Debunking five myths of Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) printing

Over the past decade, designers of TIJ (Thermal inkjet) printers have worked tirelessly to address the limiting factors of the technology. The latest generation of TIJ printers will outperform CIJ (continuous inkjet) in terms of cost of ownership and print quality in most coding applications. Despite the discernible shift to TIJ, there’s still some outdated perceptions that are deterring many operations from moving to cartridge-based technology.

Thermal Inkjet PrintingAt Griffin-Rutgers, we are debunking five myths of Thermal Inkjet printing.

TIJ is very limited in the types of substrates onto which it can print:
The truth is, when TIJ technology was first introduced it employed only water based ink as with your desk top printer in the office or at home. Therefore, the technology was limited to printing on porous substrates such as kraft paperboard, non-coated paper labels and folding box boards.   As a result, early TIJ Technology didn’t have the ability to print on non-porous substrates such as flexible films, varnish cartons, coated packaging and plastics as examples. Not any longer!

Today solvent and UV based inks for TIJ printers are readily available and used to print on all of the non-porous substrates used throughout the packaging industry that it couldn’t in the past. With changes to the cartridge design the use of solvents as the base for the ink formulation is growing every day.

TIJ printers have to be positioned very close to the product
The early models of TIJ printers had a limited throw distance of one or two millimeters – meaning they could only be used to print on flat surfaces such as lids, folding cartons, and labels. Unfortunately, the print quality could only be guaranteed if the printer was located very close to the product at the application point.

Thanks to advancements in nozzle and cartridge design, TIJ printers now offer a throw distance of up to 8mm. While that’s not as far as the 10mm plus from a typical CIJ printer, this does make installation easier; thermal inkjet printing is a solid solution for printing on curved surfaces such as canning and bottling lines.

TIJ printers are more expensive to buy than CIJ
The cost of early TIJ systems were in the five figures neighborhood. Since then the technology has gained a foothold in the packaging industry, manufacturing has been streamlined and simplified, and more efficient designs developed.  Because of this, Griffin-Rutgers is always able to present a top of the line, fully functional, TIJ system for an end user price starting in the low four figure range thereby making TIJ an affordable, cost-effective solution for a wide variety of applications.

When it comes to a realistic cost comparison between the two technologies the total cost of ownership is the proper comparison. With the cost of the equipment, inks, maintenance, spare parts, downtime and service contracts associated with CIJ a TIJ system will just cost less over its lifetime by a significant amount.

TIJ printers are more expensive to run than CIJ
In the early days of TIJ printing, there were many issues of cartridges leaking that made them messy and not very cost effective to run. Today, those imperfections have been eliminated. In addition, ink usage wasn’t maximized, resulting in a lot of waste. Today’s TIJ systems offer a built-in software that allows users to optimize usage per print by adjusting the dots per inch (dpi) resolution.  So when printing a simple expiry date onto a light substrate the operator can adjust the dpi print settings lower, say from 300 or 225dpi to achieve better ink usage per cartridge.

TIJ has only one on-going cost and that is the purchase of new cartridges. They are completely maintenance and service free. When the print cartridge is replaced the print head is also replaced along with it. This change of cartridges takes only a few seconds, minimizing downtime and eliminating the need for service contracts.

Another benefit is that TIJ offers on-demand printing, whereas CIJ is continuous, a distinction that does have bearing on the cost of ownership. With CIJ printers, the average time from start-up to shut-down is three to five minutes. Once CIJ printers are up and running, they are often left on all day.  Because of this, the fluids are evaporating off into the atmosphere even when no coding is taking place.  At the end of each shift, the CIJ printer cannot simply be shut off and left full of ink. They must be cleaned and purged before the final shut down.

In contrast, TIJ printers can be switched on with printing beginning immediately. A TIJ cartridge is ready to print as soon as it has been wiped and loaded into the printhead.  Since TIJ Is on-demand based the only ink consumed is when the codes are being printed. The software programs employed with TIJ printers will provide an estimation as to the number of prints one can anticipate from a cartridge. As an example, a water based print cartridge printing a lot code consisting of the numbers “236785”  that is printed in 300dpi at 3mm (1/8”) high in the Ariel font will print approximately 858,000 codes.

TIJ printers occupy too much line space
In the early days of TIJ printing, the complete system took up large amounts of space because of the required controller size. TIJ equipment engineers have embraced developments in circuit board technology so that controllers no longer occupy much space and in some TIJ models the controllers and HMI screens are on board. This has also helped reduce the overall size of the printing unit. Think of a complete TIJ printer fitting in the palm of your hand and you wouldn’t be far off.

These are just a few of the ways that thermal inkjet printing is making headway into the mainstream of the packaging industry.

With over fifty years of experience, you can depend on Griffin-Rutgers to meet your packaging and coding needs with the offering of the most complete line of thermal inkjet printers in today’s marketplace.


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