Essential to everything from internet connectivity and power grid success to telecommunication, wires and cables are a ubiquitous part of life in the 21st century. Due to the importance of these materials, the wire and cable industry has grown increasingly lucrative over the past few years. Today, experts estimate that the global wire/cable market is worth around $183.14 billion and that this number will only rise in the coming years.
To keep up with the high demand for wires and cables, extrusion companies rely on high-speed manufacturing techniques. For example, extrusion lines routinely reach speeds of around 500 meters per minute, setting the stage for large product output. To maximize this output, extrusion operations take the same high-speed approach to product coding.
Akin to industries like food packaging and pharmaceutical production, wire and cable manufacturers are required by supply chain partners to mark their products with important codes and serial numbers. With these markings, companies can:
To create long-lasting, durable codes without sacrificing line speed, extrusion companies commonly utilize continuous inkjet printers. Built with high-speed coding capabilities, continuous inkjet printers enable companies to mark their products in a quick, reliable, and cost-effective manner.
For line operators looking for new hardware, here are three of the best continuous inkjet printers for wire and cable extrusion available today.
Produced by Koening & Bauer (KBA), the alphaJET Tempo (commonly abbreviated as the KBA Tempo) leads the coding/marking industry when it comes to wire and cable printing. Developed by one of the most respected and well-established printing companies in the world, the KBA Tempo offers several impressive mechanical specifications that make it a great fit for wire and cable printing, including:
KBA’s master U.S. distributor is Gem Gravure, an ink manufacturer that built its reputation on quality wire and cable printing, which further adds to KBA’s wire and cable proficiency. With these specifications and others, many consider the KBA Tempo to be the best continuous inkjet printer for wire and cable extrusion. However, this great quality does come at a substantial price point as well. This open-pour system only uses 2 ml of makeup per hour in ideal conditions, and the ink costs roughly $250-$375 per liter for pigmented varieties. Manufacturers can use different inks if they choose, but parts are difficult to obtain.
As one of the biggest names in the industrial printing market, Markem-Imaje is known for offering end-to-end supply chain solutions through its equipment and its software pairings that make switching costs break the bank. With its 9450 E, Markem-Imaje offers a dependable continuous inkjet printer for wire and cable extrusion.
Built specifically for wire, cable, tube, and pipe marking, the 9450 E is capable of marking substrates moving up to 1,000 meters per minute. To ensure long periods of uptime, the 9450 E can print on 1,800 miles of wires or cables before needing any type of printhead cleaning. It’s important to note most of the changes from the 9450 to the 9450 E are software-based. Unique features of the 9450 E include OEM protocol compatibility with Komax, Schleuniger, etc. as well as metering, two-message interleaving, on-the-fly production changes, quick accessibility to counter setting, optimization of tolerance control, chimney characters, and DIN mode.
A feature of all Markem-Imaje’s 9450 series printers, ink usage has also been optimized to lower the printer’s total cost of ownership. The 9450 E will cost between $12,000-$14,000 per unit.
Produced by Leibinger, a company located in Germany, the Jet Rapid Wire is a CIJ printer specially designed for wire, cable, and pipe applications. To help companies maximize uptime, the Jet Rapid Wire offers printing speeds up to 1,000 meters per minute. The Rapid Wire can mark wires with characters ranging from 1.0 to 2.4 millimeters depending on the attached nozzle size and can print in multiple fonts and languages.
The Rapid Wire comes in two types: the standard Rapid Wire and the Rapid Wire PI. The difference between the standard Rapid Wire and the Rapid Wire PI lies in ink compatibility. The standard Rapid Wire prints on substrates using dye-based inks, whereas the PI utilizes pigmented formulas. Dye-based inks are easier to run than pigment-based inks, as dye color stays suspended in the solution, while pigment settles out of the solution and requires agitation or mixing. Relative to price point, pigmented printers can run 20-30% higher price than dye-based printers due to having to include stirring devices to keep the pigment in suspension. Additionally, the PI offers slightly lower printing speeds compared to the standard Rapid Wire, maxing out at 700 meters per minute.
Although Leibinger may not have the name recognition of either Koening & Bauer or Markem-Imaje, both Rapid Wire models are great continuous inkjet printers for wire and cable extrusion.
The three CIJ printers featured in this article are some of the best marking options on the market today. Providing high speeds, reliability, and quality results, the KBA Tempo, 9450 E, and Rapid Wire allow companies to maximize their uptime and ensure optimal product output. However, the modern coding and marking industry is incredibly diverse, and these three models only scratch the surface of what is currently available.
Wiedenbach dominated the wire and cable marking markets in the 1990s and was known for high-quality printers with precise dot formation and placement capabilities. Wiedenbach was purchased by Domino Printing Sciences in 2004, and its CIJ technology was incorporated into Domino’s current lineup of CIJ printers.
Founded in 1975, Komax has grown from a three-man business to a group with more than 40 companies and more than 2,000 employees. Komax’s current line of CIJ printers is customized and rebranded for the company by Domino. Komax owns six companies in various locations that manufacture equipment for laser cutting and crimping, marking, harness assembly, etc.
To stay on top of what the coding industry has to offer, stay tuned to C&M Digest’s regular coverage. Filled with information about the newest technologies and printing techniques, our articles will help you stay as knowledgeable as possible.
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