Since becoming commercially available in the early 1950s, continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers have been one of the most reliable options for industrial coding operations. Generally constructed from steel and weighing close to 100 lbs once filled with ink, these relatively large machines are designed to place informative markings such as best-by dates, lot codes, and other important information on a variety of porous and non-porous materials. CIJ printers are able to make these encodings at high speed, meeting the output requirements of a number of demanding industries.
Of course, if you are interested in acquiring one of these machines for your manufacturing line, you are likely asking yourself, "how does a continuous inkjet printer work and what advantages can I expect from adding one to my enterprise?” This article will cover just that with a brief breakdown of CIJ systems, what actions they perform, and how they can benefit the modern production line.
How Does a Continuous Inkjet Printer Work?
As suggested by the title “continuous inkjet,” CIJ printers operate on the basic premise of creating a continuous flow of ink. The process begins when two chipped cartridges within the printer, one containing the ink itself and the other containing solvent, feed into one main reservoir. As these two liquids combine in the reservoir, a pump pressurizes the mixture, feeding it towards the printhead.
Upon arriving at the printhead, a piezoelectric element oscillates the ink, causing droplets to form. These droplets are then electrically charged by an electrode plate, propelling them towards the substrate in a precise manner. Any non-propelled ink is returned to the reservoir for future use.
The Advantages of Continuous Inkjet Printers
Stemming from these basic operating principles, CIJ models offer a number of benefits to industrial printing operations. If you incorporate one of these machines into your production line, you can expect:
Due to the highly pressurized nature of the continuous inkjet system, CIJ devices can encode substrates at a greater rate than other printer types. For instance, while the average TIJ printer can operate at a max rate of 100 meters per minute, the average CIJ printer operates at three times that speed, for an average of 300 meters per minute. This makes CIJ machines perfect for high-output operations such as industrial bottling and canning facilities. However, keep in mind that these are approximate speeds and these will be impacted by how many codes need to be printed within each meter of the production line. For example, one line may have only 1 single box per meter while another may have 10 bottles per meter, each requiring an individual code.
A well-made CIJ printer will be able to successfully complete high-velocity printing tasks for years if given proper maintenance. This is made possible both by an automatic monitoring system that enables quality control, as well as the durable construction that certain CIJs are known for.
A Wide Variety of Available Inks
CIJ printers can reliably use an array of inks with diverse applications, colors, and drying properties. Unlike other inkjet models, CIJ machines can use MEK (methyl ethyl ketone)-based inks, which can dry in under one second. Another unique ink option includes HyperCook thermochromic ink, the most advanced retort-proof ink on the market.
This variety of available inks makes for a machine with the versatility to encode a large number of both porous and non-porous substrates, including:
- Glass (including curved glass, such as bottles)
- Synthetic Paper
A Robust, Reliable Continuous Inkjet Printer: DuraCode
To illustrate the value that a well-made CIJ printer can provide, we’ve detailed one of the most reliable machines available on the market today, the DuraCode.
Built of modular stainless steel, this machine is built to last and operate 24/7 while printing codes at speeds as high as 330 meters per minute. With a built-in computer touchscreen and keyboard, the system is easy to navigate and allows the user to create and save hundreds of code combination presets. Additionally, the flexible print-head allows for easy printing on curved surfaces, while the intuitive mechanical layout enables filter and fluid changes without work stoppage.
While there is some learning curve to this machine and some regular maintenance to be done, it is a great starter CIJ printer for enterprises that have scaled up and need something more capable and reliable than they had previously. Reliably delivering code after code for extended periods of time on a variety of substrates, the DuraCode exemplifies what industrial facilities should expect from continuous inkjet printers.
Do You Have More Questions on CIJ Machines?
While we have answered the question, “How does a continuous inkjet printer work?” we know that in providing the explanation your application will require speaking to a marking and coding specialist to ensure optimal results. Fortunately, our expert team at InkJet, Inc. can answer your questions and guide you towards the right products for your unique enterprise.