Q. What is Thermal Inkjet (TIJ)?
A. Thermal inkjet is a non-contact printing technology in which thermal energy is used to expel ink through a nozzle and onto a substrate. TIJ can print at high speeds on to a wide range of different packaging materials, reliably and cost-effectively.
Q. Why should I consider switching to TIJ?
A. There are many benefits of switching to thermal inkjet, many of which depend on the various types of installation, environment and print requirements. For many years, coding and marking systems have comprised a large number of features that are never used (yet still have to be paid for) or have been designed to be high maintenance, making them a large revenue generator for the supplier. In addition to this, consumable usage and associated costs are also high. At Rotech, we don't rely on revenues from service, nor do we have high internal costs directly attributed to service. Our TIJ systems provide a truly maintenance free, simple to use and cost-effective coding and marking technology.
Q. What are the main reasons this technology is selected:
- Works first time, every time
- No start-up time or shut down routine
- consistently produces clear, high-resolution codes
- Direct data input is available on the printer
- Intuitive, free, format design software package
- Cartridges simply clip in and out
- Low capital cost of equipment
- Ink cartridges are the only ongoing cost
- No maintenance
Q. What types of application are the printers suited for?
Thermal inkject is ideal for Labelling / Flo-Wrapping / Vertical |Form Fill and Seal (VFFS) / Horizontal Form Fill and Seal (HFFS) / Cartoners / Baggers – essentially anywhere where we can place the printer where the material is in motion and space allows us to present the printhead to the product.
Q. What surfaces will thermal inkject print on to?
A. Due to recent developments in both print head cartridge and ink technology, thermal inkjet can print onto a wide variety of non-porous and porous packaging types.
The scope of materials that we can print on to is largely defined by matching the various ink grades to the substrate, much like the more expensive CIJ and TTO technologies.
We have a number of ink grades available, each suited to particular applications. The key is to test print in order to identify the correct grade – a free service which we can offer using our own internal test facilities or on-site presentation/trials.
Q. What are the advantages of using a cartridge?
A. There are a few advantages of using a cartridge. Firstly, the ink is entirely contained so cannot cause any mess due to pouring or topping-up. Secondly, the cartridge houses the entire ink delivery system which is changed each time the cartridge is changed, removing the need for any maintenance. Finally, as the technology is “drop on demand”, only the ink needed is used. None is required for ink re-circulation.
Q. At what resolution does it print?
A. The resolution of the print will depend on the speed in which the line is operating.
- Excellent high-resolution print quality up to 600 dpi
- High-speed printing up to 240 m/min at 300 dpi
Q. How many prints per cartridge can I expect?
A. Prints per cartridge is based upon several factors, all of which can be finely controlled via the operating system of the printer. For example, larger characters naturally require more ink as do formats which contain multiple lines of text, barcodes and graphics. Different font styles can also affect the cost per print.
As a rough guide, if you were to print a batch code consisting of a single line of 3mm text containing 5 characters, you can expect to achieve in excess of 1M prints per cartridge. A code consisting of a best before date and batch number with time code may realise closer to 350-450K prints per cartridge.
Q. How can ink economy be maximised?
A. Our thermal inkjet systems feature built-in software that allows the user to optimise usage per print by ‘grey scaling’. For example, when printing a simple expiry date onto a light substrate - an application that doesn’t require true black print density - the operator can adjust the settings to achieve better usage per cartridge.
Q. What is the maximum print area?
A. Our standard systems utilise a single cartridge that measures 12.7mm - more than adequate to accommodate most product identification, batch, best before and use by data. Within the printable ‘height’ of the cartridge, multiple lines of text can be accommodated based on the character size (height) being divided into the overall height of the cartridge aperture (12.7mm). Total print distance (in direction of material travel) is 2M although this can be extended if required. If an application requires additional print ‘height’ then we can utilise our single heads and ‘stitch’ up to eight heads via a single controller therefore providing an overall print height of 101.6mm. Each head can be set to run at different parameters and include different data.
Q. What line speeds can the printers accommodate?
A. In standard format, all of our systems can accommodate line speeds of up to 60m/min. We are able to offer a simple upgrade to accommodate higher speed lines up to 90m/min if required.
Q. Can the systems print barcodes?
A. Yes – all of our systems either have this facility as standard or can be upgraded to print virtually all of the commercially recognised barcode formats including 2D /GS1 / QR and standard EAN. Due to the high resolution of the printers, exceptional clarity can be achieved.
Q. Can the systems accommodate different font styles?
A. Yes – all of our systems can accept any true type fonts in addition to the built-in standard fonts within the printer memory. Unlike many other printing technologies we can also print variable data formats, using the font chosen as the software ‘writes’ the character set to the printer.
