At a bottling plant, a mineral-water bottle speeds along a conveyor belt moving at 36 km/h. A few milliseconds later, the best-before date appears, as if by magic, on its bottleneck. This is made possible by the Leibinger (Tuttlingen, Germany) JET3up Industrial Inkjet Printer, which can print on up to 2,000 products per minute with “flying drops of ink.” Today, information such as best-before date, batch number and data matrix codes have become an integral part of most product packaging. You can find the small letters and graphics on water bottles, milk cartons and beverage cans, on printed circuit boards for computers, and on transparent medication packaging. This information must be easy to read for consumers – smudged fonts won’t be tolerated by manufacturers or brand owners. The challenge is to guarantee print quality – even at extremely high line speeds!
At the Label & Print 2018 Tradeshow in Zurich, Switzerland (April 11-12, 2018), Leibinger will be showcasing its JET3up – an industrial inkjet printer that keeps up with belt speeds of 600 metres per minute. “The printer is fast enough to mark up to 2,000 products per minute in passing,” said Christina Leibinger, CEO of OEM Paul Leibinger GmbH & Co. KG. “In spite of these high belt speeds, an exceptionally good typeface quality is guaranteed.”
The JET3up is used, for instance, in the food and beverage industry, in electronics and cable production, and in car manufacturing facilities. It can print not only up to five lines in very small fonts, but also graphics, barcodes and all common data matrix codes with a print height of up to 16 mm. Operation is via a 10.4” touchscreen that’s “as intuitive to use as a smartphone,” said the OEM. If the user integrates the printer into a company network, he or she can control the machine from literally any point on the globe and monitor it with a PC, smartphone or tablet, said the manufacturer.
The principle of “flying ink drops.” The JET3up prints without having to touch any products. This is accomplished with a cylindrical printhead mounted next to or above the conveyor belt, with a head pipe of up to ten metres in length connected to the hydraulic system in the printer’s housing. The heart of the Continuous-Injection (CIJ) technology works inside the printhead. About 120,000 electrically-charged ink drops per second shoot through the nozzle in the direction of a collecting tube. When printing, two deflection electrodes come into play. They change the trajectory of the individual drops, so that they land as an image point or pixel on the product’s surface. The remaining drops fly into a catcher tube and circulate in the system.
Printing 160 million characters with one litre of ink. Non-contact printing always produces good results – with convex and concave, rough and smooth, flat and relief-like product surfaces. Smudging is not an issue since the ink dries on glass, plastic, metal, steel and wood in less than a second. The JET3up is also economical in consumption. One litre of ink is sufficient for printing up to 160 million characters.
Leibinger’s CIJ printers are also considered to be among the most reliable in the world. This is ensured, among other things, by their unique Sealtronic nozzle sealing system. “With many CIJ printheads, the nozzle and catcher tube remain open when the printer is out of service or in standby mode,” Leibinger added. “The ink dries up and the nozzle clogs – so the next time it starts up, it can lead to a diffuse spluttering of ink and an indistinct typeface. This is not the case with Leibinger. With our patented Sealtronic sealing system, the catcher tube moves to the nozzle during production breaks and seals the system airtight. When re-starting, the typeface is instantly clear and stable. Without cleaning and rinsing cycles, production starts again immediately. This is a must in any efficient production environment.”