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