Over the last few years, stand-up pouches have steadily risen in popularity across several industries. Constructed from flexible plastics like polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), stand-up pouches are valued for their resealability, aesthetic appeal, high recyclability, and ability to serve as aseptic packaging. These qualities make pouches particularly appealing to food manufacturers, who are reportedly responsible for 70% of the business that takes place in the flexible pouch market.
However, pouches are regularly used in many other industries as well, including:
- Beverage packaging
- Pet food production
- Personal care product/cosmetic product manufacturing
- Pharmaceutical manufacturing
- Medical instrument production
- Consumer product development
In addition to a shared need for stand-up pouches, these industries have another commonality—the need to follow strict labeling standards.
To participate in modern supply chains, both packaging groups and product manufacturers must follow the traceability standards laid out by distribution partners and federal/state regulators. While these requirements naturally vary based on industry, geographic location, and specific supply chain policies, there are a few markings that are widely accepted as standard, with one of the most frequent being date codes.
Of course, applying date codes on an industrial scale isn’t a simple undertaking. Production lines often move at fast speeds and packaging facilities can be home to harsh environmental factors that can negatively affect code quality.
For pouches, companies need high-quality date coding machines to ensure that applied codes are consistently legible.
Important Considerations When Purchasing a Date Coding Machine for Pouch Packaging
When it comes to pouch printing, there is no “one size fits all” solution. As we touched on above, pouches are used by a variety of industries to fulfill different purposes. With this diversity in usage comes a number of other variables as well. The most important factors to consider when printing on pouches are production line setups, environment, and substrate conditions.
Differences in Line Setups
Pouches can be filled in many different ways. Smaller operations may manually fill their pouches and use a continuous band sealer, whereas larger companies will inevitably need to use automated technology like a vertical form fill seal machine (VFFS). These differences will have a heavy influence on which date coding machine will be an optimal fit.
Industrial packaging facilities can be home to a range of elements that can potentially disrupt coding success and harm machines. Depending on industry specifics, companies may have to compensate for high humidity, extreme temperatures, debris, and more.
Pouch materials can be affected by how a company chooses to fill the packaging and what they’re filling the pouch with. For example, cold products can cause condensation to occur on the outside of a bag while hot products may cause ink transfer issues.
If each of these elements is not adequately accounted for, codes are liable to appear unreadable, and equipment may become damaged over time. Thankfully, with all of the different marking options available today, companies of all industries have access to machines that can create long-lasting codes consistently.
Look below to see three of the best pouch marking options that the printing market has to offer.
Thermal Transfer Overprinter
Thermal transfer overprinters (TTO) are frequently used to print on pouches due to their ability to create machine-scannable barcodes and long-lasting markings. Unlike inkjet printers, which use liquid ink to mark substrates, TTO systems create codes by applying heat to ink-covered ribbons called thermal ink ribbons. As the ink melts, it carefully adheres to the substrate to create a clearly defined code, graphic, or text message.
While TTO systems are adept at creating high-resolution barcodes and images, they do have a few drawbacks, including:
- Long changeover times
- Substantial waste related to ribbon changes
- A high total cost of ownership due to ribbon expenses and relatively frequent maintenance needs (compared to CIJ and TIJ systems)
Continuous Inkjet Printer
Continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers excel at creating small text codes on both porous and non-porous substrates. Utilizing non-contact printing methods, CIJ systems mark products by creating highly-pressurized streams of ink. The ink stream works circularly, originating in the main reservoir that is filled with both ink and solvent/make-up.
After a pump pressurizes the ink, the stream moves toward the printhead where a select amount of ink drops are propelled toward a substrate. The remaining ink in the stream is then rerouted back to the reservoir to immediately restart the process.
Thanks to this circulation principle, CIJ printers like the Duracode Keyboard can mark products at speeds up to 1,000 ft/min without interruptions. As such, they are a great date coding choice when dealing with higher quantities of products.
Thermal Inkjet Printer
While CIJ printers are great at placing date codes on large quantities of products, not all operations require their high-speed capabilities. In these cases, thermal inkjet printers (TIJ) are a better choice.
TIJ printers are more compact than CIJ printers and are available at a more economical price point. While CIJ printers utilize large chipped bottles as ink sources, TIJ printers use small, disposable cartridges. TIJ printers heat the ink within these cartridges to create air bubbles that propel ink droplets toward a substrate. As the bubble collapses, it creates a vacuum effect that allows the process to repeat itself.
Through this operational principle, TIJ printers like the Anser U2 Pro-S can mark products moving at 394 ft/min. Newer TIJ models, like the Anser X1, can even use thermal inkjet principles to mark products at CIJ speeds (a little under 1,000 ft/min).
InkJet, Inc. Can Set You Up for Pouch Printing Success
With the help of a well-made date coding machine, companies can ensure that their pouch packaging is outfitted with long-lasting, highly legible codes. At InkJet, Inc., we offer a variety of CIJ and TIJ printer models, as well as TTO ribbons, to help companies complete the date coding process for pouches with speed and accuracy.
To find the best date coding machine for your pouch packaging needs, contact us online today or call 1(800) 280-3245 to learn which option will work best for you.