THE DIFFERENT CODING TECHNOLOGIES
There is a range of coding technologies available, each with their own particular strengths in different applications. These include laser coders and Continuous Ink Jet (CIJ) printers which are the most commonly used solutions for primary coding in the beverage industry.
Laser coding has no ink involved in the coding process and therefore no drying time and no risk of smudging which can be an issue on some materials where the coded product is in contact with other products or handling systems soon after coding. Laser coders are suitable for all the substrates used in the beverage industry, at high line speeds, as they are very adjustable. They are particularly attractive due to low down-time, high-speed capability and the fact there is no use of consumables.
Steered beam laser systems are highly versatile as they provide clear, consistent and perfectly formed characters in a variety of fonts and message formats, and enable the use of high quality graphics and logos over relatively large print areas. They are particularly suitable where high quality codes are required e.g. to blend in with the style of the pre-printed packaging.
Laser codes can be highly visible or discreet while the permanent nature of the code is also a vital tool in the fight against counterfeiting. Since their introduction into coding and marking, the advances in technology and efficiency means that the initial purchase price has significantly reduced. Add to this the low cost of ownership due to no consumables and relatively low maintenance, laser coders are now a viable choice for bottling applications.
Developments in design have also recently given rise to a new generation of lower cost compact laser coders, which offer an affordable alternative to other technologies whilst still maximising functionality.
2. Continuous Ink Jet
CIJ maintains an important place in the market as it can print on almost any substrate including metal cans. A wide range of inks is available to use with CIJ printers. Choices include inks of different colours to ensure legibility on any colour substrate, removable inks for internal traceability or returnable bottles, wet-bottle adherent inks, UV-readable inks for anti- counterfeiting, and many more, adding yet another dimension to the coding process.
From cardboard to glass, plastics to metal, CIJ can print from one to multiple lines of text and simple graphics at speeds of over 2600 characters per second. Further versatility is given by the compact printhead that can be situated above, beside or beneath a production line – even traversing from side to side across the line if necessary. With lighter models increasingly being produced, the CIJ printer is more capable of being quickly moved from line to line and is quicker to install and set up than laser coders.
3. Large Character Marking
Case coders are particularly well-suited for printing variable information onto secondary packaging such as cardboard boxes. These outer cases usually require text and graphics which are easy to see. Case coders can print to a high-resolution quality, and are versatile enough for use on a variety of surfaces and materials. Easy to set-up and adjust, their reliability and predictable cost of ownership endear them to production lines in a range of industries.
Make sure you have explored all the options in order to select the coder that meets your exact requirements.
Both main types relevant to bottle coding – laser and CIJ
– have advantages. If you are looking to apply high quality permanent codes without putting any additional substances on the product, then laser coding could be the answer.
The versatility of CIJ for coding onto different substrates, such as the lighter weight plastic many beverage bottlers are turning to, also makes it a powerful option.
And remember line speed, code content, the coding environment and true cost of ownership are all important factors to consider before making your choice.