Reliable printing, despite potato dust
Bluhm Weber inkjet printers label Tolls’s potato products in Willich
“Round in the morning, mashed at midday, sliced in the evening, that’s what I like.” It appears that, to Goethe, potatoes were the ultimate… And potatoes remain everybody's favourite, versatile and, last but not least, healthy vegetable to this day. Tolls Kartoffelhandel GmbH & Co. KG in Willich has been creating a lot of dust during filling and processing ever since 1890. A challenge to labelling technologies: To identify the product they are dealing with, industrial and end customers will need to see a label.
“We are sorting, sizing, storing and packaging potatoes for all types of use of potatoes: This includes potatoes for boiling, for planting and for processing into crisps or chips,” explains Heinz-Josef Hüsgen, the Kartoffel Tolls Production Manager. The owner-managed company has specialised on early and table potatoes for all purposes. This includes potatoes for washing and packaging, for the production of chips, crisps, granulates or starch and also for the trade, for agriculture and for home gardeners.
Clearly visible and abrasion-resistant marking
In its modern production facilities on the Lower Rhine, the company packages some of these products into units of various sizes. This includes a range from common 1 kg household bags to bags weighing 25 kg. Every individual packaging unit is labelled, stating type, weight and batch. The potato bagging plant sews a plastic tag giving such detail into the seam directly. “We have specific instructions for our labelling, depending on production: Despite the dusty environment, the plastic tags must be marked clearly legible and abrasion-resistant,” explains Heinz-Josef Hüsgen.
This is why he opted for the Markoprint X2JET plus Touch printer by Bluhm Weber, in Rheinbreitbach. The system has convinced Heinz-Josef Hüsgen: “Apart from impressive print results, the easy operation in particular was instrumental to deciding on the X2JET plus Touch.” Kartoffel Tolls is at present only printing text to enable product tracking such as name, date and batch data on its tags. It would also be possible to print various logos and barcodes, however. “Our customers are increasingly asking about printing logos indicating certifications or seals of quality. This would be simple with the X2JET plus Touch: We are in a position to react to specific customer requests,” says an elated Hüsgen.
Top resolution for perfect print images
The printing system comprises a controller and two independently controlled print heads. Tolls uses Hewlett Packard ink cartridges capable of printing with resolutions up to 600 dpi. Ink cartridges and print heads come as a unit. You will therefore have a brand new print head when you replace the cartridge for a new one. To protect the jets from dust and drying out, the cartridge may be sealed when not in use, manually or fully automatically.
The two X2JET plus Touch print heads work with the ink cartridges of several manufacturers (Hewlett Packard, Funai, Trident and Xaar). The maximum printing height will vary from 12.5 to 100 mm, depending on cartridge. The maximum printing resolution will also depend on the manufacturer: it may vary between 64 dpi and 600 dpi.
Two print heads – variably combinable
This will offer a plethora of combinations for a wide range of applications: Depending on installation both print heads may, for instance, “cooperate” to print labels from 25 mm to 200 mm high. Depending on how the print head is installed, the system may also simultaneously print different sides of the same packaging. An alternative application would be to code the packaging with a small 12.5 mm height print head and then to label the outer packaging using a 100 mm height large print head.
At Kartoffel Tolls, the print heads are independently deployed at two different production lines. Heinz-Josef Hüsgen admits that his technicians had occasion in the past to build their own print head bracket after a production line needed re-adjustment: “We suddenly needed to print the data onto the plastic label upside down at our clip lock. We therefore simply relocated the print head – this worked with no problem at all!”
Thermal ink jet sticks even to plastic
Markoprint equipment with Hewlett Packard ink is making use of the “Thermal ink jet” method. A thermal pulse ejects ink from a print head jet. This method to date used mainly water based inks, which adhered well to absorbent surfaces such as paper and cardboard. Bluhm Weber, in cooperation with the HP ink developers, then developed a fast drying type of ink which will also stick to “non-absorbent” surfaces such as plastics. The Markoprint printers at Kartoffel Tolls are therefore able to print on PE foil fast and abrasion resistant. To date, printing on surfaces such as plastics or metals was restricted to continuous inkjet printers working with ink/solvent mixtures.
Production Manager Hüsgen was taken in not only by the X2JET plus Touch print heads, but also by the user-friendly controller: since a touch screen will allow all the relevant parameters to be set fast and conveniently, using simple and intuitive symbols. The software i-design is included in the printer delivery. Kartoffel Tolls staff use this program to create their print layouts on a PC before transferring the code to the controller via USB stick.
"Our customers often ask whether we can print the logos of certain certifications or seals of quality. This would be simple with the X2JET plus Touch: We can respond to individual customer requests."
(Heinz-Josef Hüsgen, Production Manager)
Perfectly linked – networked printing system
The printer may alternatively also be linked to all network PCs via Ethernet. Not only will this connection simplify data transfer, but it will also allow all print functions to be controlled from the PC directly: Operators will at a glance identify the print head busy printing a text and the ink cartridge which will soon require replacement. Should the printer even be directly linked to an ERP database, the system would be able to use the item number to extract the required print information from the database and transfer this to the print layout.
“But we are not there yet!” explains Heinz-Josef Hüsgen. “Our controller has one layout per product stored in its memory. This allows us to very quickly change the text or make other changes.” And no matter how much potato dust Tolls is likely to raise in future, the X2JET plus Touch will continue to reign supreme." Goethe would have loved this also!