Downtime in your production simply isn’t an option. But at any moment, an unpredictable event can arise like low ink levels, maintenance and clogging, putting your operations on hold anywhere from an hour to an entire shift. So how do you prepare for the unexpected? One option that we see put into practice by many customers is the investment in a spare inkjet printer – a reliable, on-hand system that can quickly be fired up on a production line when your regular systems suddenly quit.
So what exactly should you be looking for in a reliable back-up inkjet printer?
Extended shutdown features – There is no planning when you might need to pull in a spare printer, meaning it could be sitting idle for an undefined amount of time. Many small character printers take time to boot up and flush printheads that have not been in use for some time. These printers often require full system flushes or draining when being prepared for extended shutdown periods. When purchasing a small character printer to use a spare, choose one that doesn’t have extensive shut down procedures and is designed to fire right up and start printing after sitting idle for as long as 3 months at a time.
Long shelf-life – Thermal inkjet printers that utilize snap-in and -out replacement ink cartridges make great spare candidates. Ink cartridges can be kept in-stock and on-shelf so your printer is guaranteed to have a supply of ink when it is pulled into operation at a moment’s notice.
Additionally, for high-resolution inkjet printers that take fluids from bottles, industry-leading inks are formulated to last as long as 18 months on the shelf and still consistently deliver high contrast print messages. Similarly for your case coding, look for printheads that remain start-up ready for up to 12 months. To ensure peak performance of ink fluids and printheads, always store according to recommended temperature and humidity conditions.
Protected internal electronics – Look for systems that have a protective covering to maintain and preserve the internal electronics. Not only is thermal jet printer technology a low investment option that produces high resolution text, graphics and barcodes up to 1” high, but the easy-to-change cartridges are simple to store on-shelf in case of emergencies.
Ask yourself whether it is more costly to invest in spare printers for your food production line or to risk unplanned downtime. The investment to protect your productivity is more than likely to pay off if you’re making an informed decision about the inkjet systems you’re keeping as back-ups. Our product specialists can help you determine what the best spare system type is for your application needs. Call today or send us an email for our recommendation.
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!
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.
Color Contrasting Inkjet Coder Runs Cleaner for Longer
Linx 8900 Plus continuous inkjet lineup overcomes longstanding soft pigmented inkjet challenges
ST. LOUIS, (Nov. 9, 2017) – Diagraph is pleased to announce the launch of the Linx 8900 Plus Series – an advanced range of color contrasting inkjet technology that provides the highest levels of printer reliability and ease of use. Enhancements in printhead design and pigment particle dispersion in the Linx 8900 Series prevent common clogging issues associated with inkjet systems when using color soft pigment based inks.
Providing up to 6 weeks between printhead cleanings and up to 6,000 hours or 12 months between preventive maintenance intervals, the Linx 8900 Plus Series printers are among the most robust soft pigmented inkjet printers in the industry. The printers feature fully sealed, stainless steel printheads with integrated auto-flush technology that keep the printheads running cleaner for longer and print quality consistently high. Preventive maintenance work on the printer can be accomplished using unskilled labor, involving the change of self-service module and filter guided by instructions displayed directly on the printer screen.
The Linx 8900 Plus Series keeps pigment particles dispersed in the ink system using several printer functions that provide constant, gentle agitation. The printers feature an enhanced mix cycle that is triggered at jet start up and can self-adjust for idle periods and extended shutdowns. This approach to particle dispersion eliminates the use of mechanical stirrers and the need to keep the printer left powered on – minimizing the number of wearable parts and the overall cost of operating the printer.
Achieving print speeds of more than 1,600 feet per minute for a single line, seven dot high print message, the Linx 8900 Plus Series printers offer some of the fastest speeds in the industry for the most common print message requirements. In addition to industry-leading print speeds, the Plus Series can accommodate a wide range of print formats including data matrix and QR codes printed up to 20mm high, with a considerable throw distance of 20mm and up to 45mm when requiring a “tall” print message style. Ink colors available with the printer include yellow, blue and black.
Contact a Diagraph Product Identification Expert by calling 1.800.722.1125 to learn more about how the Linx 8900 Plus Series inkjet printers can take your color contrast coding to the next level.
