Kodak shoots for better labels

Kodak's Health Imaging facility in Windsor, CO, switched suppliers of thermal-transfer print ribbons primarily to gain greater print consistency and clarity on its labels.

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But along the way it also realized sizeable cost savings and a dramatic reduction in maintenance-related downtime.

Manufactured at Kodak's Colorado plant is medical X-ray film, a product regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. On five automatic packaging lines, operating completely in the dark, Kodak bags, heat seals, cartons, case packs and palletizes sheets of X-ray film with minimal human intervention. Two thermal-transfer print-and-apply labelers on each line handle both carton and case labeling needs.

"Customers issue requirements for certain bar-code readability levels, and we weren't meeting them with the ribbons we used previously," says David Frye, supervisor of engineering and maintenance. Since switching to Ultra-V print ribbons from NCR Corp. (Dayton, OH), these requirements are met consistently. As an added bonus, the new ribbons cost 40% less than the ones used formerly.

Just as valuable to Kodak, which runs all five lines around the clock 6.5 days per week, is the way the new ribbons have streamlined maintenance. "We used to have to clean our print heads at every ribbon change, which meant about twice a day," says Frye. That required swabs soaked in alcohol, and all of it had to be done in the dark. "Now we clean the heads once a week when the lights are on during scheduled maintenance."

One reason the print heads stay cleaner is because the new ribbons incorporate NCR's patent-pending SPECTr system, which eliminates static that attracts dust and dirt. According to Frye, the improved cleanliness has lengthened the useful life of the print heads by about 30%.

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