|This bread package was coded using continuous inkjet technology. Many manufacturers now offer inkjet technology that is mess free. Photo courtesy of Videojet Technologies INC.|
Accurate package coding is necessary for product quality and traceability. In the past, bakers typically have relied on inkjet printing to ensure that their packages are properly labeled. However, many times inkjet coding leaves messy ink spills and clogged heads—both of which require maintenance and downtime.
Bakers cannot afford to lose anymore ink and time dedicated to repairing their inkjet package printers. Inkjet print heads generally cost between $3,000 and $5,000 each, and their print quality can degrade through time. To improve bakers’ bottom lines, many suppliers now offer hassle-free inkjet printers and printers that rely on thermal transfer of ink.
The new wave of inkjet printers for package coding allows bakers to change codes quickly and often, maintains print quality and requires less maintenance and downtime. In addition, these new code printers allow bakers to print with variable codes—coding the shift, date, time and line the package came from.
One manufacturer offers an inkjet printer that offers non-contact code. The ink is shot from the print head to the package. The manufacturer says that only the ink touches the package, not the printer or other equipment.
This inkjet printer is able to print on round or soft surfaces, therefore it is able to print on a loaf of bread after it has been packaged. This continuous system is able to be connected to conveyors immediately after packaging.
The manufacturer says this system is ideal many bakery packaging applications, including hard and soft plastic packages, film, paper and plastic tabs. One feature of this inkjet printer is that it is designed to clean itself at startup and shutdown, reducing maintenance and downtime. The manufacturer says this inkjet printer performs well in applications where the bakery is running one or two shifts a day, because the printer is able to clean itself in the off shift.
Other features of this inkjet system is that it may use ink that dries immediately. It also is compatible with several different ink types. For bakery applications, the printer runs at 916 ft. per minute on any type of surface, the manufacturer says, but the speed decreases if bakers want tall codes.
Thermal transfer printers
Besides inkjet printers, manufacturers offer thermal transfer inkjet printers that are ideal for bakery coding applications. Unlike inkjet technology, thermal transfer printers print directly on packaging.
One manufacturer of thermal transfer printers offers a code printer for flexible packaging that is a contact printer. Because it is contact, bakery foods must not be packaged. The printer features a 300 DPI dot pad that heats and touches a ribbon one one side. This ribbon transfers to the packaging, peals away and leaves a print. Unlike many inkjet systems, thermal transfer does not leave ink spills.
This machine is ideal for horizontal wrap machines, such as those that pack snack cakes or fruit pies, and vertical wrap machines that pack bags of mini muffins or cookies.
The manufacturer says the printer features a 1,000 meter ribbon, which translates to 75,000 codes on one ribbon if the bakery was running at 150 packs per minute with codes 0.5 in. high. This equates to about one ribbon per shift for larger wholesale bakers.
Many options exist for bakers to choose the right code printer for their operations. Manufacturing innovations allow code printers, such as inkjet printers and thermal transfer printers, to perform tasks with reduced costs, maintenance and downtime.