by Guillaume MONTAGNAT
Monday, July 10, 2023

Back to the future with continuous inkjet printer innovation



The new generation of the continuous inkjet (CIJ) printer prints accurately and durably on the latest sustainable materials, while also enabling manufacturers to reduce energy consumption, costs and harmful emissions like VOCs. 

The French expression ‘Plus ça change’, roughly, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’ gained international use for a reason. Well, so it is with continuous inkjet (CIJ) printing, a technique that first gained traction in the 1970s, and still offers manufacturers and brands multiple advantages today.

What has changed in the past 50 years is the backdrop against which manufacturers, packaging companies and brands, operate, particularly in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) space.

In addition to the perennial challenges of optimizing production, limiting raw material and energy costs and maintaining quality control, there is now pressure from consumers, brand owners and regulators to reduce industry’s environmental footprint. This is leading to a transition from multi-layer composite materials towards more recyclable mono-material films and compostable packaging.

Modern printers must therefore have the versatility to print accurately and permanently at high speed on these types of materials – as well as everything from carton or cardboard to plastic and glass – while also simultaneously demonstrating the flexibility to generate unique customized 2D codes.

Luckily, continuous inkjet printing (CIJ) printing has evolved too. Thanks to continuous innovation, solutions like Markem-Imaje’s 9750+ are pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the technology, offering customers improved traceability, reduced downtime, emissions and costs, and more control when it comes to high-quality coding and marking on flat and curved surfaces, multiple materials and substrates.

 

Continuous inkjet: A game-changing innovation

 

Unlike other printing technologies which use an ink cartridge with an integrated printhead and expel each ink droplet as needed, continuous inkjet  is a non-contact technique whereby a continuous stream of electrically charged ink droplets from the printhead nozzle pass through an electric field and onto the print surface. Unlike a standard office printer, the CIJ printer never touches the actual material.

The new generation of continuous inkjet printers offer speed, consistency and versatility on all substrates, from plastics to carton, and under all operating conditions. The benefits don’t stop there, however.

High-speed printing operations with multiple lines typically take place in demanding environmental conditions. The latest CIJ printers are able to automatically adjust if product conditions change – due to a temperature change in the factory, for example – without compromising print quality or speed.

Ask an operator in the FMCG sector what they desire from a modern CIJ printer, and the ability to carry out accurately coding at high line speeds in harsh production environments would likely be near the top of their wish list. Markem-Imaje’s 9750+ enables them to do just that by using premium technical dye or pigment inks for contrast coding on virgin substrates, as well as for extrusion.

Talking of game-changing innovations, companies can, for the first time, operate one type of printer rather than multiple machines with different inks, thanks to a revolutionary polyvalent ink circuit in the 9750+ that enables coding with both dye or pigmented ink for improved inventory management.

Using dye or pigmented ink, the hybrid coder provides the flexibility to print either standard dark or color-contrasted codes, a boon for cosmetics packaging, say, which is often dark rather than white.

 

Reduces downtime, energy use and emissions

 

Limiting both downtime and waste are two key variables manufacturers must pay close attention to in the year ahead, according to a recent report from digital business consultancy Columbus Global.

New-generation CIJ printers offer unrivaled benefits in this regard too. Machines like those designed by Markem-Imaje can print millions of codes before they require preventive maintenance, which in turn means fewer spare parts and, crucially, no flushing or waste additives for for reduced negative environmental impact.

Our CIJ printers consume just 30W of electricity during standard usage, or less than a light bulb, and setting the 9750+ in ‘consumable-saving mode’, the hybrid coder is capable of generating up to  35% fewer volatile organic compounds than versus the non hybrid model, even without the use of less harmful, MEK-free inks. 

A partner across the printer lifecycle

 

Customers often report a lack of time, resources and insights around coding and marking operations. This is where, in addition to taking advantage of technology innovations, manufacturers must ensure they partner with a trusted technology provider with an in-depth understanding of the transition to more sustainable materials and the repercussions for operators in today’s consumer marketplace.

Markem-Imaje’s Connected Printer Services utilize the Internet of Things to optimize printer performance, and drive and manage coding efficiency across the entire installed base. Users can communicate with individual CIJ printers via an intuitive interface for full visibility and control, backed by helpdesk support from our experts.

In this way, the latest CIJ printers not only offer improved performance and reduced emissions in the here and now, they also enable manufacturers and brands to future-proof their businesses ready for innovations such as 2D codes. For example, CIJ printers are already flexible enough to print a 2D code on a small substrate with sufficient quality to be scanned with a smartphone – ensuring that, when it comes to the continuous inkjet printer at least, the more things stay the same, the more they change.

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