Collins Inkjet Corporation - Pharma pioneers UV ink

With very specific and critical printing demands in the pharmaceutical industry, Collins Inkjet strives to provide a customised service for different applications. One of its success stories is its UV-LED curable ink, tried and tested by satisfied customer Bell-Mark.

In package printing, consistent, high-resolution print quality is vital. Barcodes, lot numbers, expiration dates and other variable data must be easily readable, identifiable and scannable. When printed packages contain pharmaceutical items, the coding requirements are amplified because of the associated health and safety risks. The US FDA actually mandates the printed data. An accurate, reliable code can be the difference between success and failure, and this is something with which Bell-Mark has experience.

Since 1959, Bell-Mark has been successfully designing, manufacturing and servicing high-performance coding, marking and printing equipment for the industrial marketplace, reaching more than 15,000 companies throughout the world. A significant portion of Bell-Mark's business is in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

Like many package printing customers, Bell-Mark's are looking for a printing technology that can meet the rigorous demands of packaging environments, print high-resolution images quickly and employ a small equipment footprint.

"High-definition inkjet technology is a perfect fit, due to its high quality of print, as well as its versatility," says Bob Batesko, director of sales for Bell-Mark. When evaluating the different digital ink types, Batesko says they decided from the beginning to integrate piezoelectric printheads using UV curable inkjet inks.

"One of the major problems with inkjet technology is clogged jets. By using UV, we all but eliminate the [problem of] ink drying in a nozzle, and this results in less cleaning, flushing and downtime," says Batesko.

Bell-Mark approached Collins Inkjet regarding a Tyvek printing installation using a high-speed DOD printhead, where drying time was an issue. Muslim Contractor, Collins' lead UV chemist, recalls that "the existing ink wasn't formulated specifically for a UV-LED curing lamp, so in order to run, the production line needed to slow down significantly".

Upon receiving the customer's stock samples, Muslim formulated a custom black UV-LED curable ink that cured quickly and created a permanent, dark image on Tyvek.

"Having the ability to jet and cure UV-LED inks through our in-house jet testing labs gives us some certainty that the ink will perform as required on Bell-Mark's substrate," he adds. Regarding the customised black, Batesko reports: "We have had excellent results. I would certainly recommend Collins' UV-LED curable black ink. The company has been excellent to work with and the product has performed as advertised."

Tailor-made solutions

Collins has built its business on formulating and manufacturing industrial inkjet inks that are tailored to specific applications. The new UV and UV-LED industrial printing spaces are no different. Unfortunately, there isn't a 'one size fits all' fluid; for those new to digital printing who come from a traditional background, this is a difficult learning curve. Each situation is different, and in most cases the ink is the afterthought and therefore the variable.

Similar to Bell-Mark's case, the ideal solution is collaborative communication between integrators, printhead and UV lamp manufacturers, ink and substrate suppliers and customers. This is not always the case, and it can take a while to reach the desired end.

Today, Collins' customers are pioneering UV curable technology in new markets and applications, challenging its capabilities and limitations. This is an exciting time for the digital printing industry, and UV is leading the charge. Collins will continue to welcome customers' challenges and formulate exceptional UV inks that push the envelope into the future of print.

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Pharmaceutical package printing has rigorous demands.
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