FAQ: Is an Industrial Thermal Inkjet Printer Waterproof?

Water exposure and excessive humidity are two harmful environmental factors found in many modern industrial workspaces. Manufacturing plants and production facilities are often conducive to accumulating moisture, which can be harmful to anything not specifically designed to combat it. These risks are particularly concerning to those who use industrial inkjet printers. In response to frequent asked questions, we are going to focus on thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers for this guide. 

TIJ printers are frequently used to mark products with important information, such as barcodes, product batch codes, and expiration dates. These codes are often required by distribution channels and in certain cases, federal law. If the markings are not clear, it can cause confusion along the supply chain, prevent traceability, and could result in hefty fines from the distributor or from a federal agency.

The potential consequences of impaired printers can cause companies to ask questions, such as:

  • Is an industrial thermal inkjet printer waterproof?
  • How does humidity affect thermal inkjet printers?
  • How does water affect ink in general?

Now, let’s dive in and answer these questions for you. 

FAQ #1: Is an Industrial Thermal Inkjet Printer Waterproof?

For the vast majority of TIJ printers, the answer is no. However, some of the most modern TIJ models, such as the Anser X1, are built in a way to resist water to an unprecedented degree. 

Other TIJ printers are susceptible to water damage because they feature several hardware openings and typically only have plastic enclosures. For example, USB ports are a common design feature in many TIJ printers, and while most manufacturers cover the port with a rubber flap, this seal is not impenetrable. Consequently, the USB port can directly expose the main board and display screen to environmental damage not only from water but also dust and humidity as well. 

Newer TIJ models prevent this problem by utilizing electrical enclosures that are certified effective by the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission). The IEC classifies and grades the degree of protection provided by electrical enclosures/mechanical casings based on their protection against accidental contact, dust, and water. Each IEC rating consists of two digits: the first addressing solid particle protection and the second addressing liquid ingress protection

As an example, the Anser X1 is built with an IP66 enclosure. Breaking down this code into its components reveals:

  • The first 6 signifies the enclosure is dust-proof; no particles can make their way inside the machine.
  • The second 6 signifies that the enclosure is water-resistant to the point of protecting against powerful water jets; water projected to any part of the printer at 15 psi will have no harmful effect.

Although newer printers can be built with IP-rated enclosures, they are not the norm. Accordingly, one should consult with an expert to find a suitable device if this degree of resilience is needed.  

FAQ #2: How Does Humidity Affect Thermal Inkjet Printers?

High levels of humidity can cause ink to streak or smudge during printing. In very dry environments, ink has the opposite problem and can be too faint, light, or appear faded. Both of these factors can lead to codes becoming illegible, or in the case of barcodes or QR codes, unscannable. 

TIJ printers generally work well in somewhat humid environments. Most TIJ models and ink cartridges have a stated operating RH (relative humidity) of 40-80%. If the relative humidity is a concern, operators can cover the printer with additional protective plastic for safety. Additionally, it is recommended that the cartridges be removed and stored with protective caps when the printer is not being used. This protects the nozzle from drying out over time.

FAQ #3: How Does Water Affect Ink in General?

TIJ inks are either water-based or solvent-based. Water-based inks are vulnerable to water damage and should be avoided if water is a workplace concern. Conversely, solvent-based inks are waterproof. Once dry, they cannot be removed by water and need an appropriate solvent to be removed.

While solvent-based inks are waterproof, they are not compatible with all substrates and are only compatible with certain TIJ printers, such as the Anser U2 Pro-S and Anser X1. Consequently, it is recommended to consult an expert if you are working in challenging environments like those where water or humidity are concerns.  

Searching for a Waterproof Thermal Inkjet Printer or Ink Formula?

Thermal inkjet printers play an essential role in manufacturing and production. The codes made by these machines help companies satisfy regulations and ensure that their products are traceable along the supply chain. However, water-exposure and humidity can render these codes illegible by causing hardware issues or by impeding the ink itself. To prevent these issues, companies need to use a printer and ink combination that can meet the environmental hazards posed by their unique production environment. 

Here at Inkjet, Inc., we can help with this and we understand the issues posed by water, dust, high temperatures, and other challenging elements. As ink producers ourselves, we know the chemistry behind each ink formula and understand which applications they’re best designed for.

To learn more about waterproof thermal inkjet printers, how to find the right printer and ink for your operation, or for any other questions related to printers and ink, contact InkJet, Inc. today by dialing (800) 280-3245.