Marking on the Fly vs. Continuous Inkjet Printers
Time:2024.03.09
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Marking on-the-fly systems and continuous inkjet printers (CIJ) are top options for high-speed direct product marking. These two technologies produce clear and legible markings on various materials, especially for businesses in industries that require uninterrupted marking operations 24 hours a day. Marking on the fly utilizes various laser systems to apply marks to product parts as they move along a conveyor, while continuous inkjet printers rely on electric charge to disperse ink onto a substrate.

You can use either method to apply different marks, including batch, serial numbers, bar codes and logos. These two marking techniques have similarities and differences that are important to understand before making a choice. 

Marking on the Fly Options

Marking on the fly utilizes laser marking systems in the following three categories:

  • UV marking on the fly:  UV on-the-fly marking systemsstrengths are versatile as they work on nearly every substrate including metal, plastics (PET/PTFE), and organic materials. They produce exceptionally sharp, high-contrast, and permanent marks with lower energy consumption compared to other laser types. Additionally, UV laser markers can be used in harsh environments ranging from 14°F-104°F (-10°C - 40°C), which makes them ideal for high-efficiency industries that can't afford any downtime or product damage caused by temperatures.



UV laser markers



  • Fiber marking on the fly:    Fiber laser marking systems have high-resolution marking capabilities and are ideal for applying marks on plastics. Their high power output, combined with a near-infrared wavelength (around 1.06 µm), enables precise and efficient high-speed marking on a variety of metals, including stainless steel, carbon steel, copper, brass, and aluminum. 



Fiber laser marking systems



  • CO2 marking on the fly:  CO2 laser marking on the fly is highly effective on organic materials, such as paper, cardboard, wood and certain clear plastics, making it a valuable tool in industries like medicine, food packaging, textiles, and leather. On -the-fly    CO2 laser markers    are known for their speed and precision, offering relatively low energy consumption and minimal maintenance requirements. However, they are less suitable for direct marking on metal surfaces due to the metal's inefficient absorption of the CO2's laser's wavelength (10.6 µm). For metal marking, alternative laser types or the use of a marking compound with CO2 lasers might be more appropriate. 


CO2 laser markers  



Marking on the Fly vs. Continuous Inkjet Printing

Marking on the fly uses different types of non-contact lasers to create durable black, white or colored marks on materials as they move along the production line. It uses a physical sensor such as a light detector or through-beam to detect when the product is precisely positioned under the marking laser. On the other hand, continuous inkjet printers use a print-head nozzle with an electric charge to deflect ink droplets to products and packaging during manufacturing or packaging processes.

Marking on the fly and continuous inkjet printing technologies are excellent for variable data marking at fast speeds. Both are non-contact marking techniques that allow efficient and continuous marking operations in numerous facilities. However, they have some distinct differences, which are discussed below.

Speed

While both marking solutions boast impressively fast speeds, on-the-fly laser marking is faster mostly because products are marked as they move along the production line, requiring no additional time. Its faster speeds may also be attributed to its efficient operations and low maintenance requirements that significantly reduce these systems' downtime. 

The speed of laser marking systems depends on the application. Generally, you can expect high-power lasers to match the speed of the fastest production lines while maintaining product quality and preventing distortions. On-the-fly marking systems make it easier to maintain the production speeds of your manufacturing process and product quality, saving you lots of time and money. 

Precision

Being non-contact processes, on-the-fly laser marking systems and continuous inkjet printing technologies produce clear and high-quality marks thanks to the reduced risk of product damage or distortion. However, laser marking systems are more reliable because they're not affected by clogged print heads and ink depletion that often distort the quality of marks produced via CIJ.

Marking on the fly consistently produces permanent, precise and accurate marks with the right depth and width to improve the quality of the the final product. The integration of custom software systems enhances the accuracy and precision of laser markers, making them more effective and efficient. 

Maintenance 

Continuous inkjet printers, while versatile, demand considerable maintenance efforts, including annual professional servicing and regular daily care, to prevent operational interruptions and costly downtimes. These printers operate using closed-loop systems, which means a failure in one component could potentially impact the overall functionality, leading to operational delays and increased maintenance costs. 

In contrast, on-the-fly laser marking systems offer a more streamlined maintenance experience, significantly reducing the time and resources spent on upkeep. Though not entirely maintenance-free, these systems do boast a higher efficiency with substantially lower maintenance requirements compared to CIJ printers. Regular cleaning and occasional checks for alignment and part integrity are generally sufficient to ensure their continuous operation, helping to avoid the downtimes commonly associated with more complex machinery. This makes on-the-fly laser marking systems an appealing option for businesses looking for reliable, low-maintenance marking solutions.

Costs

Contrary to traditional assumptions that laser marking technologies incur higher costs than CIJ technologies, laser marking proves to be more economical in the long run. The key to this cost-effectiveness lies in the significantly lower operational expenses of laser systems, which stem from their minimal need for consumables such as inks and solvents. This advantage becomes increasingly pronounced in high-volume marking applications, where the costs of consumables for CIJ printers can rapidly accumulate. Furthermore, laser systems boast reduced maintenance requirements, with many models requiring only minimal annual upkeep and some capable of operating for up to five years without significant maintenance. This durability and efficiency make laser marking systems not only more cost-effective but also more reliable for continuous, high-demand applications, underscoring their economic advantage over CIJ technologies in long- term operational scenarios.

Versatility 

Marking on the fly and continuous inkjet printing are highly adaptable and versatile techniques that are compatible with a wide variety of substrates. They can both be used to apply permanent marks on porous substrates like wood, paper and cardboard, as well as non-porous substrates like glass, metal and plastic. 

CIJ printers are a better fit for products requiring multi-color printing, but tend to fail at high temperatures. Contrastingly, on the fly lasers are excellent at marking delicate and rigid materials even in extreme temperatures but are limited when it comes to printing in color depending on the material.

Applications of Marking on the Fly

Marking on the fly is effective for diverse applications in the manufacturing and packaging fields that require marking products as they move along the line. These include:

  • Food canning

  • Beverage bottling

  • Chemical packaging

  • Automotive part production

  • Welding and cutting

  • Drilling

Check Out the Marking on the Fly Solutions From Advanced Optowave Corporation

Advanced Optowave Corporation is a leading manufacturer of laser solutions provider with over a decade of experience. We combine innovative laser technologies with laser process development to provide on-the-fly marking solutions that help you save time and money. All our solutions are ideal for industrial, microelectronic and medical device manufacturing industries. They're also easy to operate and provide long-term operation stability. 

Shop our marking-on-the-fly laser coding systems, or contact us today for information on how our product can improve your production and packaging processes.