KEEPING IT CONTINUOUS
Aled Ellis, Managing Director at Needham Coding examines the benefits of today’s modern continuous inkjet printers
Many of today’s fast moving industries like food and beverage, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, healthcare, chemical, electronics and automotive, have complicated coding and marking needs. Continuous Inkjet is one of the oldest and most mature printing technologies still in use today yet is still the system of choice where accuracy, speed and flexibility are key requirements. In addition, traceability for brand protection and anti-counterfeiting purposes places increased emphasis on the quality and durability of vital printed information like barcodes.
The advancement in thermal ink jet inks has certainly made it a viable option for some non-porous coding applications. However, there are certain factors which dictate which technology to use. The ink volume and cost of TIJ ink cartridges can make the running costs too expensive on high volume applications. As they have a low throw ink distance, customers are limited on set up and substrate with TIJ models. This also means that TIJ is unsuitable for printing from the underneath or on to an uneven surface.
Continuous ink jet (CIJ) technology is a non-contact printing method that can utilise a range of continuous inkjet inks. Due to their physical dimensions, CIJ print heads, are more versatile and can be mounted in much tighter spaces than TIJ print heads. This is often a deal breaker for customers. CIJ printers also boast much faster drying inks which enable high speed printing onto virtually any substrate, including metal, plastics, glass, wood and paper, at any speed and orientation, with multiple characteristics including size, shape and texture. Food grade inks facilitate printing directly onto food products such as eggs.
CIJ printers are capable of reliably and accurately applying a range of vital information including date codes, logos, and barcodes to most packaging materials and can even be used to print on curved surfaces such as the bottom of a fizzy drink can.
High-throughput environments require efficient printers and inks that can keep up with elevated line speeds, quick dry time requirements and virtually non-stop production.
A variety of dye and pigment-based CIJ inks are available, offering exceptional stability and good adhesion on a variety of substrates including low surface energy plastics, metals and glass. They are high quality, robust inks with good viscosity range, providing excellent drop placement accuracy. For added versatility, CIJ can also utilise speciality inks for withstanding particularly tough processes such as flash freezing or UV readable inks for anti-counterfeiting.
The latest generation CIJ printers require minimal user interaction and offer significantly improved reliability and uptime with decreased maintenance requirements. Meeting stringent wash-down requirements, the newer CIJ systems meet are environmentally friendly, inherently clean and easy to use due to replaceable cartridge design.
A major advantage of CIJ is the very high velocity of the ink droplets permitting a greater distance between the print head and substrate. A high pressure pump directs liquid ink from a reservoir through a nozzle, creating a stream of ink droplets. The high frequency of drop ejection enables very high speed printing. Today’s CIJ printers offer more precise drop placement for better quality coding and the creation of smaller, more accurate codes such as 2D or variable barcodes.
Compared to other technologies, CIJ printers can run for many hours before requiring service which helps keep costs to a minimum. Even in the most high pressure environments, modern CIJ printers are reliable, efficient and cost effective – offering maximum productivity with minimal downtime.