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Comparing ink-jet technologies: continuous vs. thermal

Continuous Ink Jet (CIJ) and Thermal Ink Jet (TIJ) are the two predominant ink jet technologies used in primary package industrial coding applications. Each technology has an inherent set of operating considerations.
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FILED IN:  Machinery  > Coding/marking

When choosing between CIJ and TIJ, it is useful to consider the strengths of each technology.


CIJ strengths:
• It adheres to most packaging materials and can be used on curved surfaces (e.g., bottom of a soda can).
• It is capable of achieving very high speeds for alpha numeric codes.
• The latest generation has significantly improved reliability with decreased maintenance requirements.
TIJ strengths:
•Works well on porous and semi-porous materials (e.g., chipboard cartons with an uncoated printing area).
• The high resolution (typically 300 dpi or above) makes it an excellent choice when visual appearance of a bar code is important or when used with a camera-based code verification system.
• Maintenance is simplified because the print head and ink are contained in a low-cost, disposable cartridge. In the last few years, significant improvements to ink-jet printers make them cleaner and easier to use, regardless of which technology is being employed. For CIJ, a number of features have been added to increase uptime and decrease the associated maintenance:
• Sealed cartridge-based systems for ink delivery make replenishment easy while eliminating the possibility for spills.
• Advancements in print head technology include automated cleaning, the ability to continually adjust to changes in the ambient environment, and a perforated design that reduces ink and debris build-up across the print head face.
• Ink system and common-wear parts are combined in an easily replaceable core design that provides long and predictable maintenance cycles. CIJ printers, on the other hand, are inherently clean and easy to use due to their replaceable cartridge design. As inks become available that are darker and deliver better dry times, and printer vendors offer more rugged industrial designs, TIJ technology is experiencing increased adoption.
In the near future, laser systems, which have experienced steady increases in adoption over the past 10 years, are offering a third option in industrial coding applications. While requiring a higher initial investment, lasers offer high reliability with minimal maintenance and good print quality. These factors will continue to drive an increased usage of lasers in industrial coding applications.
Ultimately, when deciding on a coding technology, the strengths of each must be matched with how well it will integrate with other equipment on the line. It is critical to match the production line communications with printer capabilities, as well as ensure that the printer has the ability to process the information and print at the speeds necessary to meet production demands.




I supply CIJ and TIJ printers as well as Laser marking systems and feel that all three are great marking systems and each have their ideal installations and I would love to see an article in your magazine actually comparing the three technologies giving real and proven data and listing the true benefits and shortcomings of each system. However, I feel this article reads more like an advertisement for TIJ printers then any kind of comparison. The true strengths of the CIJ printer; the very low cost of ownership, super high reliability, low intervention cycle and ease of use were not mentioned and no mention was made about the shortcomings of either system or whether the strengths of the system outweigh the shortcomings. In addition two particular items you sited as strengths of TIJ jump out as completely incorrect. First neither is a TIJ cartridge “Low Cost” nor does it have any “Automated Cleaning Capacities”. In fact when discussing TIJ the last thing I would say is that a TIJ cartridge is “Low Cost”. For example let’s look at a simple comparison that everyone can understand. An HP TIJ cartridges contains 42 milliliters of ink (Lets not discuss that you can’t ever get it all out) per cartridge and using the lowest list price I have found for a cartridge of $50 the cost of TIJ ink is around $4,500 per gallon!!! Now compare that to the average price of $250 per gallon for the ink used in a CIJ printer and I think you will find that TIJ is not “Low Cost”. Secondly the only “Automatic Cleaning” that a TIJ cartridge can perform is to eject ink droplets from each orifice just before the printer needs to print on the product, this does clear the orifices and get the printer ready to print but it in fact leads to a huge mess over time as the tiny droplets that are ejected into the air float around the area before settling on the surrounding equipment – in the industry we refer to this a spitting and just as it sounds it’s not good and it wastes ink driving up the cost of ownership. In comparison the CIJ printer I supply truly does clean itself. When the printer is shut down it evacuates the ink from the nozzle chamber then it pumps additive through the nozzle chamber, the nozzle and the return system cleaning them and making the printer ready for the next time it will be used. In the future if you are going to make comparisons I think everyone would appreciate if you would try to make them on an even playing field. Mark Zwolle aka: The Date Code Dude

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