Engineered Printing Solutions has worked with numerous apparel manufacturers (including non-profits) of T-shirts, underwear, and lingerie in developing tagless operations to identify brands, sizes, and care labels. The elimination of sewn-in tags, a more comfortable ‘feel’, additional branding and short run capabilities by way of custom automation are all reasons tagless printing is growing and here to stay.
- Lower cost than other types of decorating with price per printed label averaging $.002
- Can print one color on top of another, no post-curing time required
- Eliminates purchase of labels from outside source
- No sewn tags to irritate or rub against skin
- Inks have passed major manufacturers’ wash test requirements
- Tagless often advertised as premium feature
- Easy customization and design changes
- No waste by having to pre-stock labels with possible leftovers.
How Do I Choose The Right Industrial Inkjet Printer?
That’s the million dollar question! (Don’t worry. It won’t cost that much.) We’ve already outlined how you might benefit from the addition of an inkjet printer, and how to justify the cost of another piece of equipment, in a previous post. Now you have to match your workload and job requirements to the right machine configuration.
What’s the best inkjet machine solution?
That depends. Here are a few criteria used to get that answer:
Image quality – higher resolution means higher priced heads (or more passes).
- Throughput – there are “multi-pass” versus “single-pass” options (more on that later).
- Part size – limitations on height / width = machine size.
- Image size = part size = machine size.
- Substrate used – Regardless of the print technology, some substrates (PP & PE come to mind) still require pre-treatment for best image adhesion.
- Number of colors required – dark substrates will need White base-coat layer, plus CMYK
What’s the best inkjet technology for me?
Do you need high volume / throughput with minimal part handling? Consider an automated conveyor, single-pass inkjet printer. You’ll typically get:
- Up to 14″ per second of print speed
- A print width that will be a minimum of 2.75″ and can be wider on a custom configuration.
- Print resolutions up to 720 dpi in a single pass.
This is a great configuration for in-line applications, especially when pre-treatment is required. In many applications, you might require tooling of some sort to make sure parts are spaced and aligned consistently. Some units will incorporate a series of sensors to detect the part, and software that tells the heads when the part is in position for printing. We’ll help you with those.
Do you need higher resolution (up to 1200 dpi) but less speed? Perhaps a flatbed printer is your best option. These units offer:
- An advantage for smaller / identical parts that can be placed in machined trays or nests.
- A vacuum platen so you can print flat “stock.”
- A series of print heads (arrays) on a rack that moves across the bed, printing and curing as it goes, giving you the capability of printing in a single direction, or printing in both directions, depending on your needs. It’s not as fast, but print resolution may be a higher priority.
With either of the above technologies, you will have the capability of adjusting print speeds, ink density / droplet size, head heights, and color hues. Speaking of colors, if you are printing process color on a dark substrate, you will need to print a white base layer first, but both technologies can accommodate that. In addition, it’s possible to print a clear-coat to protect the image or provide a more glossy appearance, but you’ll probably have to sacrifice one of the white arrays.
Do you only print in one color? Obviously, it’s possible to print monochrome or spot colors with inkjet, but keep in mind that it’s not practical to change or flush colors in the same array. With most high end industrial inkjets, ink is fed from bulk tanks, not cartridges (helps to keep the consumable costs down).
Therefore, if you are thinking of printing with one color only, monochrome machines are available, but you need to be very sure that you will only require that one color. Custom machines have been built with white and black arrays, so the customer can print either (and even mix both to get a gray hue).
Does your customer ask to make changes on press or repeat exact specs? Inkjet will usually provide the capability to manipulate the images at the machine, with the assistance of on-board graphic art software such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW. Some machines are capable of storing jobs (or job “queues”) so operators can simply select from a drop-down box. Custom machines are network-capable, so jobs can be entered remotely, and many in-line / automated units can be accessed remotely for both job entry and diagnostic capabilities.
Now you know a lot more about industrial inkjet printers than the average pad printer. Don’t forget: at EPSVT we build your industrial inkjet printer the same way we build your pad printer — from the ground up to your specifications. That makes it clean, efficient and engineered for accuracy and cost effectiveness.
Call our toll-free number 800-272-7764 or visit our contact us page. We’ll start you down a two-lane inkjet/pad printer highway to greater success.
You know there’s a threat to your brand, and you know you need to take action. Crucial revenues are being lost each day, and your corporate reputation is at risk. If you are in the pharmaceutical or medical device space, you know that Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA) compliance is on the near term horizon.
