April 19, 2022 

Benefits of Direct-To-Shape Inkjet Printing

Picture of cans getting ready for direct-to-shape inkjet printing

Like any other tech field, the coding and marking industry is constantly evolving. As the decades pass, engineers and scientists introduce new hardware and software options to the market that aim to answer the shortcomings of previous systems. In the 1950s, this trend was exemplified by the introduction of the high-speed continuous inkjet (CIJ) printer. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was the advent of drop-on-demand (DOD) printing technologies, such as the thermal inkjet printer (TIJ) and thermal transfer overprinters (TTO), that made industry waves. Today, direct-to-shape printing is appearing to be the latest innovation to take the inkjet world into new and exciting territories. 

Historically, inkjet printers have struggled with applying high-quality codes and images onto curved surfaces. Although continuous inkjet printers can often handle simple printing applications on minor curves (e.g. applying date codes on beverage bottles), in general, inkjet printers haven’t been able to create colorful graphics and machine-scannable codes on curved surfaces. In particular, DOD inkjet technologies have had issues with marking non-flat materials, even though they can create DPI-rich images.

However, recent advancements in printhead designs have led to the creation of a new type of DOD printer that can create high-resolution graphics on all kinds of curved surfaces: the direct-to-shape inkjet printer.

Below, we examine the various benefits of direct-to-shape inkjet printing and explore how these machines can execute printing applications that were considered impossible by older inkjet models.

What Direct-to-Shape Inkjet Printing Has to Offer

Direct-to-shape printing has many advantages for the coding and marking industry, including the ability to perform curved printing, eliminate outsourcing, and increase design options, all of which are described in more detail below.

New Application Possibilities

As we touched on above, direct-to-shape inkjet printers are capable of completing marking applications that older inkjet models have long struggled with. 

While certain inkjet technologies like CIJ printers can perform curved printing to a limited extent thanks to their relatively distant throwing distance, these applications are generally limited to simple text and dot images. Anything along the lines of colorful imagery or machine-scannable codes would have to be applied with a physical label or integrated into the design of the packaging itself.

Alternatively, direct-to-shape printers can complete many previously impossible inkjet marking tasks due to a variety of technological advancements. For example, direct-to-shape printers often use multi-nozzle printheads that increase print quality and aid in tackling difficult packaging curves. These printers can also be built with rotating beds or cylinders for full 360° printing applications. In other cases, direct-to-shape printers are built with specially-made jigs that enable printing on materials with unique shapes and difficult corners.

With the aid of these advancements, direct-to-shape printers can:

  • Apply machine-scannable barcodes and data matrices directly onto curved product packaging.
  • Create high-quality graphics that wrap around an object similar to how a physical label would.
  • Placing traceable text and industry-required markings in any packaging space.

Accelerated Packaging Turnaround

One of the biggest appeals to inkjet printing is the ability to internalize coding and marking tasks and eliminate the need to outsource certain aspects of the packaging process. For instance, continuous inkjet printers specialize in applying traceable codes and text on industrial product quantities, and high-resolution case coders allow users to outfit their shipping cartons with logos, shipping information, and content descriptions. 

Similarly, direct-to-shape inkjet printers enable users to perform traditionally difficult applications in-house without issue. Not only does this eliminate the fees associated with outsourcing, but it also reduces the amount of time needed to complete packaging applications. This opens the door for things like:

  • Limited edition releases.
  • Just-in-time production runs.
  • Customized packaging.

Increased Design Options

In-house package marking does more than just eliminate the costs and wait times associated with outsourcing—it also increases a company’s ability to embrace new design ideas. 

Would you like to incorporate QR codes on your beverage packaging? What about creating season-specific packaging designs? Want to eliminate physical labels? The versatility of direct-to-shape inkjet printing allows users to unlock new levels of creativity and explore design possibilities that either weren’t possible before or weren’t feasible due to logistical constraints.

Along with the expanded design possibilities and reduced lead times, companies can also more quickly prototype different packaging ideas. Free of the need to communicate, work with, and wait on third-party packaging groups, companies can more readily produce packaging prototypes for field testing and producing focus group feedback. 

If you are interested in exploring the direct-to-shape printer market, we suggest beginning with the offerings from Xaar.

Want to learn more about direct-to-shape inkjet printing and other new marking technologies? Stay connected to 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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