Why would you replace an inkjet with a laser on your production line?

The obvious answer to this question is of course because it is way cooler. Children (and most adults) would immediately think ‘Wow’ and conjure up images of James Bond or Star Wars. There are however several sound reasons why laser is the most sensible choice of coding and marking device.

I will begin by discussing safety given my earlier references to James Bond and Star Wars. CO2 and fiber lasers used for coding and marking are class 4. By ensuring a robust and secure installations this is reduced to class 1. (Laser devices are divided into different safety classes by numbering them so that the hazardousness of the device increases as the serial number increases) We have the skills and expertise to achieve this with every installation, safety is at the forefront of our minds. Please read our previous blog post about laser safety,
follow the link – Are you concerned about Laser Safety.

 

If you think about costs, an inkjet is cheaper to buy compared to a laser. At least as far as the initial outlay is concerned, however it can be a different story when the total cost of ownership is considered. A new continuous inkjet will be around half the cost of a laser.  However, if the line runs at 250 products per minute, with a machine-readable code and 12 characters.  It runs for 80 hours per week and 50 weeks per year, then even with a 50-micron nozzle you will need to purchase approximately double the initial cost of the inkjet in consumables over a five-year period.

You are also likely to need to replace some wear parts such as a pump within five years and in addition, have regular servicing. Further savings are achieved from breakdowns and unavailability (during maintenance) affecting Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). These not only make the choice of laser over inkjet sensible, but also demonstrates why it should be considered to replace an existing inkjet with a laser as the return on investment could be in months on higher speed production lines.

There are compelling reasons other than just cost which would point you to purchase lasers to replace inkjet.

Quality – Lasers achieve a consistent, high quality code.  The code can easily be read with the right vision system for track and trace purposes and is a permanent code to ensure it is readable throughout the life of the product.  The quality is repeatable and sustainable over a prolonged period of times, years not months.  This drastically reduces waste caused by rejected products and of course can improve the OEE of the production line.

Efficiency – Lasers, once set up correctly need no intervention save an occasional cleaning of the lens.  Inkjet is a more delicate technology as you have the ink system which needs to be started up and shut down correctly to avoid issues.  Whilst modern inkjets are more reliable than their older counterparts, it is still a technology that encounters more faults than a laser and so there will be more line stoppages.  It is typical to need to buy spare machines to be able to put on the lines when the incumbent inkjet encounters problems to avoid stopping production to wait for a service engineer. Also, inkjet companies are looking to increase remote fixing of issues which of course can hamper production whilst the fault is investigated remotely.  Whilst this can be an advantage it also means technology that experiences more faults are likely to cause more downtime and impact OEE.

Environmental – There are environmental factors that need to be considered.  Ink and make up are supplied in individual bottles, packed in fours or sixes with further packaging.  This packaging needs to be disposed of.  The packaging and plastic bottles can of course be recycled but wouldn’t it be better if they weren’t required at all.  The deliveries of these consumables are via lorries that contribute to pollution through the emissions. A fiber laser needs no such consumables and therefore has a much lower impact on the planet. Click to see our Document on Sustainable Manufacturing

Convenience – To run inkjets in a factory it is often advisable to have a wet room available for service engineers to work on faulty printers.  This can also be used for storing faulty printers whilst you wait for an engineer to visit or alternatively you will need another area for this.  The stock of ink and make up and perhaps spare parts also need to be stored and managed, ink has a shelf life so if the stock isn’t rotated correctly, you run the risk of the ink not working in the printer leading to waste and then this ink will need to be disposed of.

All of the above point to investing in a laser for your coding and marking needs. We at Cajo, have a range of innovative lasers controlled by industry leading software to perform your coding requirements.

Please contact me directly to discuss your marking needs.
Mr. Rob Williams, +44 (0)73 41368429

The blog is written by our Global Head of Sales, UK Mr. Rob Williams, who is an experienced professional within industrial marking markets.