That's Not All Folks!
Just when it seems like inkjet has reached its pinnacle of capabilities, innovations in the printing technology open new markets.
INKJET PRINTING IS not the first thing most printers think of when they wake up in the morning. Inkjet's most common use in packaging is coding and marking—the least of printers' worries. But times are changing and so is inkjet technology, which may one day soon, play a much larger part in the printing of packaging materials.
Currently, inkjet printing has many benefits to boot. It prints very high resolution, up to 4,800 dpi, said Mark Strobel, vice president, sales and marketing, Primera Technology, Inc., "offering better quality than offset, flexo, or thermal transfer printing yet in short runs of labels." In addition, Strobel said, "Recent innovations in the technology have increased speeds to the point of being very practical for runs of up to 5,000 labels at a time."
Inkjet also has advantages over other printing methods, said Curtis Miller, president, Printing Technology Services, Inc. "Inkjet is very easy to set up and maintain, and has low equipment cost," he said. "Other package printing technologies such as flexo and offset cannot offer variable data capability, have much higher set-up cost, and are less flexible."
Furthermore, Miller said, "Inkjet can complement flexo and offset package printing if the right combination of pre-printed information is mixed with inkjet, thereby reducing set-up times for package printing using inkjet, while also lowering costs for long runs in flexo or offset."
While new developments in the technology are still coming about, inkjet is not new to package printing. About 25 years ago, continuous inkjet (CIJ) was the first to be commercialized in package coding, according to Jeff Norton, market development manager of Hewlett-Packard Co. In the '90s, thermal inkjet (TIJ) and piezo were introduced to package coding. All three come with pros and cons.