by Industrial Print Magazine Staff
Continuous inkjet (CIJ) technology is well suited for marking and coding because items are not touched by a printhead during production. This enables a broad range of products, surfaces, and shapes to be printed to.
The marks and codes found on pre-manufactured products or labels and packaging are helpful for a number of reasons. This includes important lot information that can be referred to if an item gets recalled or provides proper identification as the product moves down the production line.
Beyond this, marks and codes placed on products using CIJ printers are also paramount in today’s world of stringent security demands. These combinations of letters and numbers help with traceability and anti-counterfeiting—ensuring a company’s brand and reputation remains safe from fraud.
While concise and durable marking and coding is important for a number of reasons, security, traceability, and anti-counterfeiting are concerns that are increasingly being addressed. Today’s brand owners—from the largest to the smallest—are constantly on high alert, looking to protect their products and messaging.
According to Eric Corzine, product marketing manager, CIJ, Domino Printing Sciences plc, “between counterfeit products, piracy, and product diversion—illicit trading is rife.” He cites the International Chamber of Commerce, which indicates that the global economic value of counterfeiting and piracy could reach $2.3 trillion U.S. by 2022.
“Illicit trading damages brand reputation, erodes consumer faith in supply chains, and sucks revenue out of legitimate businesses. It siphons tax revenues from governments and it funds international crime organizations. Additionally, counterfeited items can jeopardize the health and safety of animals and humans,” continues Corzine.
The Benefits of CIJ
CIJ printing is especially helpful for any company looking for an extra line—or two—of defense against illicit activity.
Whether considering marking for security, traceability, and/or anti-counterfeiting, CIJ printers offer high flexibility that is very economical, explains Jim Mueller, director – small character technologies, Engage Technologies Corporation. “CIJ printers are easy to integrate into customers’ systems and existing equipment. By connecting to a database server, printers can print unique codes on every product. The compact printhead allows for mounting on nearly any production line.”
“Code-driven, item-level ‘track and trace’ systems—where your product is scanned by every stakeholder—enables you to build efficient and secure supply chains that provide real-time performance data. With this transparency, you know exactly where your products are at any time, right through the supply chain to the end customer,” says Corzine.
How it Works
There are a number of ways that the technology behind CIJ printing offers security, traceability, and anti-counterfeiting.
Traceability features are the most common. “Food and beverage manufacturers increasingly require containers and packaging to be marked. This enables traceability for the source of the packaging and the product being packaged. Typically, the code required on the packaging material or container needs to be very subtle and durable,” comments Mueller.
Unique product identification (UPI) offers a window into a production line, notes Corzine. “On food and beverage packaging lines, for example, including a number, letter, or symbol that identifies specific sealing or filling heads allows you to quickly identify and repair costly defects such as incorrect fill levels.”
Specialty ink assists in security and anti-counterfeiting. Some examples include thermochromic color change and UV fluorescent inks that print clear. When run through a UV light source they then become visible to prove authenticity.
Inks invisible to the naked eye are printed on the product without being detected. “Fraudsters cannot see the identifying codes or data matrixes without very specific wavelength lighting equipment. As there are many different wavelengths in the spectrum available, it makes the task of removing and/or replicating a difficult—if not impossible—task and cost prohibitive,” explains Corzine.
It’s a Fit
Nearly any industry vertical and product is a candidate for CIJ printing, and with that being said, the number of users relying on marking and coding for security, traceability, and anti-counterfeiting features continues to grow.
The pharmaceutical industry is an excellent example of traceability success. “The implementation of item-level serialization here has highlighted the benefits of being able to track each individual product on a supply chain, from the point of manufacture to the point of purchase. The technology is there, it works. And there is no reason it can’t be rolled out to other industries,” admits Corzine.
“Most food and beverage companies benefit from adding traceability to their supply chain/operations. The printing industry does have applications including voter ballots, government documents, labels, and packaging such as beverage cartons,” shares Mueller.
Every industry in manufacturing—from electronics to pharmaceuticals—is impacted by counterfeiting, hence they can benefit from CIJ printing’s anti-fraud features, says Corzine.
CIJ printers offer a host of benefits, and when it comes to preventing fraud they are at the front of the line. With their ease of implementation, these systems present an efficient, cost-effective way to bolster security in addition to strengthening traceability throughout the production and supply chain.
“Battling counterfeit criminals depends on efficient coding and marking of your product and packaging at every stage in the supply chain—resilient coding that can be read by all parties. Modern coding technology makes it easy to apply traceability codes onto a huge range of materials—such as plastic, glass, film, and foil—without delaying the production speeds that are so vital to your bottom line,” concludes Corzine. IPM
Sep2021, Industrial Print Magazine