.
Why: Confusion caused by the use of various date label formats leads to unnecessary food waste. Consumers equate date label information with a warning about the timeline for the safe consumption of the food product rather than a statement of a recommended timeline for optimal food quality. This format recommendation is a part of the "Winning on Reducing Food Waste FY 2019-2020 Federal Interagency Strategy" launched by the federal government in April 2019.
Who: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are endorsing the "Best If Used By" industry standard set forth by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and Food Marketing Institute (FMI) in 2017.
Industries of Interest: Food, Beverage
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According to a recent PMMI Business Intelligence Report, the meat, seafood, and poultry packing industries are experiencing “a global boom” due to several factors including import and export opportunities expanding into new markets, growth in foodservice, and growth in ready meals. Food producers are rapidly moving to automate processing and packaging to be prepared to meet increased demand and be flexible enough to adapt to changing product coding requirements.
For food producers and processors with small character coding requirements, Diagraph offers the Linx 8900 Series Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) printer family. The 8900 Series is designed for maximum uptime and provides the flexibility to meet the demands of complex food manufacturing plants.
Moving towards an automated continuous inkjet coding solution can solve the following problems commonly found in the meat, poultry, and seafood manufacturing industry:
High manual labor costs: Consumer demand dictates changes in the packaging materials used for meat and seafood products. Flexible and clear packaging for shoppers to verify freshness and quality in-store, smaller portion sizes and clean labeling to indicate product varieties – i.e. GMO-free, grass-fed, etc. – leads to more changeovers and a need to produce high-quality, durable codes on a range of substrates. The costs associated with managing a large manual workforce are cited by many manufacturers in this industry as one of the highest expenses. Manufacturers are looking for automated processes that can be run with little to no training required and an easy-to-understand HMI to make product changeovers as effortless and error-free as possible.
How the Linx 8900 meets this challenge:
Food safety and sanitation issues: Threats of contamination are a constant worry in the meat, poultry and seafood industries. To integrate new automated machinery requires that the process reduces human handling and has clean-in-place and washdown capabilities.
How the Linx 8900 meets this challenge:
Maintenance downtime: Manufacturers want to continue to increase their throughput to fulfill growing demand. To keep production going, predictive maintenance features are essential in preventing unexpected shut downs for repairs, printhead cleanings or fluid refills.
Are you facing these challenges in your business? If you’re in need of a date, lot or batch coding printer, the Linx 8900 Series might be the right option to help you efficiently automate your meat, poultry or seafood packing operation. For more information, visit our Linx 8900 Series product specification page or arrange to see it in action by contacting us for a demonstration.
Source: PMMI Business Intelligence Report, 2017 Trends Shaping Meat, Poultry and Seafood Packaging and Processing
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.
Pallet Labeling: The Final Step In Your Production Tracking Process
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.
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!