Label Less Printing Reduces Complexity and Drives Efficiency – Using UV Inkjet Solutions
Reducing folding carton variants makes packaging processes much more cost-effective. A well-known European hair dye manufacturer reduced complexity by using UV inkjet solutions and achieved great savings.
High levels of packaging variants had long been a challenge for the hair dye manufacturer, and so it made sense some years ago to simplify their packaging operations by rationalizing their secondary packaging designs for its tube filled products to a single format folding carton. “We produce around 40 different colorings,” says Hartmut P., Head of Production from the hair dye manufacturing. “Because the products are sold exclusively to hairdressers with the associated color cards, there was no need to feature an image of the correct color on each package.” But they did need a unique code for each folding carton so that the hairdresser could identify the color exactly.
This alphanumeric code, presented as text and barcode had so far been applied to the identical folding cartons by means of labels. Hartmut P. was the one who questioned the efficiency of this approach. “If you add up all of our approximately 40 color variants, we use more than seven million folding cartons each year. Purchasing pre-printed labels for all of them is still pretty expensive, and processing the labels is time-consuming. We also had to figure in the storage space and the time required for retrieving the label rolls from storage and bringing them to the labeling machine.” The empty label tapes also had to be disposed of. “There was quite a large volume of waste. So there was an environmental reason as well as a cost-based reason to take a look at direct-printing approaches.”
The company ultimately chose a solution from Atlantic Zeiser, one of the leading providers of coding, marking, and individualization solutions for folding cartons and other products such as blister packaging and credit cards. Hartmut P. made careful calculations before reaching his decision. “Years of experience told us what a pre-printed label costs. And Atlantic Zeiser was able to calculate precisely how many liters of UV ink we need to print the codes.” Direct printing proved to reduce coding costs by almost 50%. “We have been able to confirm this value after almost a year of operational practice. And that doesn’t even count costs for storage, logistics, and waste disposal that have been eliminated,” Hartmut P. says. He expects the new solution to have paid for itself within two years. His team had examined other direct-printing processes, but rejected them. “They were either too expensive, too slow, or failed to meet our quality requirements.”
For example, barcode machine readability farther along the supply chain was an important point. “Print quality on the lacquered folding carton surface was just extremely sharp. And the ink is absolutely abrasion-resistant and resistant to water and solvents. This was important to us, since it is critical that no hairdresser uses the wrong dye on a customer’s hair because the coding on our packaging was illegible.” Now the print quality of the coded section is scarcely different from the packaging design pre-printed in offset. “This keeps our brand image consistent and of high-quality despite the different printing technologies. That is another advantage the new solution has over our previous use of labels,” says Hartmut P.
Even the Smallest Batches Can be Marked Efficiently
The new solution – DIGILINE Versa by Atlantic Zeiser – is a fully integrated, modular system for coding flat folding cartons that have already been glued. It was deployed for the hair dye specialist in a near-line position, or immediately next to the carton erector, which pushes the filled tubes into the cartons. The DIGILINE Versa is also designed to be integrated directly into the packaging line.
The core of the system is the OMEGA Pro Monochrome high-performance printer. It uses the new Embedded RIP technology, which allows inline ripping of variable data components. The time saving is enormous because the transfer of unnecessarily large data volumes produced by pre-ripping entire documents is avoided. “We usually fill the machines batch-for-batch, so that only one carton variant at a time must be coded. But we do sometimes need small runs – for manual rework, for instance, or unexpected orders not included in the actual production plan. We can process these quickly, one after another. The labeling procedure always required time-consuming roll changes,” Hartmut P. explains. No matter how the DIGILINE Versa is used, the system codes up to 180 cartons per minute. “This is a rate that we never achieved with labels.”
“We are Very Satisfied”
Fully automatic cleaning of the inkjet printer’s nozzles ensures consistently flawless print quality and the highest possible availability. Manual print head cleaning is therefore largely eliminated, so that the operator can turn their attention to other tasks while this maintenance routine is in progress. A contactless cleaning process not only minimizes UV ink consumption, but also improves print head availability. “We are very satisfied with the Atlantic Zeiser solution, since it helps us not only reduce costs, but also simplify our processes,” says Hartmut P. after almost a year of experience with the new system.