So far it has been largely impractical to print quality images directly onto a packaging medium using inkjet technology. Tonejet thinks it has cracked the problem. As part off The Technology Partnership, a development and licensing company based in Cambridge, England, it has developed a 7" wide printhead, the widest available for an industrial digital printer. The company claims that by allowing single-pass printing of certain food and drinks packaging, its system will bring “substantial logistics and cost savings” to the packaging industry. Commercial printing applications are also a possibility.
Each packaging type had its own requirements, but trials with printers and packaging technicians showed that print quality, throughput and cost were the key issues. “The Tonejet system ejects a very concentrated ink to produce a high quality image on every kind of packaging material,” says Guy Newcombe, director. “It removes the need for labels on curved and uneven surfaces and enables greater customization of products. It opens up new design possibilities for branding and marketing professionals who can now have free rein over how their products are marketed,” he adds.
The process uses a variation on electrostatic drop-on-demand technology, allowing the printing of high quality designs on various absorbing or non-absorbing substrates at high speed. The size of the droplets of the pigmented inks are varied within a continuously flowing ink system. The inks resemble conventional offset printing inks and are said to give excellent results in terms of abrasion and water resistance, color gamut and film thickness. They require no special surface preparation, coatings or curing processes.