Ink jet printing has gained tremendous popularity over the past few years and is recommended for marking ink applications in a number of industries producing extremely high-quality marks on most building products. Industrial ink-jet printers have, in fact, become more than simple marking systems. Today they are capable of improving productivity through automation, providing reports and feedback on products, and communicating with programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and other devices. Changing product codes is almost instantaneous giving operators the ability to prevent costly errors much more immediately than in years past.
Private branding applications for many large retail stores require corporate identity logos which can be easily changed instantly with marking ink using ink jet technology regardless of product changeovers. The technology can also prove less expensive because it provides the capability of printing only what the user desires to print on each product rather than printing a continuous string as was previously required.
Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) Technology Pros
In continuous ink jet high-speed marking, continuous ink jet (CIJ) printers provide a non-contact method of high-speed small character printing that applies variable information, like product names, tracking codes, and logos to individual products as they pass along on the production line. These printers usually are used to print the batch, date, time, and shift codes onto almost any substrate ranging from wood, plastic, glass, metal, rubber and even foods.
All CIJ printers are based on the same basic technology but may differ in terms of design. The process involves sending a continuous stream of ink at high velocity through a nozzle where the stream is broken down into tiny droplets of ink measuring about half the diameter of a human hair. The droplets are then charged selectively and deflected onto the substrate to print dot matrix characters. Undeflected ink droplets are re-circulated and returned to the ink tank to be recycled.
Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) Technology Cons
Some of the disadvantages of CIJ printing is that the systems are designed only for small character marking and larger font sizes require the printing speed to slow down appreciably. Another weakness is that in most CIJ printers, there is only one marking ink well. If the user wishes to change to a different ink, it can be a difficult and time-consuming process.
CIJ inks also tend to cost more than other inks. And printing requires the use of two fluids; the ink itself and a makeup solution. Over a period of time, the makeup solution evaporates and must be replenished.
Viscosity control is another disadvantage of CIJ printing. Absolute viscosity control is required to make sure the makeup fluids maintain the needed properties. Poor viscosity management leads to sub-standard print quality. And most industries are required to comply with the latest environmental protection requirements regarding emissions, further complicating the speed of production.
Continuous ink jet printing fits quite a number of applications today that require small character marks like date and batch codes, and lot numbering. In terms of character size ranges, it is not quite as versatile as other printing methods but does yield extremely fast marking speeds for a single line of printing and continues to be a dominant ink jet technology in industrial coding applications.