The Comprehensive Guide to Industrial Marking & Coding

Uncover the importance of industrial marking and coding in manufacturing

Comprehensive Guide to Industrial Marking & Coding

Industrial marking and coding is a critical but often overlooked process in manufacturing and production. In this post, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview of the most common marking and coding technologies used in industrial settings. We’ll explain what industrial marking and coding is, why it’s important for traceability and quality control, and break down the leading technologies like continuous inkjet (CIJ), thermal inkjet (TIJ), laser marking, case coding, and print and apply labeling. With insights into the benefits, drawbacks, and typical applications of each coding method, you’ll be equipped to select the right marking and coding systems to meet your unique production needs. For manufacturing and packaging professionals, this guide serves as an invaluable resource to implement more efficient, reliable marking and coding operations. Let’s dive in.

An Introduction to Industrial Marking & Coding

Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) Printers

Continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers are one of the most popular and cost-effective industrial marking and coding technologies. CIJ printers utilize inkjet technology to spray microscopic ink droplets onto products or packaging. The non-contact method is fast, producing high-resolution print at up to 2000 characters per second. CIJ is ideal for printing best before dates, batch codes, barcodes, and logos on nearly any surface.

Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) Printers

Thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers employ heat to energize ink and propel droplets onto substrates. TIJ offers superior print quality, producing razor-sharp characters, barcodes, and graphics. Although slightly slower than CIJ, TIJ is capable of printing 600 to 1500 characters per second. TIJ printers are well-suited to applications where high resolution and print quality are priorities.

Laser Marking Systems

Laser marking systems use targeted light pulses to mark or etch surfaces. Laser marking is a non-contact method that provides permanent marks, as the heat from the laser beam causes a photochemical reaction. Laser marking produces a high contrast mark and can achieve up to 2000 characters per second. Laser marking is ideal for marking plastic, metal, glass, and other surfaces.

Overall, industrial marking and coding technologies like CIJ, TIJ, and laser marking help manufacturers to streamline operations, reduce costs, increase productivity and meet compliance standards. When selecting a technology, consider your specific application, production environment, and budget to determine the optimal solution for your needs. With the right marking and coding system in place, you can gain complete control and visibility over your production.

Major Applications of Industrial Marking & Coding

Industrial marking and coding technologies are used across various manufacturing industries for several critical applications. ###Product Identification

Product identification is one of the most common uses of industrial marking and coding. Technologies like continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers and laser marking systems are used to print product names, logos, serial numbers, and barcodes on goods for identification. This helps ensure traceability and prevents counterfeiting.

Date Coding

Date coding involves printing expiration or “best by” dates, production dates, or lot numbers on products. This is important for quality control, product freshness, and traceability. Both CIJ and thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers are well suited for date coding applications.

Variable Data Printing

Variable data printing refers to printing unique codes, text, graphics or barcodes on each product. This is useful for product personalization or when every item needs a unique identifier. Inkjet printers, laser marking systems and print & apply labelers can all be used for variable data printing.

Packaging Coding

Marking and coding technologies are commonly used to print information like product names, descriptions, barcodes, logos and expiration dates on product packaging. This helps with inventory management, product identification and traceability. Options like CIJ printers, case coders, laser marking systems and print & apply labelers can handle most packaging coding needs.

In summary, industrial marking and coding solutions have become indispensable tools for manufacturers. They facilitate traceability, product freshness, brand identity and operational efficiency through applications like product identification, date coding, variable data printing and packaging coding. With options across various price points, there are accessible solutions for companies of all sizes.

Key Technologies Used in Industrial Marking & Coding

Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) Printers

CIJ printers are one of the most popular technologies for industrial marking and coding. They work by releasing tiny drops of fast-drying ink at high speeds to print text, barcodes, QR codes, logos or graphics on products or packaging. CIJ systems are renowned for their low cost per print and high uptime, making them ideal for high-volume operations. Many manufacturers use CIJ printers to print production dates, batch codes, product IDs and barcodes on goods for traceability and quality control.

Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) Printers

Similar to CIJ printers, TIJ printers also release microscopic ink droplets to print text and graphics. However, TIJ printers heat the ink to create bubbles and eject ink drops, rather than using pressurized nozzles like CIJ printers. TIJ printers produce high-resolution prints and use ink that dries instantly, enabling coding at fast line speeds. They are well-suited for printing complex barcodes, text and graphics on products with irregular shapes. TIJ printers are popular for marking high-value goods where print quality is paramount.

