Since its initial development in the 1950s, aseptic packaging’s profile has steadily risen worldwide, largely thanks to the wide distribution of aseptic packaging giant, Tetra Pak®. Often consisting of a combination of metals, paperboard, and plastic, aseptic packaging materials are used to keep products sterile throughout their shelf life.
Without any risk of contamination, products housed within aseptic packaging are able to maintain flavor, freshness, and nutritional value for an extended period of time. As such, aseptic packaging is an essential component of many food packaging operations, as well as a valuable tool for companies that manufacture pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and chemicals.
Beyond a shared use for sterile packaging, these industries have another similarity: the need to place traceable codes onto their product packaging. To comply with governmental regulations and distributor policies alike, companies must place a variety of codes onto their packaging to ensure traceability and educate consumers. While these required markings change from industry to industry, it is common to see a combination of barcodes, data matrices, lot codes, serial numbers, expiration dates, and more on nearly all aseptic packaging.
Of course, these codes need to be legible and machine-readable to comply with regulations. To ensure that product markings stay sharp and clear, companies must use high-quality inks that are compatible with their chosen substrates. If you’re looking for the best ink for your aseptic packaging/Tetra Pak® product line, here’s what you should know.
1. Understand Your Substrates
When people hear the terms “aseptic packaging” and “Tetra Pak®,” they often think of the paperboard cartons frequently used to house products like almond milk and coconut water. However, the world of aseptic packaging is more diverse than that.
Tetra Pak® specializes in making the instantly identifiable cartons that line grocery store shelves worldwide. Made of alternating paperboard, polyethylene, and aluminum foil layers, Tetra Pak® cartons react well to MEK-based formulas due to their paperboard outer coating. Other aseptic containers are produced with differing materials and therefore require different formulas.
In today’s aseptic packaging market, one can find:
- Rigid containers, made of metal or glass
- Flexible plastic containers, often in the shape of pouches or bags
- Semi-rigid plastic containers, generally in the form of cups, trays, or bottles
These materials all have different mechanical properties that affect ink adhesion and clarity. For example, in addition to the type of substrate, whether it is being printed on before or after the sterilization process will be a defining factor with the ink adhesion. To avoid supply chain-complicating misprints, it is important to speak with an ink expert before choosing a formula.
2. Know Local Laws
Knowing local laws will ultimately help your operation stay up to code and up to date with current recalls. For instance, in 2005, Nestlé recalled over 30 million baby milk cartons across Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Italian authorities discovered traces of isopropylthioxanthone (ITX) in multiple packages, leading to a seizure of around two million liters of product. Soon after, authorities in France, Spain, Portugal, and Greece discovered the same issue.
Experts realized that the cartons’ packaging became compromised when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, causing ink migration directly into the baby milk itself. These recalls, amongst other high-profile incidents, have led many European countries to create laws dictating which formulas are appropriate for consumable product packaging.
In the United States as well, the FDA maintains multiple rulings such as 21 CFR and the Generally Accepted As Safe Substances (GRAS) guidelines that tell companies which formulas are permissible to use on consumable products.
Unfortunately, these countries lack uniformity in their regulations. To avoid potential legal issues, ink producers like InkJet, Inc. offer EU and FDA-approved inks that are approved for aseptic packaging/Tetra Pak® containers.
3. Follow Proper Procedures When Changing Inks
When switching from one ink formula to another, it’s essential to completely flush the CIJ before adding the new ink. Without a proper flush, the inappropriate ink may remain in the printer, potentially damaging the new ink’s effectiveness.
Thankfully, flushing a CIJ system is simple and can be performed through the printer’s computer interface. By flushing the system, operators can also prepare the printer to use more affordable, yet still highly effective, aftermarket inks. Switching to an aftermarket ink enables companies to save significant capital while achieving code compliance. Here's how.
Need Ink For Your Aseptic Packaging/Tetra Pak® Materials? We Can Help
Successful aseptic packaging/Tetra Pak® coding relies on using the right ink for the job. Without the appropriate formula, your company could face supply chain problems, legal issues, fines, and expensive factory downtime. Fortunately, if you’re unsure of which ink will best suit your operational needs, help is available.
Here at InkJet, Inc., we have been developing ink since 1989. We understand what it takes to successfully place markings on a variety of substrates as well as how to abide by FDA and EU regulations. If you need guidance on which formulas will work best with your product line, call us today.