Box Labeling Machine

In many industries, including food packaging, beverage packaging, chemical manufacturing, and pharmaceutical production, cardboard and paperboard boxes are used to house products and ship them throughout the supply chain. To complete either of these applications, boxes must be outfitted with information, codes, and instructions required by distribution partners, regulatory bodies, and internal best practices.

Some required information, such as standardized labels that contain static information, can be integrated into stock packaging. However, variable data markings, such as lot codes, expiration dates, and traceable QR codes, constantly change, so it’s essential to code each product individually. 

To achieve code compliance and maintain high efficiency, companies need to use high-quality box labeling machines that offer speed, accuracy, and reliability. Here, we delve into today’s top box labeling options, explore their differences, and highlight their ideal uses.

Box Labeling Machine Comparison

The table below lists today’s most popular box labeling machine options and their general features. Below it, you will find more details on each listed solution. To jump to a specific solution selection, click on the machine title in the table’s leftmost column. 

Box Labeling Machine 

Operating Method

Code Quality

Application Speed

Cost Factors

Print and Apply Labeler

Automatically prints physical labels and applies them to boxes using an applicator

Excellent appearance, high durability

Generally high-speed; varies by printer and applicator combination

Moderate to high unit cost, ongoing maintenance, ink, and label costs

Thermal Inkjet Printer

Uses heat to eject ink droplets toward the substrate

Excellent appearance, high durability 

Moderate- to high-speed 

(90-300 m/min.)

Low unit cost, moderately expensive consumables

High-Resolution Case Coder

Pressurizes oil-based ink to create stark codes

Excellent appearance, high durability 

Low- to moderate-speed

(0-60 m/min) 

Moderate to high unit cost, moderate to high consumable cost

Print and Apply Labeler

Print and apply label machines (PALM) automatically print labels and apply them to primary and secondary packaging materials using applicator mechanisms (e.g., belt applicators, blow applicators, tamp applicators, etc.). PALM systems are versatile enough to fit into diverse line setups and provide a reliable way to automate the labeling process.



Companies that invest in PALM systems benefit from:

  • High labeling efficiency: PALMs can print very quickly and handle high product volumes, resulting in better efficiency that lowers labor costs.
  • Consistent code accuracy and label placement: PALMs offer precise control over label placement, ensuring accurate labeling and reducing the risk of misalignment errors.
  • Easy integration with other systems: PALMs are compatible with a wide range of applicators and printers, enabling users to seamlessly integrate them into existing production lines. PALM compatibility facilitates communication between the labeling process and other manufacturing operations, resulting in fewer information errors and boosting overall efficiency.

Although PALM systems are efficient, versatile, and reliable, they are not right for every operation. They require a substantial initial investment, regular maintenance, and a certain degree of technical knowledge to operate. Additionally, the potential for bottlenecks arises when the speed of a PALM system does not align with that of the production lines, or vice versa.

Even with these potential shortcomings, PALMs deliver consistently excellent code quality and accurate label placement, making them a clear upgrade to hand-labeling.

Print and Apply Label Machine Advantages

Print and Apply Label Machine Disadvantages

  • Compatible with different applicators and printers
  • Fast labeling speeds
  • Consistent code quality and label placement
  • Greatly reduces the risk of error 
  • High upfront investment
  • Requires specialized training, regular maintenance, and significant consumables

Thermal Inkjet Printer

Thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers are compact, non-contact printers that are widely used in manufacturing and packaging operations. By applying heat to liquid ink, they create distinct ink droplets and propel them toward the substrate, thereby creating text, barcodes, images, and graphics. TIJ printers are known for their cost-effective price tags, excellent image quality, and intuitive operation.

TIJ printers do not produce physical box labels. Instead, they place label information directly onto boxes. High-end TIJ printers, such as the Anser X1, can create codes at speeds of up to 300 m/min as well as 600 x 600 DPI markings at lower speeds. With these capabilities, users can efficiently mark their cartons with sharp text, intricate images, and machine-scannable codes.


Companies that invest in TIJ printers benefit from:

  • High-quality prints: TIJ printers offer exceptional print quality, resulting in sharp, clear text, machine-scannable codes, and appealing graphics.
  • Intuitive operation and line integration: TIJ printers are built with user-friendly interfaces and software. Even novice users can quickly learn to use TIJ printers, add them to their production lines, and connect them to information systems.
  • Versatility: TIJs can print on numerous substrates, including cardboard, plastic, metal, and paper. This allows manufacturers to use TIJs for multiple applications, potentially reducing the need for multiple labeling systems. 

TIJ printers offer diverse coding abilities, intuitive operation, and minimal maintenance requirements at a low price point. However, they do have a few drawbacks as well. Their cartridges have relatively limited ink space and are more expensive than other inkjet ink cartridges. If you run a high-volume line, these cartridge costs can add up over time. 

Thermal Inkjet Printer Advantages

Thermal Inkjet Printer Disadvantages

  • Excellent code quality
  • Large print size capabilities
  • Little or no maintenance
  • Versatile coding abilities
  • Intuitive operation
  • Limited ink space in cartridge
  • Periodic cartridge replacements required
  • Does not print out physical labels

High-Resolution Case Coder

High-resolution (hi-res) case coders are another non-contact printing option. Using inkjet technology, these printers create large, high-quality prints and DPI-rich images on cardboard and paperboard materials.

Hi-res units are constructed with large printheads and utilize cartridges filled with thick, oil-based ink. These features enable hi-res printers like the Precision Series 72 Case Coder to generate markings that are larger, more durable, and higher quality than markings made by other printers. In certain cases, these abilities eliminate the need for physical labels.

Companies that invest in hi-res systems benefit from:

  • Enhanced branding and aesthetics: Hi-res coders offer exceptional print quality and create long-lasting, fade-resistant markings. These features not only aid accurate coding and boost machine scannability but also improve the look of your goods.
  • Versatile coding capabilities: Hi-res systems can print variable data, batch numbers, expiration dates, product details, and regulatory information, allowing manufacturers to meet various labeling and traceability requirements with ease.
  • Substantial print heights: Hi-res coders are capable of printing larger characters, barcodes, graphics, and logos than other box labeling machines, making them better-suited for secondary packaging applications.

Compared to TIJ models, hi-res units are often more expensive upfront, carry higher ink costs, print at slower speeds, and have greater maintenance needs. However, their unique coding abilities make them the optimal choice for secondary packaging applications. If you want to minimize your physical labeling needs and enhance the look of your secondary packaging, a hi-res case coder is right for you. 

High-Resolution Case Coder Advantages

High-Resolution Case Coder Disadvantages

  • Excellent code quality
  • Large print size capabilities
  • Versatile coding abilities
  • Relatively high upfront cost
  • Expensive consumables
  • Slower than TIJ
  • Requires more maintenance than TIJ

Interested in Upgrading Your Case Coding Workflow? InkJet, Inc. Is Here to Help

With the help of a box labeling machine, you can automate your labeling process, increase operational efficiency, and ensure excellent print quality. To support the needs of different manufacturing and packaging operations, InkJet, Inc. carries numerous PALM systems, TIJ printer models, and high-resolution case coders. Contact us today to discuss which solution will work best for you. 

For more information about box labeling machines, contact InkJet, Inc. online or call 1(800) 280-3245.