When looking at purchasing small character continuous ink jet coding equipment, it’s important to take a step back and look at the total cost of ownership. As consumers, we have fallen into the habit of looking at the sticker price, no matter if it’s a car, dishwasher, or ink jet printer and immediately formulating an opinion based on the price tag. “It’s too expensive” or “it costs more than other ones just like it” might be typical reactions when finding something that looks like it’s priced higher than similar looking, competitive models. And it’s easy to understand why we do that…and we ALL do that. Typically, it’s a large purchase. Or in the case of buying something for business, it’s a capital expenditure, and the purchase needs to be justified. However, if you want to find the true cost of what you’ll spend, you have to look at more than just the initial purchase price, or “perceived price” of any item…you’ll need to look at the total cost of ownership. Doing a proper cost analysis may take a little time and effort, but it’s time well spent. It can save you in both dollars and “sense” later on.
With the purchase of a small character continuous ink jet (CIJ) printer, there are three main areas when considering the total cost:
1. Purchase Price 2. Maintenance & Production Downtime Costs 3. Consumables & Parts Costs
Again, the first and most obvious indicator of pricing comes from the purchase price of the item. And there’s a pretty healthy range of pricing and options when it comes to CIJ printers. Make sure you are comparing equivalent features and options when looking at printers head to head. And if CIJ printers are designed to print, whether it be alphanumerics; date codes; batch codes; lot codes; bar codes; graphics or logos, what makes one different from the other? They all still print the code, right?
The old adage, “you usually get what you pay for” greatly comes into play with CIJ printers, just like it does with automobiles. The similarities are uncanny. Every automobile, when it came off the showroom floor, was designed with at least one commonality in mind: to get you from point A to point B. But think about the vehicles you’ve owned. Hasn’t there been one that drove better, last longer, provided more reliability than others that you’ve had? It’s the same with CIJ printers. They’re all designed to come off the showroom floor, or in this case out of the box, and “drive” or print. However, just like your favorite vehicle, there is a difference from one CIJ to the next, on how it drives, how long it lasts, how reliable it is over time. And in the end, just like an automobile, you usually get what you pay for. In a sense, you can “pay now or pay later”. (“Pay now” meaning the initial cost may seem more expensive, but over time will be minimized by less maintenance, less downtime, less headaches. Or “pay later” meaning a lower cost initially, but over time more expense through frequent maintenance, more downtime, more headaches.
After purchase price, we need to look at an area that may be thought about the least, but arguably should be considered the most. It’s the categories that we don’t automatically think about when we think about “price”, but these are a very important part of the equation when adding up to the total cost of ownership.
Some important questions to ask while comparing CIJ printers:
Do you see the reoccurring theme? Let’s face it, time is money. And the time that your production line is not running is costing your company money. Ask any Maintenance Manager who oversees a CIJ printer on the production line about their joys or pains. Depending on the CIJ printer, you’ll either hear “I press the go button in the morning for start-up, I press the red button in the afternoon for go home, and the time in-between I have no problems.” Or you’ll hear responses like, “my CIJ printer takes forever to start-up, I have to clean the printhead daily, I have to manually make adjustments to the printhead, it’s a mess.” So one of the factors that needs to be added in to the total cost of ownership is time. How long does the printer take to get up and running? What’s involved? How much time is spent daily on maintaining the printer, or more specifically, the printhead? Are manual adjustments to the printhead needed in order to maintain print quality throughout the day?
Is the printhead your friend or foe? For example, if daily printer startups takes 10 minutes every day x 7 days week x 52 weeks/year, that’s an average of over 60 hours spent just on getting the CIJ printer to print! How much is your time worth per hour? Do the math. How important is it to have a CIJ printer that does not require daily printhead cleaning nor any manual adjustments made to the printhead? How much time could that save? How much money could that save! That too is part of the cost of ownership that needs to be factored in.
While not all CIJ printers require factory air, many today do. So another cost as part of your analysis is factory air. How often does the air filter need to be replaced? What is the cost of the air itself? $400/year? And what about portability or rather mobility. Some manufacturers like to have one printer to move to multiple production lines at different times of the day. If so, how easy is it to move the CIJ printer if there is an airline connected to it? Will I need an airline added in another location? If you’re comparing a CIJ printer that does use factory air vs. one that does not, make sure to take those items into consideration as well. They too are part of your cost.
Also, and without getting into the details, it is important to know how frequently your CIJ printer will require scheduled maintenance. You’ll want to understand from your CIJ vendor what is recommended by the manufacturer and factor that into your cost.
Make sure that you are comparing apples to apples when it comes to consumables. Ink consumption will be based on the volume used to mark your product. Solvent consumption has many variables based on ambient temperature and fluids management (i.e. are you wasting solvent on printhead cleaning, are you needing to refresh systems with new solvent when you haven’t finished your old solvent yet). Figuring how much ink and solvent your CIJ printer requires to put your mark on your product is part of the cost analysis. Also, in terms of purchasing fluids, make sure that you are comparing the volume of fluids per case. Some vendors will package and sell 6 bottles to a case; others will be 10 bottles to a case, so make certain you are looking at the total volume when looking at cost per case on consumables.
