Industrial packaging is an umbrella term that references the materials used to protect products as they move from point A to point B. Although these packages can be made from substances such as polyurethane, wood, and steel, corrugated cardboard boxes are the most commonly used shipping material, with over 100 billion cardboard boxes being annually produced in the U.S. alone.
Despite being great at protecting products, these materials aren’t necessarily made with printability in mind. Their porous nature absorbs ink, leading to reduced print quality. Their darker surface color can lower the levels of contrast between the ink and substrate, lessening the scannability of barcodes. Both of these factors can cause mishaps throughout the supply chain, which is a huge potential problem with how essential these box markings are for directing shipments to their intended locations.
Organizations need to find the right reliable case coding solutions to make sure all outgoing products are properly labeled and all shipments reach their destinations without fail. Let this article serve as your case coding hardware guide.
Case Coding Printer Solutions
Depending on the specific requirements of your operation, one of the following options will be right for you:
- High-resolution case coding printer
- Thermal inkjet (TIJ) printer
Let’s dive deeper into the strengths of each of these solutions to help determine which is right for your operation.
Case Coding Solution #1: High-Resolution Inkjet Printer
Commonly referred to as “case coders” or “large-character printers,” high-resolution printers are the go-to option for printing large, clearly legible codes, logos, and images. Known for their striking print clarity, these devices use high-density ink that is specifically designed to accommodate porous surfaces. This makes them perfect for encoding secondary packaging, like cardboard boxes, with high-quality codes and images.
You will want to consider this high-resolution printer option if your operation requires:
- Large graphics/codes: Due to their small size, TIJ printers are only able to encode images at a height of about one inch. Conversely, high-resolution case coding solutions often come equipped with far larger print heads, enabling a wide range of print sizes. For instance, the Precision Series 72 is named after its 72mm (2.83”) print head. With these dimensions, case coding printers can create clearly-legible text and company logos on top of the barcodes, lot codes, and other labels needed for shipping.
Case Coding Solution #2: Thermal Inkjet Printer
Since their introduction in the early 70s, TIJ printers have primarily specialized in printing on porous and semi-porous surfaces. Utilizing a disposable cartridge-based ink system, these machines are quite versatile and can print on a variety of industrial packaging substrates—including cardboard, untreated wood, and coated paper. Swapping to other substrates is as simple as swapping to an appropriate ink cartridge for that material. Additionally, every cartridge swap brings with it a brand new printhead, making these lightweight printers extremely low maintenance.
Consider this option if your operation requires:
- Mobility: TIJ printers are light, compact machines, with many of them weighing only a few pounds once equipped with a cartridge and mounting bracket. This light-weight construction allows TIJ machines to be easily moved around an assembly line, with some models even coming in handheld varieties.
- A print size of 1” or smaller: A TIJ printer is a cheaper and more mobile option than a high-resolution case coder. So, if your operation doesn’t need to print large characters or logos, a TIJ option will probably be best. The Anser U2 SmartOne is capable of printing up to 1” while the Anser U2 Smart can print up to ½”.
TIJ models offer high mobility, fairly fast print speeds (averaging around 100 m/min or 328 ft/min), and high-DPI (dots per inch) resolutions of up to 600 x 300. However, their compact size can make them inadequate for printing larger images. For these operations, a high-resolution case coding printer will be a better choice.
Still Unsure Which Case Coding Solution You Need?
Weighing all the variables and choosing the right option is not an easy task. Between all the unique qualities of industrial packaging substrates and the possible steep consequences of misprinting codes on them, the search for a case coding solution can be a challenge. If you find yourself still questioning which machine will best perform these tasks for you, InkJet, Inc. has you covered. Just give us a call, fill us in on what materials you’re working with, and we will help you find the best machine to fit your operation.