For many years Continuous Ink Jet printing (CIJ) has dominated the industrial sector for coding applications such as, for example, applying time/date/batch codes to food and beverage packaging.
During recent years, laser marking technology has seen a significant improvement in both performance and reliability simultaneous to a lowering of prices. These advancements now make laser marking a viable alternative to CIJ
In terms of the code itself, laser marking offers many advantages over CIJ:
The CIJ process utilises ink, which as a consumable is costly to purchase over time and the printing heads of CIJ must be constantly cleaned and/or replaced too. A laser marker has no consumables, so running costs are far lower, as is the requirement for maintenance.
The low requirement for maintenance of a laser marking machine can mean that it’s a far more reliable method compared to CIJ and the fact that the laser uses no ink makes the laser marking process more environmentally responsible too.
In cases where the mark requires the application of logos as well as simple coding, here the laser is often a much better solution. CIJ is very limited as to what type of mark it can produce and over what area but a laser marking machine can deliver a wide variety of graphic formats from logos to barcodes to simple text and over a much bigger area too than a CIJ can apply
For the mark itself, a laser mark is permanent and difficult to counterfeit. CIJ is quite the opposite; for example, when coding milk cartons by CIJ it is common for the mark to rub off as the carton is exposed to temperature changes, condensation and wear. A laser mark is resilient to such things.
A laser marker can also be easier/better to integrate to production lines. With CIJ the head is commonly positioned close to the surface to which it is printing. With a laser marking machine it is possible to place the beam deflection unit (sometimes known as the scan head) several hundred millimetres away from the product being marked.
A laser mark can add significantly to the perceived value of the item itself. For example, for a recent project we configured a fiber laser marking machine to brand stainless steel razor blades. Historically the blades were marked by CIJ. The aesthetic of the laser mark was significantly better, raising the perceived value of the item itself and addressing the counterfeiting issue our customer was having with their product marked by CIJ.
CIJ is a single process solution; i.e. it is simply a surface print. In some cases it’s possible for the laser to code and produce other processes at the same time such as, for example, perforation of packaging or cutting of thin films .
At Lotus Laser Systems we manufacture a wide range laser marking and engraving solutions ideally configured for laser cutting, laser marking and laser engraving all types of materials. Our experts would be happy to recommend which configuration best suits your application.