Thermal Ink-Jet Makes Its Mark on Foils, Plastics
Advanced electronics appear poised to ease the use of thermal ink-jet printing (TIJ) for nonporous packaging. In the past, TIJ technology, such as Hewlett-Packard’s disposable print cartridges, could only be used on porous substrates or on specific unvarnished areas of nonporous substrates, reports Mike Shaw, vice president of sales and marketing for Nutec Systems Inc. (Lawrenceville, NJ). However, new electronics coupled with HP’s cartridge technology allow the use of 100% solvent-based inks and therefore the option to print on nonporous materials, Shaw said. At Pack Expo Las Vegas, Shaw announced that Nutec’s new partnership with APS GmbH (Herrenberg, Germany) marks the exclusive North American release of APS’s new HP TIJ technology, apsolute.
“APS has found a new way to electronically fire the HP cartridge with new, unique electronics inside the cartridge,” explained Shaw. APS’s print cartridge concept features zero moving parts. “Without moving parts, maintenance is almost nonexistent, and the risk of an unexpected production line shutdown becomes a headache of the past,” Shaw reported.
Shaw added that apsolute is a monofluid system running an alcohol-based “light” solvent. “From an MSDS standpoint, it is very clean,” he said. “No hazardous or polluting fluids are required to achieve quality and durable marking.” In addition, it is suitable for use in low-humidity environments.
The fast-drying solvent ink is suitable for printing onto nonporous packaging materials, such as foils, plastics, and coated surfaces. No special drying techniques are required. Shaw reported that “350,000 codes per cartridge are possible.”
The new substrate options for TIJ “open up coding applications,” Shaw reported. “Labels no longer require a masked area without varnish.” Glass and PET, however, still require the methyl ethyl keytone–using continuous ink-jet printer.
In addition to the new cartridge-based printer heads, APS has built hardware that can control multiple printheads operating on different production lines with different speeds using the same controller. Proprietary firmware is fully capable for communicating with computers or servers in real time, suiting the system for item-level serialization programs, Shaw added.