Inkjet Printing Technology
There are basically two types of inkjet applications for barcode printing - direct print applications and label applications. Direct inkjet printing is very effective for printing barcodes and expiration dates directly on canned foods, liquid bottles, etc. For these uses, a special direct inkjet printer is necessary - these machines are very expensive, and are usually incorporated directly into the assembly line. Inkjet technology can also print barcodes on labels using a standard office printer. The serial printing technology of inkjet printing is conceptually very similar to dot matrix - ink applied to a substrate in an up-and-down or side-by-side droplet form by pressure - however, the actual delivery method of inkjet printing differs from dot matrix substantially. Inkjet printers do not use direct pressure for the transfer process, nor do they rely on ink ribbons - instead, they use a combination of liquid ink, ultrasonic pressure and an electrostatic field. Inkjet printers create images by propelling ink into tiny, highly controlled jet streams and onto the substrate. The quality of inkjet images is determined by the size of the ink droplets - small droplets produce cleaner lines, large droplets tend to blur.
Inkjet printing technology is virtually the only solution for direct printing on a wide variety of substrates - from cartons and cans to plastics, glass, and paper. Assembly line inkjet printing can print at extremely high speeds and code large quantities in seconds. It is the most efficient method for alpha-numerical coding of consumer goods.
While inkjet printers do allow users to have more flexibility, their low image resolution, limited durability, and high unit price make them a less attractive option for barcoding purposes. Although assembly line inkjet printing services a large audience, it is a very niche application, and the printers tend to be extremely expensive. Inkjet printing is also less solvent resistant, and specialty inks are required for high speed assembly line printing - a factor which entails costly maintenance and frequent routine attention. The ability of inkjet printers to print directly on many substrates makes it a very useful printing technology; however, for barcoding projects that require quality high resolution and good durability, thermal transfer printing is by far the better choice.