Until three years ago date and batch coding of primary package labels at Marion and Co. in Manati PR was printed flexographically. But when a third line was installed in 1992 this division of Marion Merrell Dow sought a coding system with better clarity and faster changeover than its flexo systems had supplied.
So the new line was equipped with a Blazer(TM) 6000 laser coding system from Lasertechnics (Albuquerque NM). Management was so pleased with the system's performance that the plant's other two flexographic coders were removed and replaced with Blazer 6000s as well.
Both of these were mounted on new pressure-sensitive labelers that replaced old labelers. The new labelers like the one on the new line are from New Jersey Machine (Lebanon NH).
Since the plant-wide switch in coding systems completed about a year ago Marion enjoys simplified code changeover and improved code clarity on lines producing the antihistimine Seldane and hypertension drugs Cardizem CD and Cardizem SR. These products are packaged in high-density polyethylene bottles ranging in size from 90 to 400 cc. The newest line runs as fast as 220 bottles/min the other lines somewhat slower. But even at their fastest none of the lines taxes the Blazer which has a rated speed of 1 marks/min says Lasertechnics.
According to Rigo Irizarry Marion's technical service manager the company's previous coding method was the root of numerous production problems. Not only was it too slow it allowed too many opportunities for code smearing and it was inefficient when it came to changeovers.
The smearing is now history because there's no ink to smear or wash off. The Blazer 6000 uses a pulsed CO2 laser to deliver precisely positioned codes at high speeds by etching them into the paper labels. Because the system is so reliable Marion has been able to reassign two full-time employees whose main job was code inspection.
In addition changeovers have been simplified considerably. In the past the rubber printing mats of the flexo systems were difficult to change.
Now changeover takes two minutes or so. It's a simple matter of switching the copper beryllium "masks" that govern the Blazer's beam delivery system.
On top of all the efficiencies gained since switching to laser coding the absence of inks and solvents eliminated cleanup and waste disposal. So the system is equally advantageous from an environmental standpoint. Marion saves money too.
"By saving on expensive mats and other consumables and by eliminating certain labor costs the Blazers paid for themselves in six months" says Irizarry.