Continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers and laser marking systems are designed for variable, inline printing of text, icons, bar codes, and other information directly onto packaging and products during manufacturing. CIJ and laser technologies can print on glass, most plastics, paperboard, flexible films, labels, metal and more.
The optimal printing or marking solution is dependent on many factors that include, code permanence, integration, and aesthetics such as image quality and contrast. The shape of the product, the desired code location, and the product’s motion through the printing process also play a role in determining whether CIJ printing or laser marking is ideal for a specific coding operation.
Ideal for marking on both flat and curved surfaces, CIJ is an ink-based, non-contact printing technology. Both CIJ and lasers are non-contact coding technologies. While the range of printable materials and color options is wider for CIJ, laser marking offers the advantage of producing permanent marks, aiding in traceability and brand protection.
Cost and operation
Options for CIJ printers and lasers range from low-speed and light-duty solutions to ultra-fast systems that meet the highest production line speeds.
Compared to CIJ printers, laser marking’s initial equipment costs are typically higher. Lasers also require ventilation systems to remove any fumes generated by the marking process, along with shielding to protect the operator. However, once in operation, a laser solution only needs an occasional filter change and infrequent maintenance.
CIJ systems require the ongoing replenishment of ink and makeup fluids and periodic maintenance. Today’s CIJ printers and lasers are easy and safe to operate and maintain with proper training.
While many manufacturers choose CIJ for easy integration and simple operation, the characters formed generally have a dot matrix appearance. Lasers offer a better overall print quality for text, bar codes, and logos. Lasers are available with a range of marking fields sizes to accommodate various product sizes and line speeds. Thorough testing should be completed to identify the coding or marking technology that will produce the desired look and durability of a printed or marked code on a particular substrate.
Both CIJ printers and lasers technologies are designed for seamless integration into production and packaging lines. With flexible umbilicals up to 6 meters in length, CIJ printheads on can be configured to print on the top, side, or bottom of a product. Newer lasers, like the Videojet 7340 and 7440 fiber lasers, feature compact marking heads on flexible umbilicals–similar to CIJ printheads and umbilicals–to easily fit into tight spaces.
To determine which printing or marking technology is best for a particular production line, various factors must be considered including the substrate, line speed, the stability of product and package handling on the line, space availability for installation, as well as the purchase and operational costs. Videojet is ready to help you think through the best solution for your production line. Contact a Videojet product expert for more guidance, a production line audit, or sample testing on your substrate.