17 Dec Should you switch to laser marking from inkjet?
You know that feeling at the grocery store when you want to buy a loaf of bread but you can’t read the expiration date?
All consumers know that feeling. Sometimes the date was printed on the plastic wrap, but the ink was wiped away during shipping. Sometimes it was printed on the plastic bakery tab that seals the bag, but the ink was smudged as the clerk put the loaf on the shelf.
All consumers know that feeling. And we all know that with bread, it’s no big deal. The worst that can happen is that we buy a loaf that goes moldy faster than we would have anticipated.
But compare that when-does-this-bread-expire feeling with checking the expiration date on the bottle that holds your heart medicine.
That’s something else entirely.
If that ink is smeared and unreadable, it is a big deal. It’s serious.
Now don’t get us wrong.
We like inkjet printing. For some surfaces and in some applications, inkjet is the best option. On cloth or fiber, for example, inkjet printing makes sense.
And in the past, inkjet was a good choice for an even broader array of surfaces.
But those days are over.
The problem, as we see it, is that too many manufacturers today continue to use inkjet printing in situations where doing so is unwise.
Laser marking today is clearly the best option for pharmaceuticals, consumer-packaged goods, food labels, bakery tabs, and much, much more.
Here are a few of the reasons why:
- Traceability. Laser marks are forever and are more easily read by scanners/cameras. If there’s a problem with a product and a recall is needed, the permanent mark left by a laser is the most reliable way to trace an item.
- Precision. Marking a small surface with a laser is simple. But trying to use an inkjet on a teeny, tiny surface will lead to an unreadable, teeny, tiny smudge.
- Less expensive. Consumables such as ink cost money. Lasers, by contrast, incur no variable costs. Inkjets also have significant maintenance requirements. Heads get clogged. Ink builds up. That’s downtime that a manufacturer can’t afford. Daily maintenance is required. Lasers, on the other hand, are essentially maintenance free. Generally you need only to wipe down the lens and surrounding surfaces about once a month!
- Environmental risk. Ink is a hazard. There are specific rules and regulations at federal, state and local levels about how a manufacturer must dispose of it. You can’t just pour the stuff down the sink.
- Tamper resistant. The world is full of nefarious folks. When one of them sees a chance to make some money by altering or removing the expiration date on a product, they’ll do so. Inkjet marks are easy to change. Laser marks are truly indelible and nearly impossible to alter.
- Tougher. Laser marks can endure even in extreme weather. For makers of outdoor and lifestyle products , there’s simply no reason to use inkjet marks that will disappear when exposed to wind, water, and dirt.