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Exclusive WCS thematic purchasing guide : industrial marking
The industrial marking and coding world is a universe where the technologies used can satisfy all printing issues in all fields and for all issues or constraints. These different technologies can be classified into two categories : the traditional technologies, settled and dominant and the new technologies which appeal to more and more demanding industrialists.
Here is an overview of the main marking technologies, traditional and alternative.
The main industrial marking technologies
The packaging marking field is dominated by three main technologies which can be qualified as traditional :
The continuous inkjet marking technology : the procedure consists in pressurising liquid ink, thus creating a jet. The jet is then fragmented into droplets by using a ceramic crystal (resonator). Each droplet is charged by a charging electrode before being diverted by the deviation electrode. This technology is mainly used for marking single products and can deal with high production rates due to quick ink dying. One can also produce barcodes, logos but only at low speed.
This technology has the advantage of being versatile but requires the use of volatile solvents. This causes certain drawbacks : the technology requires high maintenance. The solvents used require the use of specific procedures to preserve the environment and protect production staff. The solvents being highly inflammable, they require specific storage.
This technology uses a laser beam’s energy, the strength of which is concentrated through mirrors and then directed towards the area to be marked. These laser beams enable to mark different supports : paper, cardboard, wood, plastic and also glass or metal. It is a highly effective technology, adapting itself to all production rates. Laser marking can indeed mark static or moving packages. The second advantage of this technology is that no consumables are required.
Thermal transfer marking : Thermal transfer printing is a process which, as it’s name implies, uses a source of heat to make react chemical paper or melt solid ink on printer ribbons. The liquid ink is then transferred on the support and solidifies very quickly. The thermal transfer printing technology is often chosen for printing labels, films or flexible packages. This technology allows to print with a classical resolution at a high production rate.
Thermal inkjet : the industrial marking coding revolution.
A revolution ? Yes, since these thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers are as easy to use as office printers. The use of an innovative technology makes them easy to use. Resistors heat up, create and eject ink micro-droplets from numerous outlets. The thermal inkjet technology uses print cartridges serving both as ink reservoirs and printheads. Each cartridge contains hundreds of nozzles which can be activated upon demand. It is thus at last possible to control and therefore select ink use depending on the desired result. This technology offers an optimal quality of marking and high resolution even at high speed.
Areas of application
Thermal inkjet was initially recommended to mark porous supports : cardboard, paper, wood, etc …. But the technological evolutions of this process have lead thermal inkjet to compete with traditional technologies in numerous industrial sectors and for numerous supports : this technology seduces professionals for the marking of films, PVC tubes, solid PET containers, PET, PVC or varnished cardboard …. Thus, the food industry, the construction industry (cement plants) for marking construction materials, the pharmaceutical industry …. rely on the thermal inkjet technology because of its numerous benefits.
The main advantages of the thermal inkjet technology
What are the benefits for professionals using thermal inkjet (TIJ) ?
– speed and printing quality: the marking speed of thermal inkjet is very high (up to 1000 metres per minute) even for large amounts of information (several text lines, logos, barcodes, etc …). It’s the reason for which the pharmaceutical sector advocates the use of this method for the “Track and Trace” application which enables the marking of several lines or even 2D codes at high speed.
– no maintenance : the thermal inkjet technology is maintenance-free. There is therefore no need to train staff in first-level training as is required for continuous inkjet. No filters, pumps or units to be replaced. This saves valuable time and money.
– Equipment cleanliness : the use of cartridges guarantees a really clean system.
– Ease of use : it is as easy to use thermal inkjets as office printers. Anyone can use it without any specific training.
– a definite economic advantage : the cost of thermal inkjet marking for primary packaging is amongst the most competitive of the market. Firstly, the acquisition price of the material is far lower than that of other technologies. Furthermore, operating costs are far lower. Consumables (ink cartridges) do have a price but it is possible to meet customer requirements by adjusting printing resolution, size and fonts. Finally, it should also be noted that there is an important economic advantage due to the lack of preventive or curative maintenance. There is no need to halt production for maintenance.
Questions to Xavier FERBO, industrial marking specialist (Zenjet Coding company-WCS Group)
1. You are an industrial marking expert : what is special about the current market ?
Industrial players require above all a reliable marking system since they cannot afford to stop their production line. We also see that industrial players find it difficult to calculate the marking cost of their products. Indeed, apart from direct costs (ink, solvents, spare parts, labour), indirect costs exist (production shutdowns, inflammable product storage, solvent retreating, staff training …..). It is precisely the related costs which are difficult to evaluate. Finally, we see that industrial players seek more and more specific solutions which respect the environment and staff’s health.
- What advice would you give to a professional looking for the best marking system ?
Only recently, industrial players did not have to chose one technology amongst others since the continuous inkjet technology was often the only one able to meet client needs. Today, the choice exists. The new technologies are further developing and gaining ground. I advise professionals to take their time to compare the technologies on offer. My second advice is to take into account global market cost and not only the acquisition cost of materials and consumables.
- What is your opinion of thermal inkjet ?
This technology has made considerable progress especially in inks. It is perfectly suited to printing on packages. Its implementation and use are easy and clean. The main advantage for a professional is the fact that it is easy to calculate operating costs with this technology : you just need to know the ink consumption required by each message. Ink is therefore the sole data to be considered for the calculation of marking related costs. That’s why the thermal inkjet technology is really competitive. For all these reasons, I am convinced that thermal inkjet has a bright future ahead.