Food and Beverage Manufacturers Can Overcome Condensation Challenges with Inkjet Printing and Laser Marking

Combating high-condensation environments for consistent quality codes on food and beverage packaging

Food and beverage manufacturers face some of the most difficult printing environments of any industry. Fast line speeds, the growing demand for variable content, and small batch productions can complicate online product coding operations. In addition, condensation on packaging often caused by temperature changes during filling, shipping, and the rest of the product lifecycle, can pose challenges for some manufacturers as they apply best-by dates, bar codes and other information directly onto cartons, pouches, bottles, cans, kegs and other food and beverage packaging.

The goal of a selected printing and marking solution is to fully apply the right code to the correct product every time. If codes on packages and containers are illegible or unreadable due to incomplete or ineffective printing, both the packaging line and the overall supply chain can be impacted. Poorly formed codes may lead to costly downtime, recalls, fines and compromised retailer businesses.  Videojet Technologies, a global leader in coding, marking, and printing, examines the pain points faced by food and beverage manufacturers and offers solutions for applying codes that remain throughout production, pasteurization, refrigeration, re-cooling and other conditions in the supply chain.

Merits of continuous inkjet

Accurate product codes, dates, and ingredients, as well as product track-and-trace capabilities, are only as good as the coding solution used and a code’s ability to withstand the rigors of the production and distribution environments. Many food and beverage companies choose  continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers and inks to apply accurate, trackable codes designed to resist condensation and survive across the supply chain.

Certain newer CIJ printers are specifically designed to operate in wet and humid environments. CIJ printers operate by jetting individual drops of ink and modifying their flight path to “draw” a character one drop at a time. CIJ printers are most frequently used for single and double-line codes including expiration dates, lot and batch numbers, and other production data.

Selecting the right ink is just as important as using the right printer. Well-suited to beverage production, unique  CIJ ink formulations are designed to penetrate condensation to print clearly and resist transferring onto adjacent products and conveyors. Some of these inks produced by Videojet offer reduced volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are not classified as carcinogens, mutagens, or reproductive toxins (CMRs), which is common with older ink formulations.

Making the case for laser marking

The most obvious alternative to ink-based printing is  laser marking. Lasers generate permanent, high-quality codes that cannot be removed, offering inherent counterfeit protection. Laser codes are ideal for both internal and external supply chain tracking, in addition to meeting retailer, regulator and consumer expectations for human-readable “best before” dates and other information on beverage containers and food packaging.

Depending on factors like the packaging substrate, line speed and code requirements, CO2, UV, or fiber lasers may be selected to mark on products coated with condensation. Air knives are often used to help keep laser lenses clear of condensation throughout a production run.

A laser’s power and beam intensity can be adjusted during initial setup or on the fly during operations to create consistent codes. Bar code marking may not be achievable with lasers on certain products with high condensation levels or in wet environments. Testing is always recommended to match the laser to the application.

Overcoming condensation challenges with inkjet and lasers

Paperboard, glass, aluminum, and plastics, including BOPP, PET, rPET, LDPE, HDPE and PVC, can all be coded with CIJ printers and selected laser marking systems. Heidi Wright, senior director of field product marketing and business development for Videojet, notes, “Continuous inkjet printers and lasers are often chosen for their speed, ease of integration and reliability in tough conditions, including wet and high-humidity environments. They can also be adapted to meet food and beverage industry requirements for code content, resolution, contrast, and adhesion.”

Videojet understands the unique needs of the food and beverage industries. To learn more, please visit the Videojet food and beverage industry solutions pages.

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