The Comprehensive Guide to Industrial Ink

Discover the difference ink can make.

The Comprehensive Guide to Industrial Ink

As an expert in manufacturing and production printing, selecting the optimal ink for your application is crucial. With the variety of ink formulations available from companies like InkJet, Inc., you must consider key factors like print quality, substrate compatibility, and drying time when determining the ideal ink. This guide will empower you to make informed decisions by exploring the major industrial inkjet technologies and delving into the performance characteristics of the main ink types. You'll gain the knowledge needed to match ink to application for optimal throughput and cost-effectiveness. Let's begin the journey towards mastering industrial ink selection.

An Introduction to Industrial Ink

Industrial inkjet inks are designed for high-volume printing applications in manufacturing and production. There are three main types: continuous inkjet (CIJ), thermal inkjet (TIJ), and pigment inkjet (PIJ). Each has specific formulations and applications.

Continuous Inkjet Inks

CIJ inks are fast-drying, allowing for printing on high-speed production lines. They contain solvents like MEK and ethanol to achieve quick evaporation. CIJ inks are often used to print date codes, lot numbers, and barcodes on product packaging.

Thermal Inkjet Inks

TIJ inks use heat to generate ink droplets and are suitable for more precise, high-resolution printing. They typically contain water, dyes or pigments, and humectants like glycerol to prevent drying. TIJ inks can print fine details on a range of substrates, useful for product marking, packaging prototypes, and label printing.

Pigment Inkjet Inks

PIJ inks contain pigments, not dyes, allowing for greater lightfastness and durability. They often include resins and solvents to disperse pigments and control viscosity. PIJ inks are ideal for outdoor product signage, container graphics, and harsh environment marking. Their weather and chemical resistance provide long-term durability.

With various formulations for different needs, industrial inkjet inks from InkJet, Inc. facilitate efficient, high-quality printing in manufacturing. By choosing the appropriate ink for your application and production environment, companies can optimize costs and achieve maximum performance.

Types of Industrial Inkjet Printing

There are three primary types of ink used in industrial inkjet printing: aqueous, solvent, and UV-curable. Each has specific applications and properties that make them suitable for certain uses.

Aqueous Ink

Aqueous inks, also known as water-based inks, use water as the main solvent. They are non-toxic, environmentally friendly, and quick drying. Aqueous inks work well for porous substrates like paper but can soak and spread on non-porous surfaces. They are often used for product marking and coding.

Solvent Ink

Solvent inks contain chemical solvents instead of water and are designed for non-porous substrates like plastics, metals, and glass. They produce vibrant colors and crisp lines but emit volatile organic compounds as they dry. Solvent inks are commonly used for product marking, packaging prototypes, and label printing.

UV-Curable Ink

UV-curable inks contain photoinitiators that cause the ink to harden when exposed to UV light. They produce a durable, scratch-resistant finish and can be used on almost any surface. However, UV inks require specialized printers and curing equipment. They are often used for high-quality product labels, membrane switches, and touchscreen displays.

With various types of industrial inkjet inks available, you can choose the right solution for your specific application and substrate. Whether you need an eco-friendly option for paper or a durable ink for plastics, InkJet, Inc. formulates inks to meet your unique needs. Our expertise in ink chemistry and printing technology allows us to provide the high-performance inks and the guidance to help your business thrive.

Continuous Inkjet Printing and Ink

Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) printing uses inks specifically formulated for high-speed, non-contact printing applications. The ink is pumped through small nozzles to form a continuous stream of droplets that are electrically charged and deflected to the substrate. For your CIJ needs, InkJet, Inc. produces fast-drying inks ideal for coding and marking products.

General Purpose Inks

Our GP inks are versatile, all-purpose inks suitable for a wide range of substrates like paper, cardboard, plastics, and metals. They produce crisp lines and text, and are resistant to environmental factors such as humidity and chemicals. The inks are available in multiple colors for color-coding applications. GP inks work with both aqueous-based and solvent-based CIJ printers.

