Barcodes are no longer an option in the logistics sector today. The only question remaining is how to apply them.

Whether you are planning to equip your facilities for the first time or renew an existing installation, you will want to consider the following:

  • The scannability of your barcodes is essential

The barcodes you print hold more and more information and are processed by systems that are more and more sophisticated. High rates of unscannable codes are no longer acceptable.

  • Scannability is highly dependent on the material you are printing on

The transparency of the material (called the substrate) and its capacity to receive ink affect the printing quality and thus the capacity of the barcode scanner to capture the information contained in your barcode.

Plastic, with its smooth surface, receives commonly used ink quite poorly. It requires a thicker ink and a longer drying time, and/or that the packaging avoids coming into contact with anything else so the printing doesn’t rub off. In the case of transparent or translucent plastics, the contrast isn’t always great enough to ensure the code can be scanned properly.

Corrugated cardboard is easier to print on, although its porosity, surface tension and the quality of the fibres used differ from box to box and cannot be controlled. The more variables there are, the more variance you will see in the scannability of your printed codes.

The surface of a paper label, however, is more homogenous, less porous and of more uniform quality.

  • Production lines add variables

Packaging on a production line moves around a lot and – as continuity of production and cost considerations dictate – systems designed to convey with precision are rare. Your barcode application system must fit your existing installation or be adaptable.

Direct inkjet printing under the microscope

Printing barcodes directly by inkjet requires a flat surface to ensure maximum scannability and is therefore not suitable for all types of packaging. Also, codes printed on cardboard boxes have a higher rate of scan failure because the ink tends to run.

Direct inkjet is also not the best choice for flow production because the surface of the box will not always be at the same distance from the printhead, unless you invest in costly, high-precision conveyor systems. Consequently, the code may be distorted and difficult to scan.

The advantages of print and apply

A printed label can be applied to rounded or transparent surfaces and, with its high contrast level, can be easily scanned. In addition, application possibilities are greater: the application device can be configured to apply your label to the top or to the side of your packaging, as well as to the front or rear, or to both sides at the same time with a single label or with two labels, without significantly modifying your conveyor.

At IMS, we can help you make a well-informed choice by performing an onsite study for the installation of print-and-apply systems or barcode label applicators on your production line, according to your needs. We also offer an array of printers, as well as printers with a label presentation module to allow for manual label application.