How to spot the best lot coding printer for your production line?

When it comes to food manufacturing an old adage that says “time is money” holds its true meaning, particularly when demands in the food supply are at a peak. Therefore, production plant machinery has to be up with the task with lesser downtime. Lot coding printers are an important part of this production plant. Food and beverage products need to be marked with production date, expiration date, batch number, and even barcodes before they leave the factory. It is important that your lot coding printer is robust and equipped with features that fulfill your production line’s requirements. 

Below we have outlined some of the most important considerations to keep in mind to know when your lot coding printer is up for the task. 

Print Quality

What makes a printer better than the rest of its kind is the quality of print it delivers. The quality of print varies due to several factors involved. A CIJ technology is often considered the option when printing onto bottles since its throw distance ability to print on the bottom of cans and shoulders is good. However, when you look at the quality of prints they create it is comparably low and sometimes not readable. The readability of a date code is very critical. 

High-resolution print on the shoulder of a bottle using a TIJ printer with a high-throw distance ink

TIJ printers, on the other hand, have been advancing in terms of throw distance which allows printing high-quality print codes even on longer distances or gaps between the printhead and the product’s surface. The latest development allows TIJ printers to print readable high-quality codes at a 10 mm throw distance.

Print Adhesion

Do not get too excited when someone shows you that their lot coding printer prints high-resolution characters. That is just one part of the whole package. The adhesion of ink to your substrate is another critical concern. Print adhesion is important since once these products go out for distribution a lot of things may happen that would cause your print to wear off. One of the most common tests done to check the adhesion of print on the substrate is through rub testing. 

The lot coding printer, therefore, has to be coupled with a range of inks that will adhere to various types of substrates. TIJ printers offer solvent-based and semi-solvent-based ink formulation to print in almost all types of materials with great adhesion. 

Drying Time

When we talk about a lot coding printer, it means the whole coding and marking system, not just the printer itself. Since the type of inks compatible with the printer is a big factor. The ink must have a good drying time in order to deliver optimum coding performance. Instant drying time or less than a second after printing is highly preferable. Many production lines are exposed to moisture, water splash, or scratching after printing that may affect the print quality, especially when the ink is not completely dried up onto the product’s surface.

Low Maintenance

A lot of coding printer manufacturers claim their coding solution offers low maintenance. However, the opposite happens in reality. CIJ printers have a lot of components in their system that if one part fails would halt the rest from working, thus downtime is expected. An engineer then has to visit and fix the problem. Otherwise to ensure that these things are avoided they offer regular visits which of course comes with a cost. 

TIJ printers, on the other hand, provide true low to even zero maintenance. In fact, through the advancement of technology, features such as health check – to find warnings, or faults that may occur is an available feature in thermal inkjet printing with no extra cost. This will save time, transportation, and production cost involved since operators may be able to fix the issue without asking an engineer to physically visit the production plant. 

Running Cost and Investment Cost

Indeed, the cost is a major factor to consider when selecting a date coding printer. The common understanding we have right now in the industry is that CIJ offers higher investment costs, requires regular maintenance at a cost, but has lower running costs at high throughput lines. While TIJ printer’s investment cost is relatively lower than CIJ, offer low to even zero maintenance, but can come comparatively costly on ink consumable at large volume production lines. This may have some factuality, however, TIJ is getting looked at as the future even on high-volume production because of its zero maintenance so there is maximum uptime, sophisticated technology – such as the ability to be controlled remotely thru Wi-Fi, and the development of bulk ink system that may, in the near future, provide competitive running cost against CIJ printers. 

Other things to consider

Which code or information do you need to print – scannable or non-scannable?

When printing on a flexible package, one of the first and most important questions is the code required for your product. This is because some codes (expiration date, packing date, lot code, etc.) convey information without scanning, while others (barcodes, QR codes, etc.) need to be scanned.  To scan the latter error-free, you need hardware that can reliably encode at high resolution and a printer that can print at high resolution.

Thermal inkjet printers are an excellent option for companies that need to print scannable code and do not necessarily need the high-speed capabilities of CIJ. 

Do you need a mobile printer?

If your operation requires moving the printer, you need to look at some TIJ models

that can be mounted in a fixed position or portable. On the other hand, the CIJ printer

needs to be installed somewhere on the production line.

Ask an expert

If you operate your facility and have packaging requirements to address, you will need the proper coding and printing machines to meet your needs. There are many options available, but you need to be careful to make sure that your choices help make the process more efficient and maximize your investment.

We at Maplejet have perfect solutions for you; you can find the ideal solution with the best options available. Contact us to get expert advice to guide you through the selection process and discuss your individual needs to find the one that exactly matches your batch coding requirements.

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