Food-Grade and High-Contrast Inks

For food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic packaging, we offer inks that are odorless, chemically resistant, and compliant with relevant regulations. Our high-contrast inks, such as black on yellow, are ideal for improving readability on difficult substrates. The inks provide rub resistance and adhesion to maximize code permanence.

Specialty Inks

InkJet, Inc. also produces specialty inks for unique applications. Our thermochromic inks change color with temperature for visual quality control. Our metallic inks contain real metallic pigments for an attractive shimmer, while our fluorescent inks are highly visible under UV light. Our removable inks are designed to be washable for short-term marking needs.

To choose the right CIJ ink, determine your substrate, required code permanence, and any special requirements like food-grade certification. Compare the specifications of each ink type to find one suitable for your needs. For the highest print quality, be sure to choose an ink specifically engineered for your CIJ printer model. The experts at InkJet, Inc. are also available to provide guidance on ink selection and ensure you get the best results from your CIJ coding and marking applications.

Thermal Inkjet Printing and Ink

Thermal inkjet printers utilize heat to propel ink onto paper. Tiny heating elements are used to rapidly heat water-based ink, generating bubbles that force the ink through nozzles onto the media.

Aqueous Inks

The inks used in thermal inkjet printers are typically water-based inks, known as aqueous inks. These inks contain colorants and dyes dissolved or suspended in a water solvent. Aqueous inks provide bright, vibrant colors and are inexpensive to produce, however, prints made with aqueous inks tend to have poor durability since the water in the inks can evaporate over time.

Dye-Based Inks

Early thermal inkjet inks primarily used dyes as colorants. Dye-based inks produce prints with bright, vibrant colors, but the dyes tend to fade over time with exposure to light and air. Dye-based inks also typically have poor water resistance, as the dyes can dissolve when exposed to water.

Pigment-Based Inks

Many modern thermal inkjet inks use pigments rather than dyes as colorants. Pigment-based inks contain fine color particles that are suspended in the ink rather than dissolved. Prints made with pigment-based inks tend to have greater durability and lightfastness compared to dye-based inks because the pigment particles are more stable. Pigment-based inks also typically provide better water resistance. However, pigment-based inks may produce colors that appear slightly duller compared to dye-based inks.

Specialty Inks

Some thermal inkjet printers can utilize specialized inks for specific applications. For example, some printers offer inks that provide greater lightfastness and durability for outdoor signage. Others provide inks that offer greater adhesion to non-porous substrates like plastics. Still others provide inks that can print on dark or metallic media. The specific types of inks available will depend on the printer model and intended applications.

In summary, the type of ink used in a thermal inkjet printer depends on the level of durability, vibrancy, and substrate versatility required for the intended print applications. For most everyday document printing, a standard dye-based or pigment-based aqueous ink will work well, while more demanding applications may require the use of a specialty ink.

Pigment Inkjet Printing

Pigment inkjet inks are comprised of pigments, or tiny solid particles, suspended in a liquid carrier. Unlike dye-based inks that contain liquid dyes, pigment inks rely on pigments that rest on top of the substrate instead of being absorbed into it. This results in prints that are water-resistant, lightfast and durable.

Types of Pigment Inks

There are two main types of pigment inks used in inkjet printing: aqueous and solvent. Aqueous pigment inks use water as the carrier and are considered environmentally friendly. They produce crisp, vibrant prints on porous papers. Solvent pigment inks use volatile organic compounds as the carrier, allowing them to print on non-porous substrates. However, they emit harmful volatile organic compounds and require special ventilation.

Applications of Pigment Inks

Pigment inks are well-suited for a variety of commercial and industrial applications that require durability and weather resistance. Some common applications include:

  • Outdoor signage: Pigment inks provide excellent lightfastness and weatherability for outdoor displays, banners and billboards.
  • Product labeling: Pigment inks are resistant to chemicals, abrasion and moisture, ideal for labeling products in harsh environments.
  • Fine art reproductions: Archival pigment inks produce gallery-quality prints that maintain color fidelity for decades without noticeable fading.

