Marking and coding has come a long way in a very short time. As recently as 8-9 years ago, customers were mainly using messy, leaky, operator-unfriendly, and very maintenance-oriented ink printers and bottles to print poorly legible information on the side of these boxes.
In most growing companies, immediately after they purchase a uniform or manually adjustable case sealer to tape the top and bottom of their boxes, they realize either by their own recognition or required by their customer, a need to provide certain information on every box.
This information can be something simple as a best by date, a certain lot code that only you comprehend, or some combination of a date, lot, alphanumeric or bar code. One of the least expensive and quick return on investment methods is to apply this information by printing it directly to every box.
As technology has improved, the price of marking and coding a box has decreased, allowing various technologies to develop and provide the required information desired by customers or government entities for tracking each box from origination to destination. These technologies include using ink cartridges (similar to the ones found in your home/office printer), better contained ink bottles, and lasers. The result of these improved technologies allowed for less mess and waste, clearly legible information, and increased operator and maintenance compatibility. These manufactures of printers realized there was more to a plant than repairing and maintaining just printers. As a result, most growing companies can now afford to put a printer on each production line and still maintain a minimal maintenance staff.
The initial investment for a printer starts just under a $1000 and increases from there depending on type of ink, character length, number of printed lines and specific information required on the box. This pricing assumes you already have a powered belted conveyor as the machines require constant forward motion. This is why most companies mount them to a case sealer since this is usually the only constant motion and belted conveyor.
The rule of thumb on a 12 month ROI on any of these machines starts at 100 boxes per day. This is usually a cartridge based printer which is similar to a home/office printer. The advantage of this style printing is that there is very little maintenance since the printer consists of simply a board and ink. The ink is in the disposable cartridge that makes contact with the box. Thus, every time you replace the cartridge, you are using a new print head. A disadvantage is the cartridge is more expensive than an ink bottle and the cost per character is more expensive. However, maintenance or lack of maintenance is the true value in a cartridge based system.
The most expensive marking and coding technology is a laser printer. It does not require ink so there are no consumables such as a cartridge. The print is extremely legible. However, the main disadvantage is the repair price can be expensive.
As you can see, there are many options in a labeling, marking, and coding system. A solution customized to your specific needs is the best way to optimize your packaging process.