October 21, 2021 

3 Best Date Coding Machines for Bottles

Date coding machines for bottles are essential to the packaging industry. Labeling technologies need to match required line speeds, resist challenging facility conditions, and reliably operate for sustained periods of uptime.

Bottles are omnipresent across the packaging industry. Bottles are most frequently made with plastic or glass and have been used for thousands of years to house everything from soda and juice to wine and beer. Today, bottles are essential to industries that reach far beyond beverage packaging, as they are frequently used as containers for diverse products such as:

  • Cooking oil.
  • Medicine.
  • Shampoo.
  • Soap.
  • Chemicals.
  • Food.
  • Automotive fluids.

Regardless of product type, date codes are frequently required to appear on bottle packaging. Modern distribution networks and retailers rely on date codes to maintain accurate inventory and perform product tracing. From a consumer standpoint, date codes allow customers to use products safely and dispose of them once they have passed optimal freshness.

To comply with these requirements, packaging operations need a labeling technology that can:

  • Match required line speeds.
  • Reliably operate for sustained periods of uptime.
  • Resist challenging facility conditions.

Below we detail three date coding machines for bottles that have these qualities and more.

Types of Date Coding Machines for Bottles

The type of date coding machine you choose will depend on the size and needs of your operation. Let’s dive deeper into the most commonly used systems for product date coding.

1. Continuous Inkjet Printer

Continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers have been a staple of industrial bottle coding since they were first introduced to the market in the 1960s. A digital printing technology that utilizes highly pressurized streams of ink to mark substrates, CIJ printers are capable of placing date codes on bottles moving at hundreds of meters per second. As the pressurized ink stream continuously flows within the machine, CIJ printers enable line operators to mark bottles 24/7 without interruptions—a surefire way to guarantee extended uptime.

Industry-leading CIJ printers also deliver long periods of uptime thanks to their IP-rated enclosures. Bottling facilities are notorious for having high levels of humidity that can potentially damage unprotected marking equipment. IP-rated enclosures prevent this issue by protecting against water presence and humidity. 

A wide variety of ink formulas are also available for CIJ printers. Not all bottles are made with the same material and therefore don’t all react well to the same inks. Line operators need to consider the material makeup and color of the bottle to ensure that all applied codes remain clear and legible for extended periods. 

To help operators keep their bottles code-compliant, today’s ink manufacturers offer inks that are:

  • Capable of penetrating through condensation.
  • Quick-drying.
  • High-contrast.
  • Compatible with both plastic and glass.
  • Available in different colors.

2. Laser Marking System

In conjunction with CIJ printers, laser marking systems are also commonly used to apply date codes to bottles. These systems use beams of infrared light to alter the appearance and surface properties of a substrate. The light beams are highly concentrated and precise, allowing users to create clearly defined date codes at industrial speeds. 

The codes made by laser marking systems are permanent, sharp, and unaffected by moisture presence. For these reasons, laser systems are valued by bottling operations that struggle with condensation that affects label legibility and ink application.

Generally speaking, laser marking systems and CIJ printers are both great bottle marking technologies that offer comparable speed capabilities. One area where they do differ greatly, however, is cost. 

Laser marking systems require a larger initial investment than CIJ printers, which are often available at accessible price points. However, over time, CIJ printers will have more ongoing expenses. Most notably, CIJ users need to periodically buy new ink cartridges and schedule regular maintenance to guarantee ongoing uptime. 

To ensure that you find the right date coding machine to meet your operational requirements, we recommend consulting with an expert before purchasing either one of these machines.

3. Thermal Inkjet Printer

Laser marking systems and CIJ printers are perfect for coding bottles on fast-moving production lines. However, not all companies that use bottle packaging require industrial-level speed. For these operations, thermal inkjet printers are likely a better option.

Compared to CIJ printers and laser systems, thermal inkjet printers are much smaller and are available at a much lower upfront cost. Weighing around five pounds and available for as low as a few hundred dollars, TIJ printers are highly portable and accessible to most line operators. Despite their small size, TIJ printers are still capable of printing codes that are just as legible as markings made by CIJ or laser systems. These qualities make them ideal for smaller-scale bottling operations.

However, larger-scale operations will likely want to stay away from most TIJ printers due to their slower speed capabilities (~100 m/min.), smaller ink cartridge size, and the higher cost of printing consumables. 

Date Coding Machine Quick Comparison

LaserWith price points ranging from $23,000 and up, laser marking systems are the most expensive of the coding machine options. They’re most commonly used in facilities running 24/7 at speeds above 1,000 ft/min.
CIJCIJ machines are a well-rounded workhorse technology with price points ranging from $10,000-$12,000. They're also the most versatile and can reach high speeds of up to 1,000 ft/min.
TIJTIJ machines have a lower initial cost than CIJ machines, with price points ranging from $2,000-$5,000. These machines are best for quick solutions and are best utilized in companies with high turnover or staff who are not mechanically inclined.

Want to learn more about the date coding machines for bottles and other packaging types? Stay connected with C&M Digest by subscribing to our newsletter. With information on hardware, formulas, and other important marking topics, our newsletter will keep you updated on the latest industry developments. To get in touch with us about possible collaborations or ideas for coverage, contact us today.

C&M Digest Team

The C&M Digest Team is composed of experts from across the coding and marking world. Comprised of ink developers, hardware veterans, and engineers, our News Team delivers informed coverage that is always free from brand bias.

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