How to Choose Pigment Inks

The key factors to consider when choosing pigment inks are:

  1. Substrate compatibility: Match the ink to the intended printing substrate, whether porous or non-porous. Solvent pigment inks are required for non-porous materials.
  2. Durability requirements: For applications requiring maximum durability and longevity, choose a pigment ink formulated for outdoor/industrial use.
  3. Environmental impact: Water-based pigment inks are more environmentally friendly than solvent-based inks. Choose accordingly based on ventilation capabilities.
  4. Color needs: Choose between process color (CMYK), spot color or custom-matched inks depending on color requirements. Process inks provide a wide color gamut, while spot/custom inks provide precise color matching.

In summary, pigment inkjet inks provide unparalleled durability and versatility for a wide range of commercial printing applications. By selecting the proper ink type for your needs, pigment inkjet printing offers an eco-friendly and cost-effective digital printing solution.

Choosing the Right Industrial Ink Type

When determining the appropriate ink for your industrial printing needs, several factors must be considered. The substrate, application, and printer type are all key to selecting an ink that will produce optimal results.

Inkjet Inks

Inkjet inks, such as dye-based and pigment-based inks, are designed for inkjet printers. Dye-based inks contain dissolved dyes to produce vibrant colors but have poor lightfastness. Pigment-based inks contain finely ground pigments that offer better lightfastness and durability but can clog inkjet nozzles. For most industrial applications, pigment-based inkjet inks are recommended.

Continuous Inkjet Inks

Continuous inkjet (CIJ) inks are low-viscosity, fast-drying inks used in high-speed CIJ printers. They contain dyes or pigments, solvents like glycol ethers or ethanol, and additives to control flow, drying, and adhesion. CIJ inks are suitable for marking and coding applications where drying and adhesion are important, such as product labeling or box coding.

Thermal Inkjet Inks

Thermal inkjet (TIJ) inks are designed for use in TIJ printers, where heat is used to energize and eject ink droplets. They typically contain water, glycols, and dyes or pigments. TIJ inks dry quickly, are very fluid, and provide vibrant colors, making them ideal for many types of product marking and coding. However, they generally have poor lightfastness.

The type of ink you choose depends on your specific application and priorities. For packaging, labels, and textiles, pigmented inkjet or CIJ inks are usually the best options, offering durability, lightfastness, and adhesion. For product marking, coding, and labeling, CIJ or TIJ inks will dry quickly and adhere well to many surfaces. By determining your needs for color, durability, drying time, cost, and environmental conditions, you can select an industrial ink formulated to excel for your particular printing requirements.

Industrial Ink Applications

Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) Inks

Continuous inkjet inks are fluid inks specially formulated for high-speed industrial printing applications. CIJ inks are fast drying, provide crisp markings, and are chemically compatible with the solvents and substrates commonly used in manufacturing. For coding and marking products on conveyor lines, CIJ inks are an ideal choice.

Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) Inks

Thermal inkjet inks are water-based inks designed for industrial printing applications where fast dry times, durability and chemical resistance are required. TIJ inks are ideal for printing variable data such as barcodes, lot codes, and expiration dates on a wide range of porous and non-porous materials. The fast-drying, pigmented inks provide smudge-proof markings that can withstand harsh environmental conditions.

Pigment Inks

Pigment inks contain finely ground pigment particles that remain on the surface of the substrate, resulting in markings with enhanced durability and weather resistance. The pigments are suspended in a liquid carrier, often water. Once printed, the liquid carrier evaporates leaving the pigment particles behind. Pigment inks are ideal for printing on substrates that will be exposed to environmental extremes, as well as applications where abrasion resistance is important.

When determining the appropriate ink type for your industrial printing needs, consider the substrate, required durability, application environment, and specific performance criteria. The specialists at InkJet, Inc. can evaluate your unique requirements and recommend an ink formulation tailored to maximize the efficiency and legibility of your industrial coding and marking operations.

Formulating Custom Industrial Inks

To create customized ink formulations for industrial applications, several factors must be considered based on the printing method and end use. The viscosity, color, durability, and chemical composition are all determined by the needs of the application.

