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
2020 will go down in history as a challenging time for food producers. While it is vital that food supplies to supermarkets are uninterrupted and rigorous hygiene is maintained, we should not forget the importance of the printed information that is provided to the consumer when it is on the shelf. There are heavy fines for batch and date codes that do not meet required legislation, and the printed codes must meet stringent traceability requirements should any recall be needed.
What to research
How do you go about ensuring you have the best possible coding equipment for the job in hand? As with any purchase, it always pays to do research and you may want to consider the following:
Why Linx is a good choice for the food industry
Linx’s continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers, with a minimum IP55 rating to withstand washdown, are an excellent choice for the food industry. They deliver quality coding with exceptional reliability, ease of use and efficient operations. Simple user interfaces with built-in mistake proofing help keep uptime to a maximum. Touch screens are solvent and alcohol resistant so they can be operated while wearing plastic or rubber gloves, and operators can use hand sanitizers to stay healthy and still operate the printer.
Linx CIJs are the optimum coders for the harsh environment of food production, and reduce stoppages through:
Linx’s extensive experience in the food industry translates into coders that are perfectly suited to challenging environments.
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
We’ve all been there. Starving at the end of the day and rushing into a supermarket to pick up something to eat. Consumers may give a cursory glance at the best before date on the package to confirm that the item is safe to eat. They give no thought (and why should they) to how much research and development has gone into the ink displaying the information on the package. Not so for those responsible for coding and marking in the food industry.
Advice for food manufacturers
Manufacturers need to understand the complexities and range of ink available and what ink is best for their product, in terms of quality, reliability and budget.
Of course, it’s not just the date code that is printed on food products. Traceability or batch codes, required by law, are also included. Heavy fines can be imposed if the codes are not up to standard–and the monetary and reputational damage to the manufacturer could be extensive.
Linx inks quality & range
Every batch of Linx ink is quality tested to the highest specifications in accordance with ISO 9001. While no one standard ink is applicable for all uses, there are extensive choices available for the food industry. These include inks that are deliver high-quality results and are suitable for printing onto food products themselves, such as eggs and cheese, and specialist inks for printing on the full range of packaging materials from paper labels and cardboard to plastic packaging and bottles.
Inks for harsh environments
Linx inks are suitable for harsh environments, are fade resistant, quick drying and certified food grade. Adherence is key when coding onto polyethylene and other plastic containers, and Linx has an ink that does that with ease. In today’s hygiene conscious production environments, alcohol resistant ink can be used where products and production lines are cleaned down with alcohol-based cleaners.
Inks for retort processes
Linx’s black retort ink is formulated to resist moisture and transference. This ink is ideal for consistent coding through can and pouch retort applications where the contents are cooked in the packaging after they are coded. Another option for the retort processes in food production are thermochromic inks, which undergo a chemically resistant color change when subjected to wet heat conditions to provide a visual indicator that products have undergone the sterilization process.
Black inks for food manufacturing
Linx’s black inks come with a range of options, from fast-drying and able to withstand temperatures up to 400°F, through to oil-penetrating inks which print effectively through light layers of oil onto plastics, metal, glass and waxy surfaces, or where the code will be exposed to oil later in the process. The inks can provide excellent adhesion on flexible food packaging containers even where a light layer of condensation may be present.
There is also a black alcohol-based ink with low odor and good adherence to a range of substrates including most plastics. This ink is ketone and chromium-free, so it meets USDA requirements for incidental contact with meat and poultry. And to ensure producers meet their environmental goals, Linx also provides an array of eco-friendly MEK-free inks.
Linx inks meet food industry requirements
Because Linx’s extensive range of specialist inks are all certified for CIJ printers, you can rest assured your printing will meet legislative requirements in the food industry. And with online or customer service ordering, you will always have the correct ink in stock for your changeover needs.
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