While you may feel comfortable ensuring the authenticity of product in your own manufacturing facility, the real threat is in the distribution channel where many break points exist for counterfeiters to introduce fake product.
But, how do you get started with adding security features to your product packaging? One of the key considerations is to find the right partner.
One of the best partners may already be in your camp – your trusted printer. They already know your products and your daily challenges – such as brand colors, industry regulations, dry time, line speed, etc.
A lot of time has already been spent in presenting your packaging to the market. There’s all the quality control measures to present the best looking graphics. And the time spent on necessary approvals. In many cases, securing your brand can be as simple as adding security taggants to your existing printing ink and processes. This is where a partner that formulates their own ink can be beneficial. Your stock ink can become security ink overnight, using the expertise of in house chemists and ink makers.
You printing partner can also advise on how to add more complex covert security features, like invisible barcodes, that allow only authorized personnel, using specially calibrated barcode readers, to detect and verify the codes. With the data contained in the (invisible) barcode, track and trace functionality is enabled to follow any package from manufacture, right through to the end consumer. All the while, protecting your consumer and your distribution channels from the appearance of counterfeit or illegitimate product.
In many cases, the ‘real estate’ on product packaging may be limited for adding security marks or codes. Again, your printing partner can help here. For example, the DNA Matrix™ security mark can be embedded into any ink and provide forensic level protection and proof of identity for your products. It can be added to primary and secondary packaging, embedded in a logo, word mark or brand device, or applied as part of a serialization, numbering or barcoding process (overtly or covertly).
The counterfeit threat is real, but help is always close at hand. Talk to your printer to see how simply anti-counterfeiting devices can be added to your current printing processes. For more information, please contact Tim Scully email@example.com.
Mike Hayes is the Managing Director of DNA Technologies. He has been helping customers to combat counterfeiting in print applications for over 10 years.
Pad printing’s a great way to transfer images to 3-dimensional parts. Its versatility handling shapes and substrates composition surpass almost every other automated marking method. However, getting that ink to ADHERE to all these parts can present a challenge, especially parts molded from Polyethylene (PE) or Polypropylene (PP).
These two substrates exhibit a low surface energy (usually measured and described as the “Dyne level”). There are other substrates like those possibly containing Teflon that are also problematic. But PE and PP are so widely used in different industries, we’ll stick (no pun intended) with them for the purposes of this discussion.
Most ink manufacturers provide inks that are “suitable” for PE and/or PP. In many cases you’d just treat it like any other pad printing job with no issues. However, depending on the customer’s expectations of image durability, this may not prove a viable option. It is, however, the first place to look.
Pre-treating for adhesion choices
There are four choices when faced with adhesion issues:
- Special ink
- Chemical wipe
- Flame treatment
- Corona discharge
Pre-wiping parts by hand with a chemical that allows the ink to bond is a “second-tier” option, best suited to prototypes and short runs. Many firms hesitate to introduce another chemical into their work flow, and you’ll be exposing operators while increasing run time as well.
For longer runs and constant production speeds, you really have to look at the final two options – flame or corona – usually in a print cell, or actually integrated either into the machine configuration or in-line.
Flame treatment is more cost-effective, easily integrated and in some cases, actually provides a better surface pre-treatment. However, some firms choose not to have an “open flame” in their workplace, regardless of the fact that most flamers are heavily guarded and the actual flame is no more than 1” to 2” in length.
Electrical discharge units (some call it corona while others refer to a plasma-jet) are just that: an electrical charge across or through the substrate that raises the energy level to a point where ink will cross-link and adhere. These are more costly to purchase, but better suited to some substrates.
Please note that there’s no “magic bullet” when it comes to pre-treatment technologies. Some work better with substrate “A” versus substrate “B.” To complicate matters even further, there are a large number of different blends of plastics, especially PE and PP, while other plastics may include recycled (“re-grind”) material; flame-retardant additives; colors, etc., all of which can affect adhesion characteristics.
To conclude: your choice is based on throughput speeds and budget, plus environmental issues.
Your ink or machine supplier will be able to assist you with testing and choices, as you need to find out what works best, will meet your production rates, and is most cost-effective.
One final note: If you are importing molded parts, be aware that the “blend” of materials may change without notice; what works this month may not work in the future. New batches may require new research. If you can, check with your parts manufacturer and bring that information back to your ink supplier.
Join the conversation! We have technical ink experts available to answer your questions and work through any problems you may encounter. Confused? Connect with the right person to help. We make the complicated seem easy!