For continuous inkjet (CIJ) printing, the ink must have a viscosity that allows it to be atomized into tiny droplets but still wet the surface on contact. Water-based inks are often used for CIJ printing because they provide vivid colors, are inexpensive, and environmentally friendly. However, for high-speed or outdoor applications, solvent-based inks may be required for their quick-drying properties and durability.

Thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers necessitate inks with specific thermal and physical properties to produce droplets on demand. The inks must withstand high temperatures without degradation yet still have a suitable surface tension and viscosity for printing. Pigment-based inks are frequently used in TIJ printers because the pigments provide superior fade-resistance compared to dyes.

For applications requiring vibrant colors, durability, and UV-resistance, pigment inks are an optimal choice. The pigments are finely ground particles that provide color by reflecting certain wavelengths of light. Although more expensive than dye-based inks, pigment inks produce prints with exceptional color fastness and light stability.

The final ink formulation depends on balancing performance with cost. For most industrial uses, factors like print resolution, durability, color vibrancy, and drying speed are priorities. However, the overall cost of the ink and its components must also be feasible for large-scale production. By assessing the specific needs of the application and testing various ink compositions, a custom formulation can be developed that meets both the technical requirements as well as budgetary constraints. With careful selection of components, advanced inkjet ink technology can provide solutions for nearly any high-volume or niche printing need.

FAQs About Industrial Ink

Industrial inks are formulated for high-volume printing applications in manufacturing and production environments. Several types of ink are commonly used, each with specific properties suitable for certain uses. To determine which ink is right for your needs, consider the following factors:

Types of Ink

The three primary ink types are:

  1. Continuous Inkjet Ink (CIJ): Low viscosity ink for high-speed printing on non-porous surfaces. It produces crisp lines and is resistant to smearing. CIJ ink is often used to print dates, logos, and barcodes on products and packaging.
  2. Thermal Inkjet Ink (TIJ): Specially formulated for use in thermal inkjet printheads. It is well suited for printing on coated or glossy paper stocks. TIJ ink produces vibrant colors and crisp lines, making it ideal for product marking and packaging coding applications.
  3. Pigment Ink: Contains pigment particles instead of dyes, giving it enhanced durability and fade resistance. Pigment ink is an excellent choice for printing highly durable industrial markings, especially on porous or textured surfaces. It produces permanent print with minimal bleeding or feathering.

Choosing the Right Ink

The application and intended use of the ink significantly impacts your choice. Consider the following:

  • Substrate: Choose an ink compatible with the surface you want to print on. CIJ ink works well on non-porous materials like plastics and metals, while pigment ink adheres better to porous substrates like cardboard or textiles.
  • Durability: If long-lasting print is required, pigment ink is likely your best option. For short-term markings, CIJ or TIJ ink can suffice.
  • Speed: For high-volume, high-speed printing, CIJ ink is designed to keep up with rapid production lines. TIJ and pigment inks may not dry quickly enough for very fast printing.
  • Environment: The conditions the print will be exposed to affect ink selection. Choose an ink with enhanced fade, water or chemical resistance if needed.
  • Cost: Inks vary in price depending on their properties and intended use. Pigment and TIJ ink typically cost more than CIJ ink. Consider your budget requirements when choosing an ink.

With the right ink for your specific needs, you can achieve optimal results for your industrial printing applications. Please contact InkJet, Inc. for guidance on choosing an ink or for custom formulation services. Our ink experts can help determine the best solution for your requirements.


Moving forward, you now have a comprehensive understanding of the varieties of industrial ink and their applications. With the knowledge of the differences between Continuous, Thermal, and Pigment inks, you can make informed decisions when selecting inks based on your specific manufacturing or production printing needs. By partnering with a company like InkJet, Inc. that creates customized ink formulations, you gain access to experts who understand your goals and can recommend the ideal ink. The future is bright when you have the right ink partner propelling your business growth through optimized inkjet printing performance. With this guide as a resource, you are equipped to choose the industrial inks that will drive innovation and enable you to maximize the potential of your manufacturing and production printing.