Evolution of Inkjet - From an Application’s Viewpoint

Industrial inkjet printing today is no more similar to inkjet from the late 70’s as today’s Chevrolet is similar to your father’s! Meaning that from an applications perspective you can still find the old reliable valve jet drop-on-demand systems just like you can find the old reliable Chevy. But is that what you want to drive today?

The same applies to inkjet today with higher resolution printing and the ability to print barcodes and logos, and systems that have auto-cleaning capability and PM warning - just like today’s automobiles. Advances in technology have crossed all application borders from autos to medicine to industrial inkjet.

Industrial inkjet printing has reached 600 DPI (dot-per-inch) capability and speeds of over 200 products per minute, mutually exclusive. But do you need it? Do you want to pay for it? How do you match your needs with the right resolution and speed? What else is important to you? TCO (total cost of ownership), maintenance time, up time, reliability?

Did you know that most color printing home or office is done at a macro resolution (effective image resolution) of 150dpi or less? True. And it looks pretty damn good! So that means that over 150 dpi you will probably do just fine with any industrial printer for most applications, and between 200 or 300 dpi will meet many barcode requirements.

Speed or throughput? How many products per minute do most food and beverage packaging lines run at? Answer - 70 to 120 is the most typical need with some going up to 150 products per minute and a few running as low as 30 products per minute. Again, what printer do you need? A good number of printers out there today can do a nice job, but be careful if you’re running at the higher end of the spectrum because some printers need to print more dots (dpi) to cover an area, thus taking away from frequency response or throughput (frequency response is how fast dots must be printed to cover an area, say one square inch).

Maintenance? How often do you need to replace ink? Can you continue to print while changing bottles or cartridges? Does the system give you adequate warning or do you see it in the warehouse with blank boxes? Do you have to clean the head? This all defines downtime, time that you cannot ship your product if you’re taking care of the printer, stopping print, etc… Some new technology has all of these features built in. Yes, it can be programmed to clean the orifices during off-line events, such as lunch breaks or after hours. Ink supplies can be changed without interruption, and warning signals are programmable and available well in advance of running out of ink. That means never having a blank box in the warehouse. Today these are all features that are standard in a few products. Don’t get tricked into paying more or having to do without them.

Up-time and reliability? How reliable your printer is is directly proportional to the uptime. Does your vendor keep this data and statistics for continuous improvement? Do they share this data with you and make improvement recommendations? This is a sign of the quality of your vendor. Ask for the data, and if they can’t provide it ask why.

Repairability? Is your printer repairable? Is your printhead repairable or a throw away? Have you added up all of the costs? Be careful - make sure you compare apples to apples when you look at cost per volume (liters, milliliters, gallons, etc.).

Bottom line, all of the above add up to TCO (total cost of ownership). What does it really cost you vs. what efficiency improvements you gain? Are you in the black or red?

For more information on industrial inkjet printing please visit www.foxjet.com or call 800-369-5384.