Can your Print-Apply Labeling System do all these things? If it can’t, you need to call us a PaladinId – this is what we do! Make your life easier for you don’t have to worry about labels. Let us do that for you.
In the world of print-apply systems, there are a lot of different varieties and manufacturers. They all work well for their intended purposes but some have features that make them better than others when it comes to production time or maintenance up-time in comparison with other brands/systems available on the market today
Whether you are looking at label automation for the first time or if your old printer-applicators have worn out their welcome, make sure that they can still do what is needed of them. Make sure to ask all the right questions when in search of new equipment!
Depending on your type of product and the production line that the print-apply system is used on, it can see modest to over-whelming activity. First-time automation companies might just be labeling 10-20 pieces an hour, where a distribution center might be labeling a package every few seconds. But in both cases, durability is a major consideration. What would happen if the machine failed? Can you have your production line down for any length of time while the system is fixed? This could create a bottleneck that keeps products from going out the door. You can employ a zero-downtime system that has a backup printer-applicator, but that can get expensive.
When looking for a new print-apply system, see who has a proven track record of durable systems with a good maintenance track record. As with anything, you get what you pay for. Buying a cheap system will only bring future headaches as well as a pain in your wallet when you have to replace it too soon.
Check out systems that are built using substantial materials like stainless steel and aluminum plate. Check and see if all the connections are protected from damage or abuse.
Are moving parts like applicator arms shielded to protect the operator or local workers? Make sure the print engine that you chose is a new model from a major manufacturer like Zebra or Sato with up-to-date features. These integrate easily with your online systems for loading label formats and monitoring jobs.
Just like your car, your labeling system needs occasional maintenance to keep it running in top shape. Parts can wear out with heavy use. Rollers, drive belts, and other moving parts should be heavy-duty to withstand years of use. And they need to be accessible in case they do need replacement. Make sure you can do light maintenance with simple tools and without having to disassemble the entire system.
You should also make sure that the manufacturer can supply the needed maintenance parts quickly, easily (online ordering), and at a fair price. You never want to use after-market parts on your system as they probably are of inferior quality that could damage your applicator. Make sure that the manufacturer offers complete technical service in case you run into major issues with your system. Having a service tech
available for on-site visits is an important consideration, too. Don’t just check the warranty of the equipment that you are thinking of purchasing, but check the track record with actual customers or look for online case studies of these systems. A quick phone call might save
you a lot of headaches. Look for someone with a proven history of satisfied customers and equipment that is reliable in the long run.
Though they look simple, print-apply systems are intricate machines that have to coordinate printing of a label format, dispensing it onto an applicator, and then applying the label at just the right moment, sometimes at varied spacing or orientation. You want a controller that handles all the hard work for you in the background instead of relying on the operator being an expert.
Look for a system that has a large touchscreen that allows you to walk through simple instructions or menus to get to what you need.
Many systems only require minimal operator input to get the printer-applicator working correctly or to make small changes. Some of the newer systems include troubleshooting information, animations, and other insightful knowledge about the equipment like event log and equipment status. It’s always best if the operator can figure out a problem without a service call or production downtime.
More and more printer-applicators are using modular construction to create systems that can be adapted to the specific requirements of your application. Modular components make it easier for troubleshooting and replacement if needed. Find a manufacturer that can supply the right type of applicator for your label application. Sometimes you need two labels on adjacent sides of cartons (twin-tamp); others need a wrap-around corner label with the same info on each panel (corner-wrap). Labels can be applied to pallets at a distance, on the bottom and top of the same package, or even wrap a 3-sided label around a clamshell (common in bakery applications).
The basic print-apply system should be able to be configured with your choice of wipe-on, blow-on, or tamp-on. Depending on the type of product or application, one of these will work better than the others. One of the biggest issues with print-apply is wearing on the print head over time. To eliminate or minimize this, look for a brand that uses powered unwind and rewinders for the label transports. This keeps the pressure equalized instead of the constant yanking motions as the applicator print engine advances the label material. Even, steady
label movement is the key to longer print head life.
When you evaluate the cost of your print-apply system over its lifetime, there are a couple of factors to consider. Most tamp-blow and blow-on applicators use compressed air to transition the label from the tamp pad to the product. This requires the system to quickly go from a vacuum on the tamp pad (holding the printed label in place) to a blast of air that applies the label. Some systems are wasteful and can have
air leaks around the filter. Choose a system that uses a modulated vacuum to reduce air consumption using integrated sensors to measure the pressure and use only what is necessary. Systems that use small fans in place of compressed air still require electricity, can clog or become unreliable in harsh environments, and don’t always work as planned. Look for manufacturers that don’t require scheduled maintenance. This minimizes downtime and wasteful parts replacement. Find a solidly build print-apply system that doesn’t need constant attention or periodic downtime.
All companies are concerned with employee safety. Print-apply systems have many moving parts with pinch points and the danger of getting hurt by the moving applicator arm. Shop for a system that is designed to work securely and prevent operators from injuring themselves. It should meet EN 415-10 safety requirements and have an emergency stop function integrated into the systems that require more force than
is considered safe in the EN 415-10 standard. Guards should be in place to minimize exposure to moving parts.
How Can We Help You with Your Print-Apply Labeling System?
We’d love to take a look at your labeling and printing needs and see if we can improve the process to make your life easier.
Please give us a call at (888) 972 – 5234 or email us at [email protected]
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About PaladinID, LLC
PaladinID develops and supports high-performance bar code labeling applications. We work with our clients to “Make Your Mark” by providing the expertise and tools necessary to create an entire product label printing solution. Located in central New Hampshire, PaladinID has been serving Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New England, and beyond for over 30 years, and in 2017, became an RFID-certified company. We look forward to working with you.