Laser Marking Systems

Laser marking, also known as laser engraving, uses focused light beams to mark or etch text, logos and barcodes onto surfaces. Laser marking is a non-contact process, so it does not require ink and works on nearly any material. Laser marked codes are extremely durable and permanent. Laser marking systems are ideal for direct part marking (DPM) of metal components, as the marks can withstand high temperatures and physical impacts. They are also used to mark many plastics, glass and coated materials. Laser marking provides a cost-effective solution for permanent product identification and traceability.

In summary, CIJ and TIJ printers offer fast, flexible inkjet marking and coding for high-volume production, while laser marking provides a permanent direct part marking solution for traceability. The right technology for your needs depends on factors like line speed, substrate types, print resolution, and durability requirements. With many options available, manufacturers can choose a reliable, customized solution to improve productivity, comply with regulations and enhance brand image.

Benefits of Implementing Industrial Marking & Coding

Industrial marking and coding solutions provide many benefits for modern manufacturing operations. By implementing technologies like CIJ, TIJ, laser marking systems, and print and apply labelers, you can streamline your production processes, reduce costs, and improve product traceability.

Increased Efficiency

Marking and coding equipment can help automate parts of your packaging line, reducing manual processes and decreasing downtime. For example, print and apply labelers instantly print and place labels on products, cases or pallets without human intervention. This minimizes the risk of labeling errors and allows your line to run continuously.

Cost Savings

Many marking and coding technologies are more cost effective than manual methods in the long run. Although the initial capital investment may be high, they help lower operating costs through reduced waste, minimized changeover times, and decreased labor requirements. For instance, inkjet printers do not require printing plates, stencils or stamps, which saves on consumable costs.

Improved Product Traceability

Marking equipment allows you to print variable data such as barcodes, lot numbers, and expiration dates directly onto your products or packaging. This makes it easier to track products throughout the supply chain and enables effective recalls if required. Technologies like laser marking can even mark unique codes onto individual parts, facilitating lifetime part traceability.


Industrial marking and coding solutions give you the flexibility to print different types of codes, text, graphics, and barcodes in various sizes and locations. Many systems offer quick changeovers to new jobs and support multiple production lines. Some equipment like inkjet printers allow on-the-fly changes to the printed content via touchscreen interfaces or software. This flexibility helps minimize downtime when switching between products or packaging types on your line.

In summary, implementing advanced marking and coding technologies can streamline your operations, reduce costs, improve traceability, and provide more flexibility. By choosing solutions tailored to your needs, you'll be able to optimize your production processes and gain a competitive advantage.

How to Choose the Right Marking & Coding Solution

Selecting the right marking and coding equipment for your operations is crucial to optimizing your production efficiency and meeting compliance standards. With various technologies available, determining the best solution for your needs depends on several factors.

Application Requirements

The first step is to evaluate how marking and coding integrates into your production process and what information needs to be printed. For example, if you need to print variable data like barcodes, lot codes or expiration dates, Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) or Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) systems would work well. For high-resolution graphics, text or logos, consider laser marking. If you package products into cases, a case coder may be ideal. For product labels, a print and apply labeler is recommended. Analyzing your specific application requirements will guide you to the most suitable technology.

Substrate Compatibility

The materials you need to mark also significantly impact the selection. Some inks and technologies can only be used on certain substrates. For example, porous materials like cardboard work best with CIJ, while non-porous plastics may require laser marking for adhesion. TIJ can print on nearly all materials. Choosing a technology compatible with the majority of your materials minimizes issues and provides more flexibility.

Production Environment

Operating conditions in your facility should be evaluated to determine ideal solutions. For damp or humid areas, sealed laser markers and IP rated CIJ printers are good choices. In dusty conditions, TIJ printers are effective since they do not require inks. The location where you want to place the equipment is also important. Compact desktop printers can fit in tight spaces, while inline conveyor systems may need more room.

Budget Requirements

Your budget often plays a significant role in the final decision. While laser and print and apply labelers tend to have higher upfront costs, they provide lower maintenance expenses. CIJ and TIJ printers typically have lower initial investments but higher ink and maintenance fees. Comparing total cost of ownership of different solutions will uncover which technology is the most affordable and cost-efficient for your needs.

