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Coding That Connects The Circular Packaging Dots

19th February 2019

With food companies accelerating their switch to eco packaging substrates, Rotech Machines is demonstrating at Pro2Pac 2019 why thermal inkjet (TIJ) offers manufacturers a far more sustainable way to code sleeves, films and cartons compared to other print methods. Cleaner, more cost efficient and less resource intensive, TIJ scores additional sustainability points as it can be applied to recycled fibrous cards with less ink bleeding, as well as biodegradable films.

With consumers looking to food companies to take the lead on environmental issues, it’s predicted that the global green packaging market will surpass $238 billion by 2025[i]. The paper and paperboard segment is expected to retain market dominance throughout this forecast period. Organic, all-natural and free-from brand LICKALIX  are the first iced treat business in the UK and EU to introduce plastic free packaging that can be composted in a food waste bin and will decompose within 12 weeks.

However, as Rotech will demonstrate on stand N746, eco-packaging decisions aren’t just confined to the packaging materials used. Behind the scenes processes, including print reliability and the amount of ink and energy consumed, can have just as significant environmental impact. “When exploring sustainable packaging practices, the coding operation is subject to the same scrutiny as any other process,” highlights Richard Pether, director at Rotech.

TIJ - the leaner, greener and cleaner print solution

Following extensive tests printing codes onto recycled board, Richard can testify that TIJ print cartridges, which use finer gauge nozzles, can achieve a larger number of smaller dots per inch. He explains: “The surface of recycled board tends to be more fibrous and undulating than conventional board, causing the ink to spread. CIJ printers expel much more ink per drop than TIJ printers, increasing the probability of codes being illegible. This can lead to more packaging waste as well as retail rejects if ink rubs off or smears in transit to the stores.” Tests by Rotech also prove that TIJ can be used to code a variety of biogradeable films and compostable packaging, including cornstarch and sugar cane polymers.

Visitors to Rotech’s Pro2Pac stand will be able to benchmark different aspects of the sustainability packaging agenda and connect the different circular economy dots. For example, comparing TIJ to continuous inkjet (CIJ) and thermal transfer (TT), which one uses less ink per code? Which method releases more toxic solvents into the atmosphere? Which printer uses more consumables, for instance ribbons?  What’s the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)? Which is better for the climate?

“With TIJ, the only ongoing cost is the purchase of the cartridge; it is a completely maintenance- and service-free technology. Replacing the print cartridge effectively replaces the entire ink delivery system , and this can be done within a few seconds, minimising downtime and eliminating the need for service contracts,” adds Richard.

Irrespective of upfront printer investment costs, Rotech conservatively estimates that cost per 1000 prints is two thirds of a CIJ system over the machine’s lifetime.

Power usage is another vital consideration. With TIJ, the energy savings are significant as the printer only runs as and when needed, compared to ‘always on’ CIJ technology. “There’s no complex start up and shut down routine and valuable ink isn’t wasted through evaporation,” says Richard.

Rotech is demonstrating its range of TIJ coders at Pro2Pac. Visitors can see how the company’s latest RF Auto coding machine, with its innovative friction feeder, stands up to the demands of handling recycled cartonboard and overcomes the challenge of twisting and warping.

There’s also a good environmental option designed for artisan food producers or company’s needing to date-mark wraparound sleeves on multiple food products. Because the RF Lite offline sleeve coding system can handle sleeve shapes and sizes ranging anywhere from 40x70mm to 300x200mm, manufacturers don’t need to invest in multiple machines. 


[i] Coherent Market Insights