Coding and Marking Printer Setup: Installing a Printer to Meet Your Application Needs

Product coding is a basic necessity shared across the manufacturing and packaging industry. Government regulations, distribution network policies, and internal processes frequently require companies to outfit their goods and shipping cartons with various codes and markings. 

Common requirements include:

  • Traceable lot codes
  • Machine-scannable barcodes/QR codes
  • Date codes
  • Unique device identifiers (UDI)
  • Miscellaneous industry-specific markings

These codes aid traceability, inform consumers, and satisfy legal requirements. Absent or misprinted codes can lead to product recalls, fines, and other expensive consequences. 

To maintain high productivity and avoid coding mistakes, it is essential to use a reliable marking system that is well-suited for your materials and work environment. Depending on your unique coding requirements, product marking may be best completed by a:

Once you have found the right system for your operation, the next step is to install it. Here, we take you through the basics of coding and marking printer setups. By following these best practices, you can properly install your inkjet printer or laser marking system and produce reliably excellent codes consistently.

Create Space in Your Production Line to Mount the System

Almost all industrial product coding takes place on conveyor production lines. Although laser marking systems and handheld TIJ printers can mark stationary objects, if you need to code a substantial amount of products, a conveyor system is necessary. 

To create a reliable product coding workflow, you first need to mount the printer in the ideal location. Depending on your line setup, you may need to create enough space first.

Production line configurations vary from operation to operation. In many facilities, large equipment and space constraints frequently leave limited room for new equipment. Egg packaging plants and cold food facilities, for example, utilize large packaging machines and interconnected processes that often make it difficult to add new hardware. 

With any marking solution, you must have enough space for the unit and the printhead. If your line does not have enough space for these requirements, you must work with your team to make the necessary adjustments. 

Once your line is ready, you can begin mounting your unit. When mounting, it is essential to use a robust stand or bracket system that will position your printhead at the optimal angle for coding while limiting printhead vibrations, ensuring consistent code with every print. For proper results, consider these factors when installing your unit:

  • Accessibility: Your printer or laser unit should always be readily accessible to workers so they can make adjustments or perform maintenance at any moment. 
  • Stability: Brackets and stands need to be sturdy enough to support the printer/laser and prevent unintended movement. Coding applications require uniformity to produce reliable results, and unintended unit or printhead movement can lead to misprints, especially in high-speed applications.
  • Proper angle: Codes must be applied at the right angle and distance in order to appear clear and legible. Brackets should be adjusted and firmly set to ensure the printhead remains in the ideal position.
  • Safety: In addition to being accessible, coding units should be located in areas that pose no risk to worker safety. That includes correct grounding and a location away from potentially dangerous machinery.

Consider Speed Requirements and Fluctuations

Coding applications vary in complexity—the more complex the code, the longer it takes to apply. Simple alphanumeric markings (e.g., lot codes, date codes, etc.) can be printed at ultra-fast speeds, while logos, images, and barcodes must be printed at lower speeds to ensure high quality. 

Continuous inkjet printers, laser marking systems, and high-end thermal inkjet printers like the new Anser A1 and Anser X1 are all capable of completing high-speed coding applications. These systems can also create scannable markings and images when adjusted for lower speeds. You can set the ideal printing speed by:

  • Adjusting the speed settings on your unit’s interface.
  • Setting the proper drop frequency to find a median between speed and quality.
  • Working with different print distances.
  • Performing test prints to ensure high-quality vision system readable codes.

Many conveyors also move at variable speeds due to other production processes on the line. Bagging lines, for example, continuously start and stop so that the equipment can form and cut the bags. These speed fluctuations will ruin the quality of your codes unless you use an encoder. 

Encoders aid accuracy by sensing the speed of substrates on the line and communicating that speed to the coding system. With this information, the system can make the necessary adjustments to create a high-quality marking. Encoders can use a variety of sensors to detect movement, with some sensors working better than others in certain environments. 

To avoid misprints, we suggest consulting with an expert while searching for an appropriate encoder.

Prepare Your Facility for the New Printer

Production facilities are often home to harsh environmental factors that can potentially harm unprotected equipment. Disruptive elements include:

  • High heat
  • Freezing temperatures
  • High moisture content
  • Water presence
  • Vibrations
  • Dust and other airborne particles

Many coding and marking systems are designed to resist these elements to a certain degree. For instance:

  • DuraCode Pigment and DuraCode Touchscreen CIJ printers are built with IP55 enclosures to resist dust and water ingress.
  • InkJet, Inc.’s laser system portfolio includes systems built with IP66 protections.
  • The Anser X1 TIJ printer has an IP66 enclosure and an operating temperature of 32-104° F(0-40° C).

These features help limit daily touches, printhead and nozzle cleanings, and hardware damage during operation. In especially challenging environments, additional enclosures and protections may become necessary to ensure ongoing marking success. 

Whenever installing any coding unit, it is also important to shut down your line and any other equipment that would create potentially damaging conditions. Though not always realistic considering manufacturing processes, your environment should be clean, within the unit’s temperature range, free from dust, and dry. Although this will create a period of downtime, it is a required part of the coding and marking printer setup process. 

Struggling with Your Coding and Marking Printer Setup? InkJet, Inc. is Here to Help

Proper printer setup is essential to any coding and marking application. From production line product coding to stationary part marking, printing success hinges on the correct hardware location, system integration, and optimized machine settings. Without the right setup, you are liable to face:

  • Misprints
  • Production delays
  • Excessive rework

If you have questions or concerns regarding your system setup, InkJet, Inc. has answers. Our sales team and field service technicians have years of experience helping companies across the industrial packaging and manufacturing industry enhance their product coding workflows. Contact us today to learn our services can benefit your operation.

For more information about coding and marking printer setups, contact InkJet, Inc. online or call 1(800) 280-3245.