By thoroughly assessing these factors - application requirements, substrate compatibility, production environment and budget - you can determine the optimal marking and coding solution for your operations. The technology you choose should meet your compliance standards, maximize uptime, and provide the lowest total cost of ownership. With the right solution implemented, you'll gain process efficiency and improved productivity.

Implementing and Integrating Marking & Coding Systems

Choosing the Right Technology

When determining which marking and coding technology is right for your operations, consider factors like line speed, substrate types, and the level of detail needed. For high-speed lines or porous substrates, CIJ or TIJ printers are good options. For more permanent marks or finer details, laser marking may be better suited. Print and apply labelers provide an alternative for pre-printed labels.

Integrating the System

Once you’ve selected a technology, you’ll need to integrate it into your production line. Work with the supplier to determine the optimal location for the printer or laser to ensure consistent, high-quality marks. They can also help customize the system for your specific products and line configurations. Proper integration and positioning are key to achieving maximum uptime and code accuracy.

Implementing Standard Operating Procedures

Establishing standard operating procedures (SOPs) helps ensure your marking and coding system runs efficiently and effectively. Provide operator training on proper use and maintenance of the equipment. Document routine tasks like code setup and changes, troubleshooting issues, and consumable replacement. SOPs give your staff a standardized approach to running and optimizing the system.

Maintaining the Equipment

All marking and coding technologies require ongoing maintenance to function properly. Follow the recommended service schedules for your specific equipment. Keep spare parts like ink cartridges, ribbons, lenses, and filters on hand to minimize downtime. Perform routine inspections and cleaning to prevent errors, smudging, or costly damage. With proper maintenance, an industrial marking system can provide years of reliable service.

Continuously Optimizing

Once your marking and coding system is up and running, look for ways to optimize it. Track code accuracy and equipment uptime to set benchmarks and make improvements. Provide refresher training as needed to ensure consistent operating procedures. Consider line configuration changes or additional technologies to boost throughput. An optimized system helps maximize productivity and reduce costs.

Following these steps will help you successfully implement an industrial marking and coding system. With the right technology customized to your needs, proper integration into your operations, standardized procedures, routine maintenance, and continuous optimization, you’ll achieve reliable, high-quality coding for years to come.

Best Practices for Industrial Marking & Coding

Choose the Right Technology for Your Needs

The marking and coding technology you choose depends entirely on your specific application and production requirements. CIJ printers are versatile, low-maintenance, and suitable for a wide range of substrates, while TIJ printers provide high-resolution printing at lower costs. Laser marking systems are ideal for permanent marks and intricate details. Case coders and print & apply labelers improve efficiency for high-volume operations. Evaluate your priorities to determine which solution fits best.

Optimize Print Quality

Whether you need simple alphanumeric text or complex graphics, print quality is key. For CIJ and TIJ printers, choose ink that is formulated for your application and substrate. The correct ink viscosity and drying time are essential. For lasers, adjust settings like power, speed, and focus to achieve clean, consistent marks. With print & apply labelers, ensure accurate label dispensing and application for the best results. High-quality marks boost product appearance and brand integrity.

Implement Preventative Maintenance

Industrial marking and coding technologies require ongoing maintenance to sustain peak performance, optimize uptime, and extend equipment lifespans. Establish a regular schedule for cleaning printheads, replacing filters and worn parts, lubricating, and recalibrating as needed. CIJ and TIJ printers in particular necessitate frequent printhead maintenance to prevent clogs. Take a proactive approach to servicing your marking and coding solutions before issues arise.

Ensure Compliance with Industry Standards

Many industries mandate specific information and formatting for product marking and coding. Make sure you understand all compliance requirements for your sector and geography to avoid penalties. For example, food and pharmaceutical manufacturers must include expiry dates, batch numbers, and product identifiers in a prescribed manner. Stay up-to-date with the latest regulations to guarantee all your marks meet official guidelines. Compliance is critical for health, safety, and regulatory reasons.

Train Staff Thoroughly

Your employees play an integral role in implementing an effective marking and coding system. Provide comprehensive training on proper operation, maintenance, troubleshooting, and safety procedures for all equipment. Well-trained staff will get the most out of your investment, keeping solutions running efficiently while avoiding costly errors or downtime. Continually evaluate and retrain as needed to account for any changes.

The Future of Industrial Marking & Coding

As technology continues to advance, industrial marking and coding solutions are evolving to meet the changing needs of manufacturers. Several trends are emerging that will shape the future of part marking, product coding, and packaging labeling.

