May 10, 2022 

Choosing the Best Handheld Inkjet Printer for Plastic Bottle Printing

Factors to consider when searching for handheld inkjet printers for plastic bottle printing include print size and the total number of lines to print and material and curvature compatibility.

Lightweight, affordable, and easy to handle, plastic bottles are the preferred packaging option for countless beverage producers around the world. 

Primarily used to package non-alcoholic beverages like water, milk, sports drinks, and juice, plastic bottles range from small single-use containers to large reusable jugs. In recent years, advancements in plastic construction have also led to an increase in eco-friendly, reusable bottles that are finding popularity among winemakers and distillers as an alternative to glass. Because of this widespread popularity, the plastic bottle market is currently valued at around $200 billion USD, with demand expected to increase in the coming years. 

As with other global markets, today’s beverage industry is defined by interlocking supply chains and international distribution networks. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t smaller operations as well. Alongside global beverage operations like Nestlé and PepsiCo are smaller companies that also use plastic bottles to house products and sell them in local markets. However, regardless of company size and distribution reach, it’s always important to mark bottles with traceable codes and variable data to comply with laws, regulations, and industry standards. 

To apply these codes, bottling companies have a few different options, including:

Each of the above systems is designed primarily for production line printing. In this article, we focus on handheld printing options, touching upon topics like:

  • When you would use a handheld inkjet printer for plastic bottles.
  • The different kinds of handheld printers available on the market today.
  • How to select the best handheld printer to fit your coding/marking needs.

The Advantages of Using a Handheld Inkjet Printer For Plastic Bottles

Before delving into specific printer models and their advantages, it’s important to understand when you would use a handheld inkjet printer for plastic bottles. 

The vast majority of bottle filling is performed on production lines. Bottling companies, large and small, meet production quotas by building lines centered around filling technologies. These production lines can move at hundreds of meters per minute to produce thousands of filled bottles every day. 

To ensure that every bottle is outfitted with the appropriate codes and information, bottling companies generally position high-speed marking machines along the line to mark every passing product. Production line marking technologies like continuous inkjet printers and laser date coders are often large and aren’t built to be moved with ease. 

So, if bottling companies generally use these kinds of large production line marking machines, what’s the advantage of a handheld printer? Handheld printers are not designed for large-scale plastic bottle printing. Instead, they are useful tools that bottling companies use for intermittent marking tasks like:

  • Rework.
  • Odds and ends printing.
  • Internal marking processes.

With this in mind, we will now take a look at some of the key considerations bottling companies should have when selecting a handheld printer.

How to Select the Best Handheld Printer for Your Bottling Operation

When searching for a handheld inkjet printer for plastic bottles, most models that you will find will be thermal inkjet printers. Thermal inkjet printers are a drop-on-demand printing technology popular throughout the industrial packaging field for their lightweight construction, low upfront cost, and wide material compatibility. The Anser U2 Pro-S and Meenjet M6, for example, are two cost-effective TIJ models that are widely used in bottling operations and beyond. 

Beyond TIJ printers, there are a few other handheld inkjet printer types available as well. Valvejet printers like the EBS 260 are powerful and highly mobile, although they have certain limitations regarding ink compatibility. Other handheld inkjet printers like the Sojet V1H are available to mark bottles but are primarily designed for case coding, which may make them less ideal for certain users. 

To find a printer model that’s right for you, pay attention to these four factors during your search:

  1. Print size and total number of lines: Each printer model differs in maximum print size and total number of lines available per print task. If you know that your marking needs will require three to four lines of text per application, narrow your printer search to only include models that will meet your sizing needs.
  2. Material compatibility: A printer model will only be able to fulfill your marking needs if it can successfully print on your packaging materials. While this may sound obvious, it’s important to note because there are many types of plastic today (e.g. HDPE, LDPE, BOPP, PE, etc.), and they all have unique surface properties. For marking success, make sure that any potential printer is able to print on your specific plastic type. 
  3. Curvature compatibility: Traditionally speaking, TIJ printers have long struggled with marking highly-curved surfaces. Although some TIJ models can print on minor curves, most TIJs won’t be able to print a code as intended on a curved bottle. To avoid coding mistakes, research how well a printer will work with the shape of your bottles.

Want to learn more about handheld inkjet printers for plastic bottles? 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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