All commercial products require a correct identification. Coding must comply with regulations and include information that meets the consumer’s confidence and company’s logistical needs. A barcode or a QR code, a logo, the expiration date, the batch number... These may look quite simple, but if the product's marking is faulty or incomplete, the damages (economic and reputational) can be very serious. In addition to quality, when we talk about industrialized processes, we must take into account the needs for optimization of time and costs, so choosing the right partner is key.
Thermal Inkjet Printing
At UBS we cover the entire distribution chain, with specific solutions for each type of product and material. In this article we are going to focus on Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) printers for the primary sector: the TJX Series, with water based, solvent based and UV LED technology.
In addition to TIJ, the most common systems for marking primary products are lasers, continuous jet printing (CIJ) and thermal transfer printing (TTO). The high resolution printer TJX has important advantages over these other technologies: it allows to print barcodes according to standards; requires very low maintenance and a short startup time; its energy consumption is very reduced, as well as its dimensions, which facilitates its integration in most installations.
Throughout its 25-year history, UBS has opted to develop its own processes based on thermal inkjet, creating its own printers, inks, hardware and software, and innovating with UV LED technology, our differential value.
What is UV LED curing?
The first commercial applications of UV LED curing were in dentistry. Thanks to its use, the drying time of dental adhesives and fillings was reduced. It was also used in the curing of adhesives on printed electronic circuit boards. Its introduction in the graphic arts sector has been a very important advance in industrial inkjet printing.
Among its virtues outstands the low power consumption, to which must be added the fact that the lamp has two operating modes: TTL and Standalone. In Standalone, the lamp lights up when it detects that the object to be cured passes in front of it; while in TTL mode, it synchronizes with the printer and cures only the surface of the printed message. This leads to significant savings in energy consumption and increases the useful life of the UV LED. Ink curing is instantaneous on any non-porous or satin surface.
UV LED Ink
UV ink is made up of monomers, among other elements, and remains liquid until exposed to ultraviolet light. Then, its molecules interlock to form a solid polymer. In other words, light solidifies the ink. This is what allows it to be fixed on the printing surface without the need to apply special coatings or thermal drying. Changes in humidity or temperature do not affect the final result (for example, color degradation). This is a remarkable advantage over solvent inks in the case of marking products that will undergo a freezing or autoclaving process.
Printing with UV inks generally requires heating them above 40º to achieve optimum viscosity at the time the drop is fired. This makes it difficult to use them in TIJ printers. However, UBS has developed a unique UV ink capable of working at room temperature. In addition, it is available in different colors (black, reflex blue, cyan, magenta, red, orange, yellow and white), which expands the range of customization possibilities.
To this we must add other environmental benefits, such as the fact that UV inks do not contain volatile solvents, which avoids VOC (Volatile Organic Components) emissions.
It is, therefore, a clean technology that requires little maintenance, with low energy consumption and a very low cost per print.
UBS Thermal Inkjet Printers
UBS Thermal Inkjet printers print in high resolution: 300 or 600 vertical dpi by 300 to 900 horizontal (in ranges of 100 by 100), at a height of up to 12.7 mm. For both water-based, solvent-based, and UV LED ink, they use the same self-configuring UBS cartridges.
The printhead mechanics are optimized to be easily integrated into any production line. The fact of being manufacturers of all the necessary components for the operation of the installation allows us to manage the serialization system of the products by means of preloaded files and to generate and control fixed and variable messages in the process of printing in real time.
Using the TJX AppCode, the printer can be controlled via Tablet through Bluetooth connectivity. In addition, UBS has its own graphic message creation and design software, UBS Designer, which allows to print barcodes and graphic texts, and enter manual or automatic variable fields, such as dates and counters. In this way, we offer the complete solution to coding and marking needs.
The TJX Series can print at a speed of up to 120 meters per minute, in the case of using solvent-based ink, or 90 m/min with water-based ink. Glossy surfaces do not absorb water-based ink, so they must be marked with solvent ink or UV LED. With UV LED, the maximum printing speed is 50 m/min, bearing in mind that this type of printing consists of two operations: inkjet and ultraviolet light curing.
UBS makes a careful study of the needs of each client to determine which is the best marking option. In any case, in-house produced inks are designed to achieve the best possible performance from TJX printers, both in quality, resolution and consumption optimization.
TJX printing solutions are the best option for the marking, coding and labeling of primary products because they hardly require maintenance, due to their low consumption, because each cartridge is like a new print head, due to the possibility of using UV LED ink, and for the guarantee offered by the fact that UBS is the manufacturer of all equipment and components. Our experience and know-how have developed a global solution that maximizes the virtues of TIJ printing, to the point of eliminating decaptime: TJX equipment works at full capacity after months of inactivity.