Aluminum cans were first introduced to the market in 1957 and, since then, have become one of the most important packaging materials in the world. Perhaps most commonly associated with beer and other beverage packaging, aluminum cans are valued for being lightweight, affordable, easy to recycle, and able to keep products fresh.
Although beverage cans may be the most ubiquitous form of aluminum packaging, this material type is frequently used in other fields as well. Chemical producers, food packaging groups, paint manufacturers, and more all rely on aluminum cans to keep their products viable until they reach the hands of consumers. Regardless of industry, however, nearly every company that uses aluminum packaging has a shared need for properly applied labels and codes.
Whether one is using aluminum cans to house beer or motor oil, companies are almost always required to mark the packaging with fully traceable text and codes. Depending on the nature of the product, these codes can look like:
- Expiration dates
- Product batch code/lot codes
- Serial numbers
- Data matrices
To make these codes long-lasting, legible, and sharp enough to be machine-scannable, it’s essential to use an ink formula that is guaranteed to be compatible with the substrate. However, this search can sometimes be difficult—especially when you consider how aluminum packaging facilities struggle with challenging environmental conditions.
If you’re struggling to find the best ink for your aluminum packaging needs, here’s how to find the ideal formula for your situation.
Important Considerations When Printing on Aluminum Substrates
Just as aluminum packaging is used for a multitude of purposes, ink producers have developed numerous ink options to accommodate the needs of different environments and applications. To ensure code longevity and ongoing readability, it’s important to understand the different elements that make one ink better-suited for an application vs. another.
The most basic consideration is substrate compatibility. All product packaging materials carry surface qualities that affect how ink is able to dry. For instance, a porous material, like cardboard, allows ink to sink beneath the surface upon application. Consequently, cardboard-compatible inks don’t need to be quick-drying to avoid smudges.
Conversely, aluminum is a non-porous material, meaning ink does not sink beneath the substrate’s surface. To accommodate this material property, companies need to mark aluminum packaging with quick-drying, solvent-based inks. These solvent-based formulas can dry quickly enough to keep codes sharp, legible, and smear-free. Other important considerations include:
Canning occurs in industrial environments that often have to deal with conditions that can potentially impair code quality. Beer canning facilities, for example, need to accommodate the layers of condensation that frequently form on their cans’ surfaces. Other companies may need to consider potentially problematic levels of dust, extreme temperatures, and more.
Canned items frequently require post-processing to prepare the housed product for consumer use. In many cases, codes and text are applied to the can prior to post-processing, so the ink must be able to withstand the entire procedure, whether it includes high heat (e.g., retorting), steam exposure, cool water dunking, or similar conditions.
Although this may initially appear to be a lot to consider, ink producers like InkJet, Inc. make the search process easier by offering a variety of aluminum-compatible formulas to meet every need.
How To Find the Best Aluminum Compatible Ink for Your Operation
The easiest way to find the best ink for your aluminum marking needs is to consult with a trusted ink manufacturer. Companies like InkJet, Inc. that have decades of ink production experience understand the chemistry behind what makes a formula adhere to metal surfaces and withstand post-processing. Additionally, our formulas are compatible with other brands such as Videojet, Markem Imaje, and Domino.
InkJet, Inc.’s formula DC301, for example, is an MEK/Methanol-based ink developed specifically for retorted aluminum cans. The ink’s thermochromic properties allow the ink to change colors after the retort process, aiding legibility.
In addition to DC301, InkJet, Inc. offers a number of other inks for aluminum applications, including those with special properties such as:
- High-temperature resistance
- Alcohol resistance
- Hard pigment base
- Soft pigment base
- Non-transfer properties
Beyond these options, InkJet, Inc. also offers custom ink services to meet even the most niche requirements.
Need Ink for Aluminum Applications? InkJet, Inc. Is Here To Help
When printing on aluminum packaging, coding success relies on using the right formula for the circumstance. If one doesn’t use a substrate-compatible ink that is able to resist both environmental conditions and post-processing, codes are liable to become smudged, faint, or altogether unreadable.
Fortunately, by consulting with a trusted ink manufacturer, companies can find the best formulas to meet their needs and ensure complete product traceability.
To find the best ink for aluminum applications, contact us online today or call 1(800) 280-3245.