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Making the Mark: Selecting the Right Ink for your Application

A trusted partner can be the difference for ever-evolving industries in these rapidly progressing times. Forged on a foundation of communication, such relationships can yield mutually beneficial results for both business firm and client.

Take packaging professionals: Aligning with the right coding and marking supplier can help navigate the crucial ink-selection process. And the best ink suppliers study the evolution of packaging materials, understand the range of manufacturing environments, and proactively apply rigorous ink development processes to help ensure code performance and integrity.

Bausch+Ströbel (B+S), a leading international manufacturer of primary packaging production lines for pharmaceutical products such as ampoules, bottles, vials, single-use-syringes and cartridges, approached, global coding and marking specialists, Videojet to select the right ink for their applications . B+S’s highly precise material-handling solutions, including vacuum starwheels, provided the smooth, vibration-free transport necessary for printing high quality DataMatrix codes.

Relying on over 40 years of industry experience and a rigorous ink development process – including extensive analytical instrumentation to aid substrate evaluation, ink durability testing, and compliance with environmental and safety regulations such as REACH, EuPIA, VOC’s and FDA/GMP, and Statistical Process Control - Videojet identified a number of solutions for B+S’s coding needs. The 1510 Continuous Ink Jet printer, with 70 micron nozzle and V459-D ultraviolet fluorescing ink, was implemented to help ensure repeatable and reproducible ink composition and performance across all global manufacturing locations. Videojet V459-D ultraviolet ink was also selected since it addressed a number of application requirements including high fluorescence, outstanding edge acuity on plastic and glass surfaces, and excellent adhesion and resistance to autoclave processing. The B+S solution includes an integrated inspection station to provide further assurance of code quality.

With the Bausch+Ströbel –Videojet case study as a vivid, real guide of this critical partnership, we can examine the many different factors to consider when using ink jet coding equipment to make sure you choose the right ink that meets your specific application requirements.

Identify What You Need

Printing equipment suppliers focus heavily on new product design to provide the packaging industry with innovative, class leading coding solutions that support stringent production needs. However, research and development investment should not stop at the coding equipment. The demand for new speciality inks suited to an increasing variety of innovative packaging is both a sign of real customer challenges and an indicator of where hardware suppliers should direct investment and expertise.

In preparation for discussing ink selection with the experts, you should ask yourself these questions:

· What material am I coding onto?

· Are there any surface coatings or contaminants from the manufacturing process present on the product either before or after coding?

· What product surface color variation exists, and what is your or your customer’s requirement for visual or machine readable code contrast?

· What is the printer operating environment and what temperature extremes will the product itself experience and the code need to endure?

· When and what components come into contact with the ink code after printing that may impact ink dry time and durability?

The material being coded influences ink performance. New high-performance plastics are constantly being developed that can present complex challenges to ink code adhesion. The production environment also plays a significant role in how inks adhere. Factors like moisture, temperature, and humidity can all impact initial ink code adhesion and durability. Drying and set times afforded by product processes and manufacturing environments must be accommodated. Understanding these fixed ‘constraints’ is crucial to selecting an ink that can survive the manufacturing process environment.

The time between printing the code and its first contact with a material handling component, like a belt or guide rail, or even adjacent products may influence the code’s adhesion and legibility. These manufacturing process conditions can result in problems such as ink transfer or code smudging, and therefore should be considered when selecting the required ink.

Access Experts

Manufacturers should take full advantage of the ink expertise offered by their marking and coding ink and equipment partner. There are multiple options and considerations to take into account when choosing ink, but by engaging hardware application specialists and ink chemists together, you can achieve a better fit to your exact needs. For example: An ink that worked yesterday might not work today due to a subtle change in a manufacturing process or an undisclosed change to the substrate by your supplier. An ink specialist and their unique set of tools can help diagnose these problems and recommend solutions that get code performance back to an optimal state.

Keeping up with New Technology

Just as manufacturers are always improving their processes, ink specialists are constantly researching new formulations to meet new coding application challenges. Manufacturers need to take this into consideration as they upgrade or expand their systems.

However, resist the temptation to cut corners. Some packaging teams may move to save money by purchasing fluids from a third-party ink supplier. Since these fluids are engineered without taking into consideration the printer specifications, these fluids can degrade a printer’s performance and code appearance over time. As a result, off-brand supplies can end up costing much more in the long run due to costs associated with excessive maintenance, premature part failures, and unpredictable downtime.

Bottom Line

Packaging professionals will be well-served by partnering with a thorough coding and marking company in order to choose the proper ink for their applications. This relationship can be the critical difference in any business climate.

About the Author:

Heidi Vanheerswynghels is a Strategic Account Manager at Videojet Technologies. She leads a defined group of the company’s global pharmaceutical key accounts and carries responsibility for all medical and pharmaceutical business in EMEA. Taking a central role in sales growth, Heidi works also closely with the Videojet marketing team to develop and implement campaigns, collecting and analyzing market data to support product development.

Heidi has more than ten years of management experience in the medical and pharmaceutical packaging industry; prior to Videojet she was a Key Account Manager at Vitalo Packaging. She is fluent in Dutch, English, French and German and has a basic knowledge of Italian.

About Videojet Technologies:

Videojet Technologies is a world-leader in the product identification market, providing in-line printing, coding, and marking products, application specific fluids, and product life cycle services. Our goal is to partner with our customers in the consumer packaged goods, pharmaceutical and industrial goods industries to improve their productivity, to protect and grow their brands and to stay ahead of industry trends and regulations. With our customer application experts and technology leadership in continuous ink jet (CIJ), thermal ink jet (TIJ), laser marking, thermal transfer overprinting (TTO), case coding and labeling, and wide array printing, Videojet has more than 325,000 printers installed worldwide. Our customers rely on Videojet products to print on over ten billion products daily. Customer sales, application, service and training support is provided by direct operations with over 3,000 team members in 26 countries worldwide. In addition, the Videojet global distribution network includes more than 400 distributors and OEMs, serving 135 countries.