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Article | December 2, 2011
Ink-jet coders take hold at this food manufacturer
A trial installation of ink-jet printers that rely on a piston pump system for ink circulation led quickly to widespread use at the Suter Company.
“Nothing succeeds like success.”
That’s how Mike Vella at the Suter Co. sums up the way in which one Hitachi (www.hitachi-america.us) ink-jet printer installed in early 2011 quickly became eight Hitachi printers before the year was out.
“Once people started to see the ease of operation and maintenance, not to mention how reliable the machines were, they were sold,” says Vella, vice president of operations at the Sycamore, IL, manufacturer of refrigerated salads, deviled eggs, dips and spreads, and other foods. “Within eight months of our first Hitachi installation we’d replaced eight of nine printers with Hitachi printers.”
Substrates being printed at Suter include both paperboard and high-density polyethylene tubs used for large portions of things like chicken salad, for instance. The PXR Series printers, says Vella, do not require a supply of air to function. Used instead is a piston pump system and a 24V DC electric motor to circulate the ink, which eliminates the possibility of fluctuations in pressure that can occur in a circulation system driven by air pressure. Not only does this piston pump approach lead to tremendous print clarity and reliability, says Vella. By minimizing clogging, it also greatly simplifies cleaning and maintenance.
“Without that independent air supply to complicate things,” says Vella, “cleaning is quick and easy. No longer do we have to perform cleaning every day. Nor do we have to think as carefully about startup and shutdown. We run two 10-hour shifts six days a week and then turn the printers off on Saturday after a routine cleanup. When we resume Monday morning, they’re ready to go.”
Vella is also quick to emphasize how important a role was played by IMS Partners (www.ims-partners.com), the Hitachi distributor that first introduced him to these coding systems.
“I’d just left a meeting with some of the folks who were having the most trouble with our old coders,” Vella recalls. “And in my mail box was a business card from Dale Tetzlaff of IMS, who had made a cold call while I was in the meeting. I called him right away and we met soon after. From the start he promised an outstanding product plus superior service. The service is crucial, too, because it involves such things as inks, fluids, and whatever technical assistance we might need.”
IMS Partners installed a trial machine with no strings attached, says Vella. The substrate being printed was a paperboard sleeve holding canned product. Within days it had Vella convinced that this was the way to go.
One additional benefit that Suter has gained since the switch in its codinig machines is a considerable savings in makeup fluids. “It probably comes to about $1,500 per machine per year,” says Vella.
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