How To Print On Glass Bottles In a Production Line Setup

The glass bottle is one of the oldest and most useful packaging forms in the world. Since the days of Mesopotamia, people have used glass bottles to house food, beverages, medicine, and more. Today, glass bottles continue to line the shelves of our supermarkets, drug stores, and gas stations, preserving product freshness and catching the eyes of consumers.

Although glass bottles are far from a new concept, they are still a growing segment within the global packaging market. According to a report from 2019, the glass container market will be worth around $78 billion by 2026. At the same time, the recycled glass market is also growing; by 2027, experts estimate that the global recycled glass market will be worth $1.5 billion.

One of the reasons the glass market is so lucrative is that bottles are widely used across multiple industries. Glass bottles are visually appealing, reliable, and can be made in a variety of shapes and sizes, making them a great packaging choice for companies involved in:

Regardless of industry, however, if a company wants to sell its products in stores or via online outlets, product codes are an absolute necessity. To comply with legal requirements and distributor policies, companies often need to outfit their products with:

  • Expiration dates
  • Production dates
  • Serial numbers
  • Lot codes
  • Barcodes

For large-scale operations, this kind of marking is best performed on high-volume production lines. In this article, we take a look at how to print on glass bottles by breaking down the essential elements of production line glass printing. 

Find a Coding System That Meets Your Production Demands

Production lines are unique. Factors like conveyor speed, layout specifics, space constraints, and facility environmental factors all differ from one line to the next. 

To accommodate these differences, industrial marking companies like InkJet, Inc. offer a variety of glass bottle marking machines that vary in:

  • Coding speed, ranging from 80 m/min to 300+ m/min.
  • Code qualities, including DPI levels, contrast, and protections against light, physical touch, temperature, etc.
  • Environmental fortifications, such as water ingress protection, dust ingress protection, protection against extreme temperatures, etc.
  • Unit size, varying from compact, 5- to 10-pound printer models to larger labeling solutions and laser machines. 

Given all of these different characteristics, it’s important that companies completely understand their operational needs before investing in a printing solution. Popular glass bottle printing options include:

  • Continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers, which are ideal for printing variable data text and lower contrast markings at high speeds. CIJ printers like the DuraCode Touchscreen can weigh up to 50 pounds once installed and can operate 24/7.
  • Thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers, which are affordable, compact printers that tend to be slower than CIJ models but offer higher code quality. Newer TIJ models like the Anser X1 can match CIJ speeds as well. 
  • Fiber laser and CO2 laser systems—although not printers—offer the fastest marking speeds and highest accuracy on the market. Laser systems are ideal for high-volume production lines found in industrial facilities such as beer bottling plants. 

Consider the Code Location and Accommodate the Surface Properties

With today’s technology, companies can place product codes nearly anywhere on a glass bottle. Bottle necks, bases, and bodies are all viable code locations as long as you use the right coding technology for the task. 

The right code location is influenced by numerous factors, including shipping specifics, handling requirements, preferred aesthetics, facility environment, and more. For example, if your bottles will rub together in transit, you need to place your product codes on a space where they won’t rub off. 

For curved surfaces like the neck and body, continuous inkjet printers and laser systems are the preferred options. CIJ nozzles and laser system lenses enable higher compatibility with curves than a thermal inkjet printer. TIJ systems cannot handle neck or bottom-up printing.

In addition to curves, it’s important to compensate for any excessive moisture. Many ink formulas are designed to dry quickly and resist water damage; however, water presence can still negatively affect code appearance. To prevent moisture from posing a problem, you may need to reconfigure your line and washdown process to accommodate your printing process. 

Outfit Your Line with the Appropriate Vision System for Your Substrate

Glass bottles are available in many different colors. Beer, for example, is most frequently bottled in amber-brown bottles. Green, blue, and clear bottles are also commonly found throughout the average supermarket.

On conventional production lines, printers detect bottle presence with the use of photoelectric sensors (photo eyes). A photo eye emits a beam of light across the line towards a receiver. If a bottle interrupts the beam, the interruption triggers the printer to create a code. 

Colored glass bottles generally work well with photo eyes. The dark color of the glass reliably interrupts the beam, leading to accurate results. Clear glass, on the other hand, can pose problems. 

As with transparent plastic materials, standard photo eyes can have trouble detecting clear glass. The light beam often passes through clear glass without any interruption, preventing accurate printing. For better results, we recommend using retro-reflective photo eyes instead of standard models. 

Retro-reflective photo eyes are built with mirrors on their receivers. The mirror reflects the beam to the emission point, increasing the sensor’s ability to detect materials. 

While a retro-reflective photo eye should be able to successfully detect your materials, we recommend consulting with an expert to ensure that you have the right technology across your line for proper printing. 

Have More Questions about How to Print on Glass Bottles? InkJet, Inc. Has Answers

Glass bottles are one of today’s most popular packaging options. Ideal for keeping perishable goods fresh and visually appealing, glass bottles can house everything from beer to medicine and everything in between. With the help of an efficient production line system, your company can mark glass bottles with any required codes and prepare them for sale. 

If you are looking for more guidance on how to print on glass bottles, InkJet, Inc. has all of the answers you are looking for. Our sales team can help you find the perfect marking solution to fit your needs and address any unique production line concerns or challenges. Contact us today to learn more. 

For more information about how to print on glass bottles, contact InkJet, Inc. online or call 1(800) 280-3245.