Replacement parts should be purchased from a manufacturer-approved source. Discount replacement parts (i.e. from a third party) may prove to be more costly due to increased maintenance & service costs.
So that’s basically it. The key to determining the total cost of ownership is to look at the total picture. And if you’re working with a reputable vendor of CIJ printers, they’ll alert you to this and even aid in figuring your total cost. The main thing to remember is that a CIJ printer with a higher purchase price does not make it a more expensive printer. In fact, it will probably save you money because of its quality, reliability, and longevity.
At the end of the day, what you’re really buying is value and peace of mind. If you have to continually stop your production line to babysit the CIJ printer because it’s time to add fluids, tweak the printhead, etc. on a printer that you saved a few thousand dollars on, you’re not saving money. With CIJ printers, you really do get what you pay for. Remember, it’s about dollars and “sense”.
And just like automobiles, you should be able to do a “test drive” of the CIJ printers before you purchase. A quality vendor will access your application needs, make a recommendation based on best-fit technology and provide you with a free, no-obligation demonstration of the CIJ printer on your production line. If they can’t or won’t do that, look elsewhere.
Not all inkjet printheads are created equal. Some printheads are designed to offer superior uptime performance, making them easier to operate and use when coding product. Look for the following features when choosing an inkjet coder, whether it is a small character inkjet coder for printing on primary product packaging or a high resolution large character inkjet coder for printing on cases:
Inkjet printheads featuring stainless steel construction and sealed designs withstand wear and tear better than those constructed with plastic. When examining the printhead materials, also look for whether or not wires are exposed during the cleaning process and whether or not printheads allow for adjustments. Exposed wires and printhead adjustments put the printhead at risk of damage, making them less durable and reliable. Opt for an inkjet coder that features a printhead that is durable enough to require no printhead adjustments for long-term ease of use.
Inkjet printheads that offer automatic cleaning capabilities allow for less human handling of the equipment, minimizing the opportunity to damage the equipment. Hands free cleaning capabilities also allow for printheads to run cleaner for longer, giving manufacturers as much run-time before interventions are required. The best cleaning systems allow printheads to code onto products without encountering printer faults or degrading code quality, with manufacturers able to run the inkjet coders for weeks and months before manual cleaning of the printheads are required.
Although inkjet coders are considered non-contact coders, it never fails that a product is sent down the packaging line skewed, causing it to come into direct contact with the printhead. When this happens, poorly designed and constructed printheads encounter major issues with internal components falling out of alignment and air pockets being introduced into the ink lines. Well-constructed printheads have potted components that are strong enough to withstand these types of impacts. Some inkjet coders also feature material handling mechanisms that gently guide the printhead away from the product to minimize the impact on the printhead.
Interested in upgrading your inkjet coding technology, but not sure where to start? Speak with a Diagraph product identification expert today by calling 1.800.722.1125 or contacting us through the website.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is transforming manufacturing and a whole host of other industries. IIoT connects industrial devices that can monitor, collect, exchange, and analyze data, and leverage that data and connectivity to help you make smarter, faster and more effective business decisions.
Chances are, you’re already automating parts of your business -- but IIoT takes automation to a whole new level. Two major IIoT trends to watch for in 2020, according to Mobidev, are wireless connectivity and predictive analytics. If you aren’t leveraging IIoT as part of your marking and coding process, it’s a wasted opportunity.
Centralized printer management software connects wirelessly to your printing and coding equipment, creating a central database so that operators can review printing status and start jobs remotely using their mobile devices – among other capabilities. Centralized printer management software can also track prints and analyze operational history, to deliver valuable insights about your processes.
The robust interconnectedness of IIoT technology such as a centralized printer management system, can innovate the product identification process in a number of ways. For example, imagine being able to run your production processes without having to constantly keep an eye on your coding and labeling equipment.
Some other benefits of centralized printer management software include:
Here’s a checklist of common complexities and pains that manufacturers experience with production. If any of these experiences sound familiar, you could benefit from deploying printer management software in your facility:
Improving manufacturing processes is an ongoing challenge, and IIoT can help. For your marking and coding process, centralized printer management software offers many benefits and seamlessly automates a complex operation.
Take the next step to automating your coding and labeling operations. Try NEXTConnect™ printer management software for free for 90 days. Contact a Diagraph representative today at firstname.lastname@example.org for a trial license.