July 20, 2021 

How to Improve Ink Efficiency and Effectiveness

There are many ways to improve ink efficiency and effectiveness to enhance your operations.

To maximize profits and improve product quality, companies are constantly looking for ways to improve operational efficiency. For many businesses, this involves continuously improving how to handle product coding and marking. Industries ranging from pharmaceutical packaging and food processing to consumer goods manufacturing are all required to mark their products with important consumer information and traceable codes to satisfy supply chain requirements and governmental policies. The faster and more reliably one can apply these codes, the more products can be finalized within a day. With this rise in productivity comes a rise in profitability.

Of course, this leads many businesses to wonder how they can improve ink efficiency and effectiveness. From searching for the latest hardware innovations to exploring different ink brands, those who use industrial printers want to make the most of their printers to increase overall production efficiency. 

Below we detail the top ways to improve ink efficiency to enhance your business operations.

1. Minimize Sources of Waste

One of the most obvious ways to more efficiently utilize ink is to minimize waste as much as possible. As with other industrial-scale applications, production line coding and marking can be quite wasteful if the right precautions are not taken. From hardware issues and workflow oversights to non-conforming product waste, companies that do not take proactive steps against wasteful practices only end up hurting themselves by essentially throwing ink away regularly.

Common sources of wasted ink include:

  • Non-conforming products (NCP): When products do not fully align with specified requirements regarding size dimensions, overall weight, internal contents, or appearance, they must be removed from production so that they do not accidentally end up in the supply chain. After an NCP is identified and isolated, employees often work to correct the non-conforming property. However, in many cases, the source of non-conformity cannot be rectified, leading to both material and ink waste.
  • Improper ink storage: As with other industrial supplies, it’s important to have a well-stocked ink inventory to prolong uptime and be prepared for any potential ink supply chain disruptions. However, if an ink stock isn’t stored properly, it will inevitably become damaged. The stored ink can even become unusable in extreme cases, costing companies hundreds of dollars in the process.
  • Neglectful hardware usage: Regardless of whether one is using a production line continuous inkjet (CIJ) printer, a handheld thermal inkjet (TIJ) printer, or another type of industrial printer to mark substrates, certain steps must be taken to avoid hardware damages and ink waste. For example, if a CIJ printer system is left idle for extended periods, the ink both on the printhead and within the circulation system will begin to dry, leading to clogging problems. 
Extreme CIJ clogged line example.

While all of these issues can put a strain on ink usage, fortunately, they have fairly simple solutions. Although the fixes will slightly differ based on hardware specifics and line configurations, the following approaches help to improve ink efficiency.

  • To minimize the presence of NCPs, use reliable hardware to reduce misprint-related defects.
  • To eliminate storage-related ink waste, follow the ink storage best practices outlined in this guide.
  • To reduce operational ink waste, it’s important to be diligent in performing daily maintenance tasks on printing hardware. For many machines, time-based professional maintenance is also a necessity for peak ink efficiency and prolonged uptime.  

With these steps, companies can greatly reduce their overall waste for better ink usage. 

2. Utilize Zero-Downtime Hardware to Eliminate Marking Downtime

Improving ink efficiency isn’t just about eliminating waste⁠—it’s also about making the greatest use of uptime to mark the most substrates. Many printers (e.g. most TIJ printers and high-resolution case coders) have speed limitations that prevent them from completing uninterrupted marking applications. However, machines like continuous inkjet printers are capable of coding both porous and non-porous substrates at over 1,000 feet per minute 24/7.

By upgrading to a printer with uninterrupted marking capabilities and high-speed options, companies can maximize coding efficiency for optimal production output. 

3. Use Ink Formulas with the Ideal Dry Times for Your Surfaces

Today’s industrial coding market is filled with diverse ink formulas each designed for specific applications. When looking for the right formula to fit your needs, several considerations naturally arise. For example, production line operators must narrow their search by seeking out formulas that are compatible with both their hardware and substrates. Beyond strict compatibility, however, one of the most important elements to consider is dry time.

In many production line setups, coding occurs right before essential processes such as:

  • Package filling
  • Retort
  • Package rerouting
  • Steam tunnel entrance
  • Vibration tray placement

While each of these actions is important to ensure certain products are ready for the market, they can be detrimental to code quality if the applied ink is still drying. Thankfully, today’s top ink manufacturers offer application specific quick-drying formulas that ensure inks are dry before these actions take place. 

Generally speaking, the fastest-drying inks available will be solvent-based. Solvents aid in dissolving resins, dyes, and pigments within formulas, allowing for optimal dry-time and precise drop formation. As operators seek to increase output through higher line speeds and product preparation processes, quick dry times become exponentially more important as they ensure that codes remain legible by the end of the manufacturing process. 

For those who need a fast-drying solvent-based ink, MEK and acetone-based formulas offer the most variety regarding substrate compatibility. Even within these two categories, however, there is a high amount of formula diversity, so it is important to speak with an expert to uncover which ink will work best for your operation.

 It is also important to note that using ink formulas with ideal dry times is only one goal for improving adhesion and ink efficiency and effectiveness in a formula.

With These Best Practices, You Can Improve Ink Efficiency for Maximum Productivity and Output

Depending on operational specifics, manufacturers can use a lot of ink to complete a day’s worth of production. Over time, this can significantly add to a company’s overall expenses. Fortunately, by taking a few simple steps to optimize workflows, hardware, and printing consumables, you can make the most of your ink to lower costs and boost productivity.

Want more guidance on how to improve ink efficiency? Stay connected with C&M Digest by subscribing to our newsletter 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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