Q. Can we print in different colours, other than black?
A. Yes – yellow, green, white, blue and red inks are all available. Further additions to the colour range are expected as development continues.
Q. Can the systems print onto both hot and cold surfaces?
A. We select the appropriate ink grade based on substratum. A key thing to avoid as with any print technology is a wet or damp surface which will hinder the ability of the ink to ‘adhere’ to the surface.
Q. What environments can the systems operate within?
A. Operating temperature range of our systems is listed at 05-40 degrees although this is largely due to the cartridge in use. We can adjust various parameters where necessary to increase the pre-heat temperature of the ink, for example when being used in a cold store or low ambient environment. Comparing to alternative print technologies such as CIJ and TTO the TIJ range has added flexibility due to the additional settings that can be accessed as mentioned. We also have a series of ‘special’ systems for demanding environments such as IP65 rated printers for wet and arduous environments and shutter systems for dusty and dirty packaging conditions.
Q. Do your systems require compressed air or any other services?
A. All of our systems (excluding special models such as Shutter and IP65 units) only require a single phase 240v supply which is regulated down to a safe working voltage via the PSU (power supply).
How does the initial cost of investment compare to the more widely known CIJ and TTO systems?
A. The installation of a thermal inkjet system invariably requires a lower investment cost as the systems are not so complex as say, CIJ or TTO printers, but this lower investment cost is also affected by the simplicity of the actual system and other hidden costs such as additional training needs, complex installation requirements and the need for lines to be ‘shut-down’ for longer periods of time.
Q. How do the thermal inkjet systems compare in terms of cost to run/cost per print?
A. There are a number of factors which should be considered when calculating a comparison on running costs. Generally our TIJ systems will provide a lower cost per print even when calculating just using the physical consumable cost. For example, when comparing against TTO, the ribbon and printhead replacement should both be factored into the calculation along with downtime created through servicing, broken components, snapped ribbon, removal /disposal of waste cores and print substrate and overall set-up time when changing print position or formats. Likewise, when comparing CIJ technology, the cost calculation should include many of the points already mentioned for TTO, in addition costs relating to regular maintenance / servicing costs, parts replacement such as pumps, filters and nozzles, production downtime due to start-up and shut-down procedures and of course cleaning and resetting of the system following inadvertent switching off prior to the shut-down procedure being completed – which can also lead to ink being dispensed onto equipment and factory floors! We also offer a bulk-ink system which can further reduce the costs per print.
Q. How complex is the installation?
A. Our Thermal inkjet systems are extremely easy to integrate onto all manners of packaging lines and equipment. Their compact size, low weight and the fact they are easily adjusted makes them ideal for virtually any installation. Added to this there are no large separate controllers or ink delivery systems and no additional rollers are required to re-route the packaging materials. Our TIJ systems can easily be retrofitted to existing equipment, we can even use existing mountings if required.
Q. Can the systems be networked?
A. Yes – Our standard iDESIGN software package has a built-in ‘control’ page that allows connection to multiple printers. All printers are supported and utilise their own unique IP address. Printers can be named to reflect the lines that they are mounted to. Wireless networking is also available, we can provide details of upgrades to the printers where necessary.
Q. Do we have to follow any complex set-up and shut-down procedures?
A. No, the TIJ systems can all be simply ‘turned-off’ at the end of a shift. Removal of the cartridge is a simple operation with a click-in/click-out and even if the systems are inadvertently shut-down, for example, there is loss of power to the line, no ink will be wasted or ejected, causing no detrimental effect to the ink solution or printer. Once power is restored, the systems all perform a quick software check, read the cartridge and then reset themselves ready to continue printing.
Q. Do I have to be concerned with harsh chemicals and associated waste removal?
A. No – Our sealed cartridges mean that handling is simple with no specialist PPE required. The make-up of our cartridges is safe to handle and unlike CIJ, disposal requires no specialist removal or handling.
Q. Can the Printers accept ‘aftermarket’ cartridges?
A. Yes – although we do not recommend this due to the systems and cartridges that we supply being tuned to match each other for optimum performance read by a simple connection/interface by the printer once the cartridge is inserted. In addition to this, as the ink delivery system relies on a vacuum within the cartridge, replenishing/refilling can often lead to air being allowed to enter, subsequently leading to degradation of performance.
Q. What service contracts do you offer?
A. Due to the zero maintenance requirements of the TIJ printers we have seen no demand for offering service contracts on these systems. They truly are a maintenance free product with no filters, pumps or complicated ink delivery systems. They also benefit from the entire ink delivery system being within a sealed cartridge which can be disposed of through the normal channels of printer cartridge recycling companies.