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Laser Coding Applications in the Beverage Industry

Updated: Dec 29, 2019

Laser coders are often an effective way to print identifying information on beverage packaging. Logos, data matrix, barcodes, serial and lot numbers, for example, can be added to packaging, making lasers a versatile tool for coding data on a variety of items.

Items that can be effectively marked by lasers include glass and PET bottles, labels, cases and pouches.

Laser coders work by changing the surface of a substrate, either by ablation, etching or foaming. For ablation, the laser removes the outside layer of material – often an ink on a printed product that then shows the background color underneath. In the etching process, the heat of the laser beam melts the surface of the substrate a leaves a raised mark. Etching is a good choice for high-speed marking because the substrate material is almost instantly etched with each laser pulse.

In the etching process, the heat of the laser beam melts the surface of the substrate which expands to leave a raised mark. Etching is a good choice for high-speed marking on glass because the substrate material is almost instantly etched with each laser pulse.

For most packaging applications CO2 lasers with a wavelength of 10.6 microns. For coding PET bottles (such as those used for soda or bottle water) a wavelength of 9.3 microns is prefered. When light of this wavelength interacts with the surface of the bottle, it causes the PET to foam – which produces a pale raised effect for the characters. The 9.3 laser is least likely to cause leaking when coding the very thin PET bottles of water.

Lasers offer some advantages over other types of printing technologies, such as continuous inkjet. No inks are needed, coding is very fast, the printing is permanent and offers high definition, and lasers are usually easy to integrate into a production line. These attributes of the laser make it a good choice for coding products in the beverage industry in many applications.

Glass. Lasers can mark lines of texts and logos easily on glass. Unlike ink jet coding, laser marks cannot be removed from the glass to allow complete and permanent traceability. The permanence of the mark helps to deter counterfeiting of products such as wine and distilled spirits.

Paperboard, paper labels, or cardboard. Lot numbers are often coded on paper labels affixed to bottles. Use a laser to mark variable data such as expiration dates, lot codes, or serial numbers at the end of the production process. Because the laser doesn’t come into contact with the substrate, there is no possible damage to the packaging as the package is marked while moving through the production line at high speeds.

For low volume applications such as in the craft brewing business or many distilleries, our iCON CO2 laser is often the perfect solution. Low cost and easy to use and maintain, iCON is the modern affordable alternative to inkjet printers – no consumables and minimal maintenance lets our customer focus on what’s important – not taking care of a printer.

Laser codersdatalase-macsa-355 are also effective for marking shipping cases. Once the case has been assembled, packed and sealed, a conveyor carries it past a CO2 Laser which is used to activate a special laser receptive coating on the case. The coating, from Datalase, can be white in color or clear and the mark shows as a darker foreground when activated by the light generated by the laser unit.

PET bottles. PET bottles are often cold-filled, as is the case with bottled waters or sporPepsicots drinks, a situation which produces condensation. Coding wet substrates can be problematic using conventional technologies but not for lasers. High-volume marking of plastic beverage bottles with lasers results in indelible marks, higher speed marking, and on-the-fly programmable marking as products speed along the production line. As already mentioned, our 9.3 micron laser is designed specifically to produce the best codes on PET bottles.

Plastic films and foils. Lasers are able to code in small places or areas that are inaccessible to other methods. For example, lasers can code unique promotional codes onto plastic liners inside plastic bottle closures.

Running competitions or promotions that need uniquely serialized codes? Using our promotion software, customers can control the printing on bottle closures, even at very high speed to ensure that every item is correctly and uniquely identified for your promotions and competitions.

In addition, lasers can score, slit and cut the plastic films and foils used in flexible packaging. Instead of using a mechanical cutting device, lasers enable you to shape and form flexible packaging, and the resulting beverage package is easy for consumers to open.

Macsa’s line up of laser coders, includes the entry level iCON and iCON2, the well proven mid-range K-Series and the latest SPA modular laser range. All come with our nationwide sales and technical support.

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