Industrial Marking and Coding Products: Which Is Right for Your Packaging?

Whether your company is involved in pharmaceutical production, food packaging, beverage bottling, or another segment of the industrial packaging field, product coding is a necessity. 

Product markings, such as lot codes and date codes, fulfill a number of important roles, including:

  • Fostering complete product traceability
  • Aiding inventory counts 
  • Providing customers with essential information like product freshness and production date

Given how important these processes are, distribution networks and/or government regulators require companies to place industry-appropriate markings on product packaging. 

For example, infant formula producers are required by the USDA to label their products with expiration dates. In another instance, aerospace and automotive companies follow strict part marking standards for traceability and quality assurance purposes. Similarly, distribution networks that handle food, beverage, and cosmetic goods compel companies to place traceable markings on all of their products. 

To meet these requirements, manufacturing/packaging companies must use high-quality marking systems that are accurate, reliable, and capable of marking thousands of products a day without issues. If you’re wondering which marking and coding products are right for your operation, here’s what you need to know.

Laser Marking vs. Inkjet Printing: Comparing The Most Popular Industrial Coding Options 

Laser marking systems and inkjet printers are the most effective industrial printing technologies available today. Although both options are powerful enough to complete demanding applications, they differ in a few significant ways. Below, we explore the “laser marking vs. inkjet” dynamic by examining how these marking and coding products compare to one another.

Coding Speed

As we mentioned above, laser marking and inkjet printing are both capable of high-speed coding applications. However, both laser and inkjet coding speeds significantly differ based on the printer model and inkjet subset. 

Broadly speaking, medium and heavy duty laser marking systems can print up to 2,000 characters/second on production lines moving at 300 to 950 m/min. Continuous inkjet printers (the go-to inkjet technology for high-speed coding) can print at speeds up to 900 m/min. Thermal inkjet printers (smaller and more affordable than CIJ printers) tend to offer lower printing speeds, maxing out at around 120 m/min. Newer, higher-end TIJ printers, such as the Anser X1, are an exception, however, can print at speeds up to 300 m/min.

For a clear comparison of these speeds, see the chart below:

Laser Marking vs. Inkjet Printing: Coding Speed Differences

Average Laser Speed

300 to 950 m/min.

Average CIJ Speed

900 m/min.

Average TIJ Speed

120 m/min.

High-Power TIJ Speed

300 m/min.

Line Setup: Stationary and Conveying Specialties

Laser systems and continuous inkjet printers offer similar coding speeds and are largely compatible with the same packaging materials. If you are debating whether a laser system or CIJ printer is right for your operation, consider how your production line is set up.

Laser systems are notable for their ability to mark both conveying and stationary materials. For example, with stationary printing companies involved in aerospace/automotive production often create parts using manual processes and multi-station assembly methods. In these more complicated line setups, laser systems provide the freedom to mark stationary objects that are not moving along conveyor belts. 

Inkjet printers, on the other hand, do not have moving or scribing printheads like laser systems. Therefore, inkjet printers must be placed on conventional conveyor-belt production lines to mark objects. Laser systems can also work well in conveyor-belt configurations, but, aside from handheld TIJ printers, inkjet systems are largely incapable of stationary coding.

Price Point

Cost is one of the biggest differences between laser and inkjet systems. 

In general, laser marking systems offered by competitors to InkJet, Inc. are significantly more expensive upfront than inkjet printers. InkJet, Inc. Laser Series is the most competitively priced laser series on the market. Fiber, CO2, and UV laser systems commonly carry price tags that are $10-20,000 higher than CIJ printers. The price difference between laser and TIJ printers is even larger, as TIJ printers can cost as low as $1,000 or so. If high, upfront investments are a deal breaker, a CIJ or TIJ printer will be a better choice for you over a laser system.

At the same time, the ongoing cost factors associated with laser marking are lower than the costs of inkjet printing. 

While inkjet printers require regular cleanings, daily start-up and maintenance, laser systems have minimal maintenance needs. Fluid refills also drive up the ongoing cost of inkjet printing, whereas laser systems have little-to-no consumable expenses. Laser operators simply perform periodic filter replacements and install new tubes every five years or so to keep their systems running. 

If your facility marks particularly large quantities of product, laser marking will likely be the more cost-effective option compared to inkjet printing.

Have More Questions on Marking and Coding Products?  Contact InkJet, Inc. to Find the Answers

Laser marking systems and inkjet printers are two of the most powerful coding solutions currently on the market. Versatile, reliable, and built-to-last, laser marking and inkjet printing solutions can both complete today’s most demanding applications. Of course, it can be difficult to parse through the different factors to determine which marking option is best for you—that’s where InkJet, Inc. can help.

For the last 30 years, the InkJet, Inc. team has helped companies across the manufacturing/packaging spectrum find the perfect coding solutions to meet their needs. Today, we carry a range of printers, laser systems, and PALM solutions to make sure that our clients have the ideal equipment to produce consistently excellent codes. Contact us today to learn about which solution will work best for your operation. 

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