Legibility Tips for Continuous Ink Jet Printingemmahulse
Bob Powles, Managing Director of Needham Coding Ireland Limited, gives his top tips for ensuring that use-by or best-before information is clear and easy to read.
It is imperative that vital use-by or best-before information is clear, easy to read and remains intact for at least as long as the product is on shelf, and while in the consumer’s possession if possible. Depending on the application, the information might also have to adhere to strict legibility standards.
With this in mind, here are my top tips for ensuring Continuous Ink Jet printers are capable of meeting these key requirements:
- Before any new product packaging or launch is signed off, ensure that full consideration has been given to the information being printed on-pack. Everyone should be 100% confident that there is enough space to print the information at the speeds required. It might sound obvious but this is often overlooked resulting in major embarrassment on launch day when the details do not fit into the box and the print is illegible.
- Once the correct amount of space has been agreed, use it all! We regularly see dates and batch codes printed so small they are barely legible, yet the area available is significant. Use the width setting in the CIJ printer to adjust this. In some older printers this setting is called line speed.
- Ensure the print head is the correct distance from the packaging – around five to eight mm for most printers is fine. If the head is too far away then the print will be very spread out and illegible.
- If possible avoid extending the message height to ‘high’ as this can cause poor print clarity. If the message needs to be taller, simply pull the print head further away from the packaging.
- If the CIJ printer can print multiple lines then use them. Why squash all the information onto one line if it allows you to print two?
- Ensure the CIJ printer is set up correctly as poor print can be a result of poorly adjusted ink stream alignment, wrongly adjusted modulation and ink out of calibration, i.e. too thick, too thin or even out of date. How many times have you witnessed your printer working fine for 10 minutes and then slowly fading away until it stops? All the aforementioned can cause this.
- Print legibility can be an issue on dark containers or packaging. In this case, consideration should be given to the use of lighter coloured inks.
These simple yet effective tips can save a lot of trouble in the long-term and help ensure clear and accurate print applied onto virtually any substrate.
However, if in doubt, it is always advisable to discuss application requirements with a reputable CIJ printer supplier.