Videojet Printers Keep Pace With Coding Mandates
As companies implement new printing technology to meet emerging requirements for package coding, the technology deployed will vary based on the printed substrate and the level of packaging.
Companies packaging pharmaceuticals for distribution in France have outfitted lines for marking packages using the CIP13 code, required on the external package as of January 2011.
Data Matrix codes required on all pharmaceutical packaging include the 13-digit CIP number, expiry date, and batch number.
Thermal ink-jet (TIJ) is the preferred technology for 2-D marking of the carton-based packaging prevalent in Europe, says Randy Kemmerer, global life science account manager, Videojet Technologies, Inc. (www.videojet.com).
TIJ supports high quality marking of Data Matrix codes on carton-based substrates that are generally porous, as the water-based ink is wicked into the porous surface.
Videojet offers high-quality, low maintenance marking for this application with the Wolke m600 advanced small-character TIJ printer. In supporting high-speed coding of serialized data, the system uses Hewlett-Packard cartridges with high-contrast inks. The HP ink has fluidity and drying time characteristics suitable for paper substrates.
“Laser tends to be the go-to technology for high quality marking in the United States,” where codes are typically applied to varnished polyethylene labels. Heated-ribbon-based thermal-transfer printing is also very substrate independent although used to a lesser degree for in-line variable printing applications, Kemmerer says.
Videojet laser coding technologies include C02 laser coders and fiber lasers that use an air cooled optical fiber as the laser medium for ablating packages and direct part device marking.
Fiber laser operates on a different wave length than conventional lasers and can be pulsed in the marking process. “For direct marking on a plastic bottle, with CO2 you are really etching. Fiber laser causes reactions in the chemistry of the plastic to create a color change with high contrast,” Kemmerer says.
In addition, the technology prevents violating packages’ sterile barriers “because of the wavelength and ability to pulse you are localizing the power so you don’t go as deep into the substrate as with other laser technologies. (Also) we can mark (cleanly) through cellophane to the carton underneath,” Kemmerer says.
For case marking, Videojet has launched an enhanced Videojet 2300 Series of large-character ink-jet printers the company says offer superior code quality and improved flexibility for production line integration.
The print-on-demand case printing enables customers to create customized art work and marking on generic corrugate, eliminating pre-printed cases and print and apply labels.
Videojet develops a cost per print figure that customers can use to derive a pay back number.
“Customers will typically have a sense of the waste (incurred) with preprinted packaging.
“We will generate a cost model that—in almost all cases—will be more cost effective,” Kemmerer says.