Although the economy is a bit sluggish right now, companies continue to invest in high-quality coding technologies that produce less waste for the beverage industry. Like all components of beverage packaging, coding companies are finding ways to go cleaner and greener.
Many companies offer a full range of coding technology for use in a variety of applications, but continuous ink jet and laser are the most common coding used for beverages.
ID Technology, Ft. Worth, Texas, uses its K-Series Co2 laser coder, its Model ci1000 ink jet coder and the Model 250 Printer Applicator for beverage applications. Both the laser and the ink jet coders can be used on primary and secondary packaging, and the printer applicator works by printing a blank label, coding it with specifics and applying the label to the pallet.
The company’s Model ci1000 ink jet coder uses a fast-drying ink to print permanent lot codes, date codes, logos and text to any type of substrate, the company says. The coder can print one to five lines of text and graphics at speeds up to 1,000 feet per minute, and heights up to 0.5 inches.
The K-Series Co2 laser coder emits a high-quality permanent code with no solvent emissions, the company says. Companies are using laser coding technology more frequently partly due to the “green” movement.
“Historically, most people have been [coding] with continuous ink jet, but it is moving away from continuous ink jet toward laser technology because of the low cost of ownership and [it’s] cleaner,” says Mark Bowden, regional manager for ID Technology Southeast United States.
The lasers are low maintenance because they do not require someone to put ink in them or clean the head, which also means operators are not exposed to hazardous solvents, he says.
Bowden also says that lasers used to be very expensive, around $30,000 to $50,000, but now the equipment costs less than $20,000.
ID Technology’s Model 250 Printer Applicator is a thermal transfer printer that generates labels with scannable barcodes, as well as variable text, graphics and logos, the company says. Printing a label to put on the pallet is becoming a popular trend, it says.
Marking on pallets is important to the beverage industry because by doing it, it causes less product to be lost or misplaced.
Greener codes
Reducing operating and energy costs also is important to Videojet Technologies Inc., Wood Dale, Ill. Videojet offers a range of coding technology, but the Videojet 3430 and the Excel DN are used most often on primary and secondary beverage packaging.
The Videojet 3430 is a laser coder that works on 50 watts and has an IP65 rating, which is the environmental protection rating required in wet bottling applications. By using the 3430, 72,000 products can be coded per hour with marking speeds up to 2,000 characters per second, the company says.
“The advantages laser technology has for these applications is it’s a very clean operating type of marking technology so it doesn’t introduce volatile organic compounds into the bottling plant,” says Paul Schildhouse, laser product manager for Videojet Technologies.
Lasers work well on PET plastics and glass bottles, Schildhouse says.
In terms of aluminum cans, typically continuous ink jet coding is used on the bottoms of the cans, says Scott Benigni, small character ink jet product manager for Videojet Technologies.
“What we have seen in the aluminum can market is a need for more and more lines of code as customers are trying to provide more traceability on their products,” Benigni says.
The company’s Videojet Excel DN ink jet printer can print two lines of code at 916 feet per minute, and print a total of eight lines. The machine also works well on printing complex codes, combining text, logos and barcodes. It features a backlit display, which makes reading the screen easy, the company says.
“It’s a sealed cabinet design that protects all of the main components from water in the air, from heat and humidity, so to achieve long-term durability,” Benigni says.
Videojet’s latest ink jet coder, the Videojet 1510, provides up to 18 months of production before a required preventative maintenance check. The 1510 is even applicable on shrinkwrapped bottles since it codes well on uneven surfaces, Benigni says.
The move to green also is a topic that is important in terms of coding technologies, Schildhouse adds.
“Things like reduction of volatile organic compounds, reduction of energy consumption — kind of the whole carbon footprint — is something our customers ask us about, and we’re supporting our customers’ trends to go green in that way,” he says.
Another trend Benigni mentions is the use of package coding for promotions, such as coding inside of the cap for consumer sweepstakes.
“Oftentimes those codes are put down with either an ink jet or a laser using some of our track and trace software when they need to put a unique code on each individual product,” Benigni says.
Both laser and ink jet coders are good machines to use in the beverage industry.
“I don’t think that one technology dominates over another,” Schildhouse says. “We see applications and growth in both laser and ink jet.”
Double printed lines
Another company that offers a range of coding technology is Markem-Imaje, Kennesaw, Ga. The company’s 9040 ink jet coder is for primary product coding, says Jason Beard, business development engineer for Markem-Imaje.
The 9040 is offered with bi-jet, which is an ink head capable of printing two lines of code at the same time. The machine also is able to print 1,082 feet per minute.
“With conventional ink jet systems, you would have one ink stream printing both lines, and it takes twice as long for that ink stream to print,” Beard says. “Technically, we can go about twice as fast as a single-jetted printer.”
The Markem-Imaje 5000 Series are high-resolution, large-character ink jet printers that work well on beverage applications with high-resolution bar code requirements. The 5000 Series has print speeds up to 583 feet per minute and the series uses the company’s Touch Dry Hot Melt inks. The machines work best on corrugate cases, trays and wrapping films, the company says.
As for laser printing on beverages, Markem-Imaje offers the 7000 Series in both 10-watt and 30-watt configurations. The series can print up to 1,000 characters per second.
Beard says the 7031 S laser works well on PET bottles because it uses a different wavelength that is more compatible with PET. The 7031 S can code one to three lines on up to 1,200 products per minute.
More companies are opting for laser coding on PET bottles because of cleanliness and cost, Beard says. With less raw material being used on PET bottles, Markem-Imaje says it has to be careful not to create pinholes in the bottles with laser technology.
“If the wall of the bottle is very thin and you don’t have a reliable method to put that code on there, you’re going to have to go back to ink,” Beard says.
The company’s 7000 Series uses lasers with 9.3 nanometer length to overcome the obstacle of less material, he says. The company also offers its 2000 Series Print and Apply labeling system. The machine has 4-inch and 6-inch printheads, which print identification labels for cartons and pallets.