Columbus Foods a Chicago-based cooking oil and shortening packager has long depended on ink-jet coders to print date and specialty codes on corrugated cases containing its bulk-packed products. In June the firm switched to a new unit that provides larger more legible codes. It also increases programming flexibility and more efficiently delivers ink to the printhead. The printed 25- and 50-lb corrugated shipping cases are shipped to Costco club stores and foodservice venues nationally.
The new ink-jet coder is supplied by Squid Ink (Spring Lake Park MN). It’s mounted adjacent to a conveyor just downstream from a case packer. The SQ/2 printing system is equipped with SQ-60 Squid Ink’s patented “no-clog” ink.
Rick Cummisford lab director with Columbus Foods says the Squid Ink printer “gives us a lot of flexibility” referring to the ease with which operators can change codes on the machine. “We’re experiencing significant time and money savings.” He adds that the new printer allows Columbus to print 1”-high codes rather than the ½” height possible with the former unit.
Reaping the benefits
The SQ/2 usually applies date code and lot number. But the unit can also be programmed to indicate a special code depending on the product.
“The problem with the last printer was that we were printing on the side of a good-sized case and the print was very small” Cummisford says. “By going to the Squid Ink unit we were able to get a clear print that’s an inch tall.”
Beyond improved code legibility the new printing system is equipped with a unique ink delivery system that’s proven to be the primary source of Columbus Foods’ savings.
Where the old ink-jet unit used a more expensive 8-oz print cartridge the Squid Ink unit uses a 5-gal pail. A dip tube is inserted into the no-clog ink in the pail. The ink is delivered to the printer in lines running from the pail on the ground to the printhead. The pressurized system extends to the bottom of the pail thereby using virtually all the ink in the pail. Additionally an operator can remove the cap from the pail and empty the unused portion of ink into the next 5-gal pail. This eliminates a considerable amount of waste that was unavoidable with the former print cartridge.
Keeping it simple
The SQ/2 is mounted to a line that Columbus Foods has used for many years. As sealed cases exit the case packer they’re conveyed to the Squid Ink unit. An operator can also set the position of the code on the case through a control-panel adjustment. The print head can be adjusted vertically too.
The system is pre-programmed by an operator to print the appropriate case code. As soon as the corrugated case passes by a photoeye a signal commands the ink-jet unit to print the box. The system can print at speeds to 200’/min. Following printing the cases are conveyed to a palletizer.
According to Cummisford the new Squid Ink SQ/2 runs about 20 hr/day requiring minimal cleaning time. In fact the unit has worked so well Cummisford says that Columbus has purchased the print delivery system for some of its existing ink-jet printers made by other vendors.
“We’re switching other lines to that ink delivery system but keeping the same printing unit” Cummisford says. “It’s been a good fit. It’s been really beneficial.”