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'Swing' to thermal transfer printing

Pouched meat packer saves time and improves print quality and consistency.
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Battistoni Italian Specialty Meats, Buffalo, NY, an artisan producer of premium dry-cured specialty meats, packages sliced pepperoni and salami in various package sizes from 6-oz to 5-lbs. Battistoni uses a combination of laminated and co-extruded thermoformable films with high oxygen barrier to protect the products against oxidation. These films are sourced from multiple suppliers.

To code these packages, the company had been using an automated ink stamp system to print 2 to 3 lines of text (sell by dates and lot numbers) on the sealed pouches. The automated ink stamper caused some problems with print clarity, ink smearing, and occasional failure to deliver complete message prints. Time required to set-up and change over from one product to another was extensive. The system also required constant adjustment. So it was not operating at optimum speed, and was resulting in increasing labor costs for Battistoni.

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When Battistoni decided on new thermoforming machinery, the PowerPak ST420 from GEA, the company also re-evaluated its marking/coding systems. The new GEA packaging machine forms a bottom pocket, and the top web film is printed just before it is heat-sealed to the filled meat packs.

Printer upgrade
To address its printing/coding efficiency challenges, Battistoni decided to install a Swing X.2.4H Thermal Transfer unit manufactured by EIDOS Marking Systems, S.P.A. The system was sourced from EIDOS’ North American technology partner Matthews Marking Systems, and it was purchased through the distributor Marktec Products, Inc.

In trying to help Battistoni make its best choice, Marktec CEO William Cox recalled, “We started out considering a continuous inkjet on a traversing arm. But this particular printing application not only required printing on multiple positions across the width of the web, it also required printing multiple positions along the length of the web. We also had to print a relatively small font with very precise print positions. Another challenge was that the Battistoni packaging room is pretty cold, which makes it not particularly conducive to fast ink drying times. Taking all these criteria into consideration, we suggested that the Matthews Thermal Transfer printing technology would be the best option.”

Installed in September 2013, the Swing is a digital thermal transfer printer that can print high-resolution logos, text, bar codes, date/time codes, and lot/batch numbers directly on flexible packaging materials such as paper, foil, and film. The control unit incorporates a 5.7” touch screen graphical user interface that is easy to use and facilitates message and printing parameters selection. The system also offers the advantage of being able to simultaneously print in two directions (latitude and longitude) across the film web and close to the package seams.

With Swing models available for both continuous and intermittent printing applications, the compact unit is engineered for easy integration into existing packaging lines and eliminates the need to maintain an inventory of pre-printed labels. Continuous print speeds are approximately 39.37 inches per second (1000 mm/sec). Intermittent speeds are approximately 13.78 inches per second (350 mm/sec). Available with an extensive selection of thermal non-toxic ink ribbons, the unit can accommodate a wide variety of product/package substrates and applications. Ribbon formulations feature instant dry times and excellent adhesion to the substrate to avert smearing.

Matthews engineered a custom frame for the Swing printer to fit perfectly on Battistoni’s PowerPak equipment, and personnel from Marktec helped train the Battistoni packaging staff to operate the system. Since implementing the Swing unit in intermittent print mode, Battistoni has realized a total reduction in illegible prints and enjoyed an 85% reduction in set-up and changeover times. The employees working on this line have expressed satisfaction with the Swing’s performance. Battistoni expects the machine to pay for itself within three years and is evaluating this printer for other packaging lines in the plant.

Battistoni Plant Manager Betsy Kusmierski comments, “The Matthews Swing unit works like a dream! The new system is mounted directly on the packaging machine and only takes the turn of a knob and a couple computer strokes to set up, change, or adjust.”

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