Over the span of 22 years in the food manufacturing industry as an Automation Engineer/Maintenance Manager, I have used a variety of different printers for our food labeling needs. Each machine had different pros and cons, but the Leibinger CIJ printers from SSI Packaging Group have surpassed other models available on the market.
THE FIRST BRAND PRINTER
This printer was well-known as a top-of-the-line printer and was originally produced in the United States. The programming format on these units were easy to understand and, overall, operator friendly. In addition, this printer used inks and solvents that were readily available for purchase and had the advantage of local servicing and support. As an unexpected bonus, you could also find many cheaper, “bootleg” ink and solvent options that typically still worked well with this printer.
Unfortunately, this brand of printer came with a lot of issues. The first problem we experienced was that we had to clean the printhead repeatedly throughout each shift. This produced a significant amount of unwanted downtime that became extremely costly for my company.
Another problem arose after the printer company sold to new owners and experienced a management shift. The ongoing service contracts were more expensive than the printer. Once the printer production was outsourced to China (in addition to the rising service costs), I started comparing potential replacement brands.
THE SECOND BRAND PRINTER
The second brand we used was not very well known and was also constructed in China. Knowing that the “high-end” printer we had previously been using was also built in China, I decided to try this model that was half the price. These units actually performed fairly well, given the price, and were also very operator friendly. Inks and solvents needed to operate the machines were competitively priced and readily available whenever we needed to restock. It was also easy to reach support for any servicing needs.
The biggest downside of using this second brand of printers was that after 12 – 14 months, the units started to break down and exhibited many different software and hardware issues. This led to constantly cleaning the printhead, once again causing a significant amount of downtime. When we were notified that the parent company of these units had been sold and parts would likely be hard to find, we decided to look into finding new printing solutions.
THE LEIBINGER CIJ UNIT
The third printer we purchased was a Leibinger CIJ. This printer is manufactured in Germany, and this time, I identified operational costs and potential return on investment with up and down times to justify the initial purchase price.
The best feature of the Leibinger units is that they require ZERO head cleaning on a large scale. The printhead has a device that closes the gutter up to the nozzle, sealing this gap to allow the unit to circulate and stay operational.
This feature also eliminates the need to clean the head, removing significant downtime from our standard processes. The Leibinger printers also have many user-friendly features and rarely need repairs outside of their regular servicing.
As you might have guessed, the biggest drawback of using this printer is the cost. They are not the cheapest model available on the market, but the amount you will save with the improved uptimes cancels out the additional upfront costs.