Having the proper marking and coding on packages is important for storage and logistics reasons. Product identification, barcodes, sell dates, and shipping information are commonly applied to cartons via applied labels or direct printing. While both options can be effective, we’re going to focus on the main benefits direct carton marking has over labeling.
A lower cost per print can result in huge savings with direct carton printing. With labeling, you have costs associated with the labels and transfer ribbons. Most businesses require various sizes of labels and pay a premium if they come pre-printed or certain style.
With direct printing, your only consumable cost is going to be ink. Replacement inks are relatively inexpensive, can be purchased in bulk, and have a shelf life of at least a year. In some cases, direct printing can be up to 25 times lower in cost than labels.
Take a look at this chart from Matthews Marking Systems for a cost per label comparison.
Lower overall equipment costs is also a cost saving seen when switching from labeling to printing. Often multiple labelers are needed to quickly apply labels on multiple sides of a carton. Each one needs to be controlled independently and adjusted for multi-side label application.
Inkjet print heads can be installed in various positions and can use a single controller to direct what needs to be printed and where on each carton.
Labelers typically require an operator to change out rolls when labels run out or a different label size is needed. For higher volume applications, this could result in multiple stops throughout the day. Jammed labels are another source of downtime, additionally resulting in a loss of production and wasted material.
Direct inkjet printing eliminates the need for any changeovers or jams. Ink can be refilled at any time without stopping production. The only real maintenance downtime print heads require is a periodic purge to clean out any possible clogs from debris.
Rolls of labels and ribbons are usually bought and stored in bulk, taking up valuable storage space in a facility. Labels are also susceptible to humidity and may not perform to standards in non-climate controlled storage areas.
Inkjet printing provides longer run times and since only one type of ink is required, the space needed to store supplies is minimal. Ink is also less susceptible to environmental changes and not affected by varying humidity levels.
When using a labeler, the print output is limited by the size and design of each label that is in use. Additionally, most labelers are restricted to only using a single color for printing.
Inkjet print heads can produce text, logos, and images. The quality of print and graphics depends on the print head’s resolution. Higher resolutions can produce fine details such as curves and shading. Multiple color printing (typically black, red, green, and blue) is also possible.