Printing variable information is an important part of the labeling industry. Customers often need bar code labels for products, but that isn't the only application for variable data printing. Lottery games, coupons and tickets are other examples of products that use variable data. Applications in the area of brand protection, security and anti-counterfeiting are also common.
Several companies supply variable information printers to converters. This review focuses on those printing units that are press add-ons.
Atlantic Zeiser, supplier of personalization and encoding systems, offers the OMEGA 36/36i, a digital inkjet printing system for the print, labeling and packaging industry. Based on drop-on-demand array technology, this printer enables variable data to be printed on a variety of substrates, ranging from paper and carton to aluminum, polymer foils and plastics.
OMEGA double head installation on a web-to-web system
Atlantic Zeiser says the OMEGA 36/36i achieves the quality of flexo printing with the significant advantage of printing variable data. The inkjet system prints variable data on all types of plastic cards and packaging, and can also be adapted for high quality mailings, personalizing ID cards in security print and printing labels, particularly those with special coatings. The OMEGA printing system is designed for use in either web or sheetfed processes.
The piezo printheads of the OMEGA 36/36i are designed for use with UV cured or solvent based inks that are specially formulated to suit specific requirements and applications and optimized to deliver maximum print quality and performance.
The OMEGA printing system is available in two versions. The OMEGA 36 serves as an economical entry level model with a print speed of 30m/min, while the OMEGA 36i version offers twice the print speed, running at 60m/min.
Atlantic Zeiser also offers the print head FLEXOJET 600 with 1.5" print width. The company says it is economical and easy to use. Larger print widths are possible by stitching multiple heads for seamless imaging of variable and fixed text, bar code symbols and bitmap images.
Matan Digital Printers
Matan Digital Printers offers the Matan FlexPrint as a feature for the SprinG3 printing press. The FlexPrint feature is a fully synchronized hardware and software system, which supports and complements pre-printed reels, printed on traditional and/or digital presses. It is designed specifically for digital hot stamping and features the Automatic Optical Registration System for overprinting at a ±0.004" (±0.1mm) accuracy rate.
The Matan FlexPrint allows adding of special colors, such as metallic gold and silver, opaque white or any other special spot color to the pre-printed reel.
In addition to the FlexPrint, Matan offers VariPrint, variable information software. Matan says VariPrint bridges the gap between the customer's demand and one's current set of graphic design tools. It enables converters to incorporate variable text, bar codes, images, serial numbers, etc. into graphics that are printed on any Matan printers. VariPrint provides a GUI (Graphical User Interface) for laying out the variable data fields. In conjunction with the SprinG3, Matan says its VariPrint software provides greater flexibility, control and productivity for jobs that require variable data.
The Newfoil Digital Printer
The latest addition to Newfoil's range of equipment is the Newfoil/JEI 1225 combination press. This machine features a four-color cool fusion digital print engine, which produces near photographic quality of images. The output of 6 meters per minute (1.5 square meters) means it is efficient for short to medium runs on conventional labels and a complete solution for four-color variable data labels. By using the Newfoil optional equipment, the product can be completely finished in-line in one pass.
EFI/Jetrion offers the Jetrion 3025 Inkjet System. The company says the Jetrion 3025 provides label converters, package printers and mail houses with the substrate versatility, image quality, reliability, and necessary speed to print high volumes of bar codes, sequential numbers, expiration dates, variable logos, addresses, and other variable data. It allows businesses to handle demanding jobs with UV drop-on-demand (DOD) inkjet technology.
The Jetrion 3025
The printer comes available with fully compatible, field-tested Jetrion digital UV and solvent inks to handle many substrates. It runs up to 400 fpm (125 mpm) on narrow web label presses, mail tables, inserters, and bindery equipment.
The Jetrion 3025 comes with a controller for ease-of-use in virtually any data format, so minimal user training is needed. It also uses DOD printheads for easy start-up and requires minimal maintenance, offering companies a high return on investment.
The company also offers the Jetrion 4000 series of UV inkjet printers, which offers narrow web converters a full-color alternative to toner based digital printers. The printer is available in web widths of 4" (100mm), 6" (150mm) or 8" (200mm) and can interface with a range of converting equipment.
The Jetrion 4000 runs at speeds up to 65 fpm (20 mpm). It uses Xaar DOD inkjet printheads with grayscale capability, allowing it to print near photographic quality. Using Jetrion-developed and manufactured color UV inks, the 4000 can reproduce the majority of spot colors used in narrow web applications.
