by Industrial Print Magazine Staff
Marking and coding systems rely on inkjet technology to help a variety of industries clearly label their products and packaging. From telecommunications to food, beverage, and pharmaceutical, most goods require some form of marking and coding for best- or sell-by dates as well as lot and manufacturing codes.
Above: Stony Creek Brewery relies on the Hitachi UX-D160W marking and coding printer to add important information to its beer cans.
Keep it Casual and Fresh
Established in 2010, Stony Creek Brewery is a craft brewery based in Branford, CT with an additional location in Foxwoods. The company is defined by its laid back persona and creative approach to brewing. Its headquarters hosts more than 300,000 visitors and 23,000 barrels of beer per year.
When asked what sets Stony Creek Brewery apart from the competition, Jay Kendig, director of operations, Stony Creek Brewery, points out that from the beginning its team was ambitious and diverse. “The fact that a lot of us are local and from out of state helped make us a really strong team, one team that has grown the brewery very quickly to the 23,000 barrel mark,” he shares.
The craft brewer relies on date coding to communicate to its customers that the beer they are about to enjoy is fresh. Initially, the brewery would print stickers and attach them by hand.
As the company grew, so did the need for a more effective method of communicating freshness. Its first try with a printed solution didn’t work out as sensor issues hindered success. As volumes reached 21,000 12- and 16-ounce cans to mark per day, the marking clarity also started to slip. Another hurdle came with the brewery’s preference to mark its products immediately following the can rinse step, which left the possibility of introducing moisture into the process.
When the time came to upgrade, Stony Creek Brewery sought the help of Dartronics, Inc., a local Hitachi America Ltd. distributor. The goal was to find a marking and coding printing system better suited to its unique requirements. Dartronics is a single-source solution for end-of-line packaging, marking, and coding needs. Equipped with automation specialists and system integrators, it is able to correct and prevent production issues. A bonus, the company has experience helping with the specific needs that craft brewers face in terms of canning, labeling, and marking and coding.
Essential in Stony Creek Brewery’s quest to find the right system was identifying a device that would work well after a can was rinsed. “Almost every company said that we shouldn’t put a printer on a gravity-fed twist rinser because it wouldn’t work. Hitachi made it work,” says Nick Romer, brewery engineer, Stony Creek Brewery.
After evaluating the options, the brewery settled on the Hitachi UX-D160W model printer. “I had my mind set that it was going to be a Hitachi printer coming in here,” he shares.
The UX-D160W is a continuous inkjet marking and coding printer. It is touted by the manufacturer as a well-equipped printer with several top-up options, reduced makeup consumption, and clean and easy change out of cartridge-type bottles. It is capable of up to six lines of printing. It features a 10.4-inch display with intuitive parameter illustrations.
Hitachi’s ink cartridges are designed to be easily changed without stopping production. Additionally, the printer design facilitates the complete evacuation of fluids, a feature that allows users to take advantage of fluids down to the last drop. After removing empty cartridges, the cartridge is sealed to eliminate hazardous solvents.
Further, Hitachi’s design facilitates longevity. Each component of the printhead can be replaced individually, reducing the need to purchase costly sub-assemblies. Preventative maintenance items are all individually exchangeable as well, further reducing the unnecessary replacement of complete ink circuits or complete ink cores.
All in all, the Hitachi inkjet printer lives up to the speed and quality needs of Stony Creek Brewing. Further, it eliminated the time consuming and expensive process of printing stickers and hand applying them to a growing number of beer cans.
In addition to the clarity and speed the Hitachi UX-D160W provides, the printer handles size changeover without issue. It also stands up to frequent chemical cleanings.
The brewery is satisfied with its relationship with Dartronics. While they don’t find much need to use it, they know that support is always readily available.
Right on the Mark
As craft breweries continue to penetrate the beer industry, these smaller businesses must find efficient but safe processes for producing, packaging, and distributing their cans and bottles. Marking and coding systems are essential in communicating messaging like lot numbers and best- and sell-by dates to ensure the safety, quality, and freshness of the beverage. IPM
Feb2021, Industrial Print Magazine