Follow these actionable tactics to keep your machines up and running. While regular maintenance is important, these eight tips will help ensure you have an efficient line.

1. Keep machines clean and maintain them regularly. Keep the cooling fans of laser coding machines clear of debris, especially when coding inside a cartoning machine. This is critical to optimum performance. Use trained senior operators to complete a TPM list, which will pinpoint actions for the maintenance team to close out. This reduces the time spent by the engineering team on checking the machine for issues.

2. Eliminate all upstream variation. To ensure print registration is consistent, the print position and materials must be the same every time. If possible, use a VRK (Variation Reduction Kaizen) technique to identify and reduce variations.

3. Check and record non-coding parameters. For effective coding and marking, it’s key that all components are operating in concert to create a smooth operation. Check that package motion drivers are operating within parameters to prevent skew, flutter, and random slip. Also check parameters such as backpressure, conveyor rail position, and any other components specified by the manual. Verify system parameters such as lighting and focal sharpness of lenses.

4. Use the recommended ink! This is the simplest and most cost-effective way to get the best performance from your coding and marking machines. Purchasing managers are always bombarded with opportunities to save money, and low-cost ink supplies are always attractive. But keeping coding machines running 100% of the time is essential to efficiency, so spend the money to use high-quality inks. Often, the most expensive ink to buy is the least expensive ink to use.

5. Mind the ink. Ink-jet printers are subject to settling and thickening of the ink. When rotating a coder out of service for maintenance, flush it immediately to clear out old gunk. When it’s ready to go back in service, run the printer in the shop for at least 30 minutes to make sure the ink viscosity has normalized before moving it to production.

6. Protect coding machines from vibration and shock. Conveyors and product on the line can introduce significant sources of vibration. Look into developing a shock absorbent platform for the machines that keeps them at a centerlined distance from the line and also helps keep them resistant to shock caused by line plugs or conveyors.

7. Control the environment. Always try to control the temperature and humidity at the printing area in a stable range. This promotes proper ink flow and adhesion. When finished, make sure that you leave the coding print head as clean as it was before you started printing.

8. Reduce variability and errors. With digital and variable print, consider what can be preprinted from your vendor so packaging line operators don’t have to worry about coding and marking as a part of their duties. Keep product sensors clean at all times, make sure pouch-coding equipment will sense an empty pouch, and keep conveyor speeds constant. Are you case coding with ink-jet? Ensure your guiderails are properly aligned with your cases and print head to improve print quality and reduce downtime.


Instead of killing animals, our packing design will provide them with food, explains Saltwater Brewery co-founder Chris Gove of his company’s biodegradable, edible beer pack rings.

The rings, made from wheat and barley waste – natural byproducts of the beer-making process – are being touted by the Florida-based microbrewery as a pragmatic solution to repurposing waste in the brewing process. It also hopes they can help combat the growing problem of ocean plastic pollution.

The packaging starts to disintegrate within two hours of being in the ocean, which prevents fish or other sea animals getting stuck in the rings. They take two to three months to completely disappear in the ocean, and it takes a similar amount of time to compost if left on the beach, although this varies slightly depending on soil, composition, humidity and temperature.

While alternatives to traditional plastic rings exist – PakTech’s recycled plastic can carrier, which is 100% recyclable, and Fishbone’s cardboard holder, for example– these don’t reduce the risk of entangling wildlife or being ingested.

Saltwater Brewery decided to collaborate with advertising agency We Believers to engineer an alternative.

“Our main challenge was figuring out what material would be sustainable and sturdy enough to hold a six pack of beer,” says Marco Vega, co-founder of We Believers. “Initially we wanted to make the rings from seaweed, but it’s too fragile and rigid to use once taken from the ocean.”

The first batch of 500 edible six pack rings was produced using 3D-printed plastic moulds. As these aren’t suitable for mass manufacturing, Saltwater is developing metal moulds capable of churning out 400,000 ring units per month.

“We estimate the initial mass-produced batch will cost around 25 cents [17p] per unit– about 10 cents more thanover the recyclable plastic six-pack rings Saltwater is [currently] using,” says Vega. He believes consumers will be willing to pay more for the alternative, but expects costs to quickly drop. “If most craft brewers and big beer companies implement this technology, the manufacturing cost will drop and be very competitive.”

More than 50 craft breweries have already contacted Saltwater expressing an interest in using edible ring packaging. The company hopes to build a centralised production facility by 2017 around a cluster of breweries.

In the US, about 67bn beer cans are consumed each year. According to the Brewers Association, that number is expected to grow substantially as craft breweries continue to increase market share and move away from bottled products.


The opening up of new markets driven by developments in hardware will mean faster growth for the wide-format ink market, according to imaging industry market researcher Photizo Group.

This will have positive effects on the global wide-format market as a whole.

The Wide Format Ink Forecast Perspective looks at the strength of the wide-format ink market and sets out various figures to demonstrate how the market is set to grow. It was published in the middle of April 2016.

Photizo Group vice-president of sales and marketing Ron Iversen said: “Historically, the wide-format printer business from a hardware standpoint has been quite a slow low-growth market, but what is driving growth in the market is new developments in ink and in the media itself.”

Iversen said that media and ink now account for almost 80% of the total revenue in the wide-format market, and that technological developments were also making a difference to sales.

He added: “What is also driving growth is new development in printhead platforms, a good example being HP’s PageWide technology. The speed of these wide-format printers will increase because of developments in printhead technology.

“These wide-format printers are now going to get into commercial production and take business away from the conventional presses. It means more ink, more media. It is a cycle.”

HP’s PageWide array of printheads covers the entire width of a sheet at high speeds.

The report finds HP as 2015’s top global supplier of ink for wide-format with 41% of the £1.6bn market, followed by Canon with 21% and Epson on 19%. Fourth is Roland (3.4%) and fifth is Mimaki (2.7%).

Revenue from wide-format ink suppliers is due to rise to £1.7bn by the end of 2016 and £1.85bn by 2020. The report breaks ink down into UV, latex, aqueous and eco-solvent, with aqueous accounting for approximately 80% of market revenue in 2015, revenue of approximately £1.37bn. The proportion of the market dominated by acqueous is set to remain similar by 2020.

Approximately 4.8 million litres of ink were shipped globally in 2015. This is set to rise by 2020 to more than 6 million litres.

Globally, the report examines the percentage of OEM ink compared with aftermarket ink broken down in each region. It finds the more mature markets are more inclined to purchase a higher percentage of OEM cartridges.

Iversen said: “The way it changes depending on where you are in the world is also interesting. If you look at more developed countries, they tend to stay with OEM ink, while in the less developed countries price is more sensitive and they are more likely to use a higher percentage of aftermarket ink because it is cheaper.”

In Western Europe, Germany is the biggest supplier of ink, followed by the UK. Western European revenue in the wide-format market makes up 26% of the worldwide market share

The report covers all of the world’s regions and was compiled using a mix of interviews with manufacturers, resellers and industry experts, along with questionnaires.

Photizo Group produces reports and provides consultancy on all aspects of the imaging and printing industry. Its US headquarters are in Lexington, Kentucky and it also has a smaller office in Japan.