September 21, 2021 

The Best High-Resolution Printers for Case Coding Applications

The best high-resolution printers for case coding applications include piezoelectric and thermal inkjet printers as well as print and apply machines.

In today’s market of far-reaching supply chains and complex trade networks, long-lasting, durable codes are an absolute necessity. As a package moves from its original location to its final destination, barcode information plays an essential role in ensuring that its contents are successfully delivered and accounted for.

Shipping labels, which consist of both barcodes and text, allow workers to quickly identify where a case came from, where it’s going, and what it contains. Every time the case is moved, the label is scanned as well, enabling complete product traceability and helping companies:

  • Maintain exact inventory.
  • Comply with rigid industry standards and government tracking regulations (e.g. those facing the food and pharmaceutical industries).
  • More effectively follow warehouse workflows. 
  • Prepare for the possibility of recalls.

While these labels can be applied by hand, many operations choose a more reliable and cost-effective application method—high-resolution printers. 

In both the packaging and manufacturing industries, high-resolution printers are commonly used to directly mark shipping cartons with essential codes, text, and company logos. Given how companies have different labeling needs, high-resolution printers for case coding come in many different forms. Some of the most common printer options include:

  • Piezoelectric printers.
  • Printer applicators/print and apply systems.
  • Thermal inkjet printers.

Below, we break down each of these categories to profile some of the best high-resolution printers for case coding applications. 

Option #1: High-Resolution Piezoelectric Printers

High-resolution piezoelectric (PIJ) printers, which are a type of drop-on-demand (DOD) inkjet printer, have been a favored choice for case coding applications since first entering the market in the 1970s. These high-resolution printers are named after the piezoelectric actuators located in their printheads, and the systems have also become synonymous with “high res” case coding, with some companies using this language to describe their printers.

In contrast with thermal DOD printers that use heating elements to propel ink from the printer’s nozzle, PIJ printers use a voltage that causes the piezo channels to vibrate. This vibration creates an acoustic wave that pushes the ink towards the nozzle, expelling the ink. The channels share piezo walls—the contraction of one channel creates the opposite effect in the adjacent channels so the nozzle fires every third channel in turn in an “a-b-c” firing sequence.

With the aid of piezoelectric technology, PIJ printers can propel thicker, oil-based inks that create durable and long-lasting high-resolution codes. For these reasons, PIJ printers are commonly used to place text, barcodes, and company logos directly onto shipping cartons of all materials. 

Some of the best producers of PIJ technologies include:

Option #2: Thermal Inkjet Printers

Thermal inkjet printers, which are also considered a drop-on-demand technology, are compact machines that are capable of marking shipping cases with high DPI codes and images. Often weighing only a few pounds and built with size dimensions under 12 inches, TIJ printers are highly mobile devices that are easily integrated into existing production line setups. 

TIJ printers utilize easily removable cartridges as their sources of ink. Each cartridge is lined with heating elements that elevate the ink’s temperature. As the temperature rises, a bubble forms. The force of the bubble propels droplets of ink from the printer’s nozzle and onto the substrate. Once the bubble collapses, it creates a vacuum effect that allows the TIJ to code at steady, moderately fast speeds. 

Due to their mobility, affordability, and high-quality results, TIJ models are commonly sought for marking shipping parcels. TIJ printers with stitching options are especially popular for this purpose, as they are capable of creating images at one- to two-inch print heights. 

Some of the best high-resolution TIJ printers for case coding applications include:

Some of the best high-resolution thermal inkjet printers also include all-in-one handheld units, such as:

Option #3: Print and Apply Machines

Print and apply machines (PALM) are another great way to apply high-resolution codes on shipping parcels of all sizes and substrates. PALM systems, unlike PIJ and TIJ printers, don’t directly mark cases. Instead, they print out adhesive labels filled with the necessary codes and text before applying them onto carton surfaces. These labels offer a high amount of contrast, ensuring that all codes are grade A machine-readable and that all text is legible. 

Today’s PALM systems also offer complete IT integration. Full integration enables users to quickly pull data from their data network, streamlining the label creation process and eliminating the risk of human error. PALM systems further reduce human error through the use of automated applicators. Applicating technologies like swing arms, belts, and pressurized air blowers accurately propel labels onto substrates at high speeds, leading to higher overall efficiency and a lower probability of mistakes. 

Today’s top PALM systems include:

Searching for the Best High-Resolution Printers for Case Coding? C&M Digest Can Help You Narrow the Search

With today’s printing technology, case coding can be performed with a variety of technologies, including:

  • PIJ printers, which excel at making large graphics and high-resolution codes.
  • TIJ printers, which are mobile, versatile, and easy to integrate into existing line configurations.
  • PALM systems, which can print and apply adhesive labels with remarkable speed and accuracy.

At C&M Digest, we’re devoted to covering each of these technologies, whether through reviews, technological retrospectives, or industry explorations. If you’re trying to narrow your case coding printer search, stay tuned to C&M Digest for the latest info.

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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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