by Cassandra Balentine
Quality is one area constantly improving in regards to the latest print technology advancements. Marking and coding devices are no exception.
According to Jeff Norton, business development, AT Information Products, the ideal resolution for marking and coding systems is 300 dpi or higher. “This is true for the printing of alphanumeric text,” he explains. “However, for graphics and logos, printing is considered high resolution at 360 dpi as there’s more detail required of the printed image.”
On the other hand, Heidi Wright, director of product management, Videojet Technologies, Inc., believes that any resolution that produces scannable barcodes should be considered high resolution. “Digital marking and coding systems, like large character inkjet—up to 180 dpi, and thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers—up to 600×600 dpi, as well as thermal transfer overprinters (TTO)—up to 300 dpi, can print machine-readable bar codes including EAN8, EAN13, UPCA, UPCE, GS1-128, DataMatrix, and quick response (QR) codes. Older hot stamp printers are generally used only for date and batch codes since changing code is a manual process,” she offers.
The Need for High Resolution
High-resolution capabilities are useful for modern marking/coding needs.
“We live in a world of technological advancements so customers naturally expect to get more from their marking/coding devices than ever before,” shares Norton. In the past there was a trade-off between print resolution and speed. “Now, customers can get both when they select the right print technology.”
Using a high-resolution printing solution accomplishes more objectives, depending on the application. “For example, a high-resolution coder may allow the customer to reduce its inventory of pre-printed boxes, labels, or pouches, by tasking the printer to perform all variable customization on the substrate.”
Small character, multi-line text and graphics found on products like nutrition panels, cannabis labeling, and pharmaceutical applications are possible with high-resolution marking and coding solutions, comments Norton.
Additionally, branding applications where graphics are used to customize the packaging for a specific product; two-color codes to draw attention to warning symbols, expire dates, and other critical messages; and logos on wood products in very harsh environments are achievable with higher resolutions.
Barcodes with high contrast and high read rates are also critical for products that require traceability and in fighting product counterfeiting and diversion. Required in pharmaceutical, medical device, and other industries, Wright points out that machine-readable barcodes are printed during production or packaging and then scanned as a product moves through the supply chain and in instances of product recalls.
High-resolution printing is not required for all applications, such as alphanumeric codes. “Solutions that print at lower resolutions, like many continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers, are well suited for marking dates, batch numbers, and lot codes on consumer packaged goods, extrusions, automotive parts, and electronics,” shares Wright.
However, since they are scanned, barcodes require high-resolution capabilities to print. “Laser markers, TTO, TIJ printers, and high-resolution case coders can all achieve clear, scannable barcodes,” she offers.
Customers generally have different requirements for print resolution depending on the type of code or mark being printed. “For alphanumeric text, the print resolution can be decreased to some degree without compromising readability,” agrees Norton. “For graphics and barcodes, a much higher setting for print resolution is required to produce a crisp, legible mark.”
As new applications emerge with advanced technologies, the demand for high-resolution capabilities in marking and coding systems continues to grow.
Wright points to the growing use of two-dimensional (2D) barcodes, including DataMatrix and QR codes, as just one reason manufacturers choose high-resolution coding and marking. “They are also looking for solutions to enhance the appearance of their packaging, select certain fonts, and display more variable product information and ingredients lists.”
Regulatory requirements, marketing departments, inventory control, and sustainability also play a role in demand, says Norton.
On the Market
Higher resolution marking and coding systems continue to enter the market.
The Integra PP108 inkjet system from AT Information Products is well suited for one- or two-color coding of lumber, packaging materials, and other porous surfaces. The system prints variable codes, warning symbols, logos, and other graphics with its 4.25-inch printhead, at speeds and print resolutions not available with other technologies.
Embedded within Integra PP108 is Seiko Instruments print technology and its recirculating ink system. It automatically removes air from the nozzle rows to ensure long-lasting, clean printed images. The benefit for customers is tremendous print quality, low maintenance, and high uptime for the line.
HP Inc.’s TIJ technology enables high-resolution, two-dimensional QR codes and text across a range of substrates at high speeds. According to the company, OEMs can use HP TIJ technology to help reduce maintenance costs and gain efficiencies that drive higher uptime on package coding and marking production lines.
Managed by the MPERIA marking and coding automation platform, Matthews Marking Systems’ VIAjet T-Series high-resolution printer replaces adhesive labels and pre-printed boxes for significant savings.
REA JET US offers high-resolution inkjet printers with TIJ HP print technology. The stainless steel housing, intuitive operation, and well-conceived printhead design make this coding and marking system suitable for unlimited industrial-strength applications.
The next generation of the REA JET GK 2.0 High-Resolution Piezo inkjet printers is suitable for a range of applications and is well suited for marking porous and absorbent materials, such as cardboard or wood, at a print height of up to 100 millimeters.
Unique in terms of CIJ technology, the Videojet 1620 High Resolution CIJ is a high-resolution micro printer that can print linear and DataMatrix codes with high legibility in limited print areas, such as on wire and electronic parts.
Videojet laser systems achieve high-resolution marking on high-speed lines. Its latest advancement, the Videojet Lightfoot canning solution features dual fiber laser marking heads to provide built-in redundancy and marking speeds up to 100,000 cans per hour.
The high-resolution Videojet TTO printers embody the latest technology to help improve uptime while reducing the time spent on quality checks, waste, and rework. The printers feature a built-in code quality checker, minimal wear parts, airless all-electronic operation, and a fast-change ribbon cassette.
The Videojet m610 OEM TIJ printer offers powerful data handling and global track-and-trace capabilities and is ideal for serialization in pharmaceutical packaging applications. It prints various linear and 2D bar codes including DataMatrix, QR, GS1, PPN, and HIBC.
Making a Mark
High-resolution marking and coding systems open up new possibilities with a simple technology. The systems allow operators to reduce inventory of pre-printed boxes and labels, produce 2D codes, and even provide anti-counterfeiting advantages.
Oct2022, DPS Magazine