The Videojet DataFlex Plus
The DataFlex Plus is also now capable of displaying and printing Arabic language characters, which is important for customers that manufacture in or sell products to Middle Eastern markets. In addition to having full downloadable font support using Windows TrueType fonts, the DataFlex Plus supports user entered text in 19 different languages.
The bi-directional ribbon drive allows unused ribbon to be recaptured following each print. This maintains a 1mm gap between prints for the complete length of the ribbon, creating more prints per roll.
According to Videojet, the unit features the simplest ribbon cassette on the market. An 8.4" SVGA graphical user interface and color touch screen features easy-to-learn, icon based controls.
The DataFlex Plus has the built-in capability to change between intermittent and continuous modes in right-hand or left-hand operation. Serial, Ethernet and USB communications are standard. It also has the ability to manage up to four printers from one controller.
DataLase provides several variable information printers to the marketplace. DataLase CASEMARK Flexo is capable of delivering verifiable bar codes in-line and direct-to-carton. This provides end users with the flexibility to apply bar codes and variable information as well as other customized information that has traditionally been pre-printed by the corrugated box supplier. This enhances production line efficiency for both converters and end users, with changeover time and small order fees reduced.
The DataLase PACKMARK is a coding product used for applying variable information to primary packaging materials. With PACKMARK, the DataLase chemistry is applied to the packaging, and when activated with a CO2 laser, a positive image appears. Due to the stability of the image produced, this solution, which has a range of applications relating to coding, marking and tracking and tracing, provides protection for brand integrity.
Bell-Mark's EasyPrint MLP
The EasyPrint MLP in-line thermal transfer system allows for multiple package, variable data coding and bar code requirements. The system's printhead moves on a linear rail to code up to 30 packages in one pass, eliminating the need for multiple coders, and has a print area of up to 5" in width. The company says this traversing feature results in increased production and substantial cost savings, and replaces hot stamp ribbon and metal type. The EasyPrint MLP is driven by a stepper motor, which is PLC controlled and offers an E Prom cartridge which eliminates the need for in-field programming.
Key features of the EasyPrint MLP include integrated registration so the printer stays fixed in one position, 800 meter ribbon capacity, low air pressure detection for critical applications, and floating suspension on of the printhead for greater flexibility with substrates.
The TIJ 850 from DPi
Featuring Hewlett-Packard thermal inkjet technology, the TIJ 850 is ideal for fast, high-quality variable printing on such items as labels, tags, bar codes, tickets, gaming pieces, wristbands, promotional items, and direct mail. The system includes DPi's Winlabel Xpress design-layout software and DPi's Raptor (RIP) print controller.
The TIJ 850 is affordably priced and keeps operating costs low, according to DPi. The company says ink and printheads install easily and require little to no maintenance.
Domino Printing Sciences
Domino provides the K-Series variable drop-on-demand printing solution. Extending from part personalization to complete printing of whole documents, Domino's second generation K-Series features a flexible configuration and a number of design and performance enhancements, responding to increasing market applications requiring fast variable data printing without compromising on print quality.
The flagship K200 has three times more print nozzles than its predecessor, offering fast and accurate 316 dpi printing at 90 meters per minute. Where line speeds are lower, print resolution can be increased to 520 dpi.
The K200 can be configured to suit a range of inks, such as UV curable and low-VOC solvent, as well as handling spot color printing, giving greater flexibility in print applications on a variety of substrates.
According to Domino, the K100 provides a cost effective and versatile digital inkjet solution that allows the print resolution and running speed to be optimized by simply changing the angle of the printhead. Offering in-line part personalization within existing print environments, the K100 can print numbers, graphics, bar codes and addresses on narrow webs, plastic cards and direct mail.
The K-Series uses Domino's Editor GT inkjet production line controller. Based on the Microsoft Windows XP platform, the Editor GT combines data preparation and management tools for in-line printing of addresses, personalized data, graphics, serialized numbers, and codes and can network up to eight K200 or 16 K100 printheads. If required, different Domino printers can be managed by the same controller.
Printing Technology Services
The JetFlex system from PTS
The JetFlex has a configurable print width from 0.5" to 18", adjustable print resolution up to 600 x 600 dpi and print speed up to 750 fpm. It can be integrated with web presses, web collators and various sheet-fed systems. PTS says the system is affordable compared to other printing technologies and is simple to install, operate and maintain, allowing for easy color changes. It can be stitched over the entire printing width and can be moved from one printing or finishing line to another.
The JetFlex system utilizes Hewlett-Packard TIJ (Thermal InkJet) technology with environmentally safe water based ink. Specialty inks are available for custom colors, UV curable black, invisible inks, and security inks.