There is a lot more that goes into efficient label printing. Between choosing the right ink and perfecting the product/package placement, there are several best practices to keep in mind:
1. Get the graphic input right.
Get the best graphics and logos with direct contact printers by getting the graphic input right at the very beginning. Whenever possible, use 100% pure black and 100% pure white to create line art, then output to a bitmap file with low-depth resolution. Use Adobe Illustrator for image creation and a barcode software package for importing directly without a bitmap. If the file is prepared correctly, the results are usually perfect.
2. Use a database and one common layout.
Take advantage of a database approach when creating SKU print messages. Databases go hand-in-hand with a generic printing program by using one common layout to organize the appearance and a simple Excel spread sheet to organize and govern the variable SKU-specific information. This approach eliminates errors, streamlines operations, reduces workflow, and is very easy to do in most barcoding software packages.
3. Consider printing directly on white corrugated.
Although the GS1-128 bar code required by the Produce Traceability Initiative was designed for label printer resolution, manufacturers can reliably print the GS1-128 code directly on white corrugated cases in-house. Direct contact printing that lays down truly black ink achieves the necessary symbol contrast for this code, thus saving the high cost of investing in labeling equipment.
4. Match thermal transfer ribbons to substrates.
When these are matched, you should be able to get very good transfer at or below the middle of the darkness setting range. When starting a run, verify that the print does not smear or scratch off. Ink that smears or scratches off is an easy indicator of a questionable match between the ribbon and substrate.
5. Ensure proper product/package placement.
To properly code the product, the product or package must be in the same position every time. Check for loose guide rails and vibrations that will affect the finished mark. If the print head doesn’t move and the product flows smoothly, you can expect a successful mark each time. Should the application call for the print head to move, it’s best to create the mark on a stationary product with minimal vibration. Smooth transitions are vital to traversing continuous inkjet (CIJ) marking.
6. Support your staff.
Provide employees with the proper tools and skills to complete their appointed tasks. High production rates are often a driving force, and employees are trained to get product on the dock. However, shortcuts can affect product reliability. Providing employees with the proper tools at the workstation will help eliminate valuable downtime.
7. Verify vendor support.
Make sure you have local support that can bail you out in a pinch. Many times, vendors are chosen on initial costs, and purchasers do not consider the long-term effects—such as service and support, when needed. Before you need it, know what factory service will be available. Call in for technical support to see if your vendor can provide clear and accurate details. Keep model numbers and serial numbers handy so you can verify vital information such as software revision numbers.