LATE STAGE PACKAGE PRINTING
June 11, 2018
June 11, 2018
Package Printing – Direction
Printers and brand owners are faced with a key challenge today, one with few available solutions.
While the brand names and logos that grace a package can remain constant for years, other critical information changes frequently.
This includes batch numbers, the unique sequential identifiers required on pharmaceuticals packaging, and a range of variations for country-specific regulations and languages, substitute ingredients, and requirements of specific retailers.
Today, packagers accommodate this more dynamic information in one of two ways:
- They can print and warehouse multiple versions of the package and pick them as needed. This can be done through traditional flexo, gravure and offset processes. And while the quality is very high, the shorter print runs are very costly, result in additional warehousing and picking costs, and are impractical for variable information (such as unique package identifiers).
- Another method is to overprint the new information onto pre-printed packages at a later stage, usually during manufacturing or filling. This is less costly, with quality that is sufficient for applications like expiration dates but limiting for others.
But there’s good news on the horizon.
For many packers and fulfillment companies, these trade-offs may soon become moot. High-quality, late-stage printing of complex information is possible with a new technology that combines novel technologies from DataLase Ltd. and Xerox Corporation,
The worldwide market for late-stage printing generates about $3 billion in annual revenue and is growing by 4 to 5 percent each year. Inkjet devices account for more than 65 percent of late-stage volume today while thermal transfer systems represent another commonly used technology. Each technology has its strengths and challenges.
Inkjet prints at very high speeds, as fast as 5 meters per second, to keep up with most manufacturing lines. But it prints only in small areas, typically 10 to 20 characters on one or two lines and uses low-quality fonts that clearly show their dot patterns. That’s the trade-off: minimizing ink volumes makes drying faster to maintain production speeds.
Inkjet also can have reliability issues. The prints heads are positioned close to the packs, where they are occasionally bumped into misalignment. Ink can clog, particularly in the hot and dirty environments of many filling facilities, causing shutdowns that typically cost from $1,000 to $5,000 per hour. In addition, ink durability can be an issue, for example, in freezers, where condensation can wash away type. When that happens, throwing the box away is often less expensive than manually determining its contents.
Inkjet’s main technology competitor today is thermal transfer, offering higher quality, but slower speeds and a ribbon-based process that is messy and requires frequent ribbon replacement. This, of course, results in frequent machine downtime. No coding and marking technology on the market today has sufficient quality for printing high-resolution graphics and logos, small fonts and various forms of bar-codes at production speeds of 1 meter per second and greater.
Transforming Late-Stage Printing
it does not use ink or toner. Rather, a proprietary array of lasers developed by PARC, sends beams that strike thermochromic materials from Datalase in a preprinted patch. The laser’s heat causes the thermochromic pigments in the materials to change to a predetermined monochrome color (Full-color capabilities are planned).
Where today’s late-stage inkjet printers can cover a few characters over one or two lines, the Macsa-DIGILase Xerox solution can address a much larger space of up to 100 millimeters (3.9 inches) wide. And it can print directly onto many objects made of a range of materials including foil, film and plastic – not just product packaging and shipping cartons.
How it Works
The process begins when a pack or product is conventionally printed by flexography, gravure or lithography. thermochromic materials are applied to specified areas on the product or pack in the form of a clear or white ink patch containing the laser-sensitive materials.
The laser system prints as fast as 1 meter per second from any of several locations—on converting lines replacing flexo or gravure processes, on filling lines for printing after filling or packing, or in retail locations, where packaging could reflect recent changes, such as the results of a sports contest.
Advantages of an Ink less, Laser-Based Solution
The Macsa ID DIGILase, powered by Xerox solution has many advantages over inkjet and thermal transfer.
- Running costs are significantly lower, particularly when assembly line shutdown frequency is taken into account.
- Productivity is higher, as it uses no inks or ribbons that require refilling or replacement and clean-up.
- Reliability is greater. The lasers maintain high-resolution printing when fired from distances as far as 5 centimetres (about 2 inches) from the packaging, vastly reducing the likelihood that a print head will be struck and misaligned during production.
Source & Read More – PARC