Vision systems and connectivity are enabling more automated marking and coding processes. Vision-guided systems can detect the location and orientation of parts or products and automatically align the marking equipment. Connected systems provide data sharing up and down the line and plant-wide, allowing for more coordinated and responsive production. With increasing automation and connectivity, manufacturers can achieve higher throughput, reduced waste, and improved quality.

Digital printing technologies like inkjet and laser are replacing older methods like hot stamping, roller coding, and stenciling. Inkjet in particular, with its low cost and flexibility, has seen huge growth for product coding and marking. Inkjet coders can print variable data like barcodes, logos, and alphanumeric text at high speeds. Lasers provide a durable mark and are ideal for marking hard materials. These digital methods produce a high-quality mark with minimal setup.

Track and trace solutions are in high demand as supply chains become more global and complex. Marking systems that can print unique identifiers on products, cases or pallets allow items to be tracked through the supply chain and lifecycle. This traceability is critical for quality, safety and regulatory compliance. Companies want solutions that can integrate with enterprise software and provide data to feed track and trace systems.

Eco-friendly and sustainable solutions are appealing to environmentally-conscious manufacturers. Coders and markers that reduce waste, use renewable materials and energy efficient are in demand. For example, laser marking produces no consumables waste, and some inkjet inks are now solvent-free and water-based. As technology improves, marking and coding solutions will become even more sustainable and efficient.

The future is bright for industrial marking and coding. Solutions will continue to become faster, more automated, intelligent, and connected. At the same time, they will aim to reduce environmental impact through sustainable designs and renewable materials. Manufacturers that invest in advanced yet eco-friendly marking and coding technologies will achieve a competitive advantage.

FAQs About Industrial Marking & Coding

Many manufacturers have questions about industrial marking and coding technologies. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and their answers:

What are the main types of industrial marking and coding? The major technologies used for industrial marking and coding include:

  • Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) printers that apply inks directly to products or packaging.
  • Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) printers that use heat to apply inks without contact.
  • Laser marking systems that engrave or etch marks onto surfaces.
  • Print and apply labelers that print labels and automatically apply them to products.
  • Case coders that print directly onto corrugated cases and cartons.

Which marking and coding method is best for my needs? The optimal technology depends on your specific application and production requirements. CIJ and TIJ are ideal for high-speed, multi-line coding, while laser marking works best for permanent, abrasion-resistant marks. Print and apply labelers efficiently handle pre-printed labels, and case coders are tailored for high-volume carton coding.

How much do industrial marking and coding systems cost? Prices range from under $10,000 for a basic CIJ or TIJ printer to over $200,000 for an automated laser marking system. Operating costs also vary depending on the technology, with CIJ printers typically having the lowest consumable costs. Many factors determine the total cost of ownership, so you should consider equipment, installation, training, and ongoing expenses.

How can I improve my production line efficiency with industrial marking and coding? Implementing the right coding solution for your needs can significantly boost line efficiency. Some tips include:

  • Choose a technology designed for high-speed, 24/7 operation. •Automate the marking and coding process as much as possible. •Minimize downtime by selecting highly reliable equipment with fast changeover and easy maintenance. •Integrate your coding equipment with production line controls and databases. •Train staff on proper operation and maintenance procedures to avoid errors and reduce waste.
  • Review how you can optimize your current processes to speed up production. Even small changes can lead to greater productivity and throughput.

Does my business need customized or off-the-shelf marking and coding solutions? It depends on the complexity of your needs. For most manufacturers, pre-configured equipment works well and offers solid performance at a lower cost. However, if you have a high-volume production environment, limited installation space, require special inks or software, or need seamless integration with your IT systems, customized solutions are probably your best option. Reputable suppliers can tailor equipment to your exact specifications.


All in all, industrial marking and coding technologies empower manufacturers to optimize production efficiency, ensure product traceability, and meet compliance standards. By understanding the key technologies like CIJ, TIJ, laser, print and apply, and case coding, you can determine the best solutions for your specific needs. Focus on finding reliable equipment, leveraging innovations like high-resolution inkjet printing, and partnering with specialists for implementation and maintenance. The result is enhanced operational visibility, reduced errors, and the agility to adapt to industry changes. With the right approach, your marking and coding capabilities can become a true competitive advantage.