Self-monitoring coder to help improve OEE

Coding and marking specialist Interactive Coding Equipment (ICE) has launched its next generation thermal transfer overprinter (TTO), which is able to monitor and report on the quality of each code it produces.

This, the company claims, largely removes the need to include a vision system on the line in order to meet increasing demand from retailers for code quality checks.

The new Zodiac Hawk TTO is designed to help businesses in their drive to achieve improved Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) by being the first coder that can report on all three elements of OEE, with quality now included alongside performance and availability.

Equally important, the coder’s ability to provide early warning of any potential loss of code quality will help to minimise production disruption and downtime, as well as reduce the risk of customer complaints or the possibility of a product recall, with its cost implications and potential damage to brand reputation.

The Zodiac Hawk features iAssure, an internal checking system that assesses the spent ribbon after each code has been produced to determine whether the print quality has been good enough. If the code is deemed to be unacceptable, the Zodiac Hawk can signal for the pack to be rejected and if the fault persists, can declare a trend of deterioration and stop the line entirely.

All information on poor quality codes, along with guidance for rectifying the problem, is reported on the control screen or may be accessed and printed off remotely to enable manufacturers to take immediate action. This, ICE says, helps to minimise line downtime and limits the amount of codes with poor quality which otherwise may have exited the manufacturing process.

In addition to its ability to self-monitor code quality, the Zodiac Hawk also offers a number of features unique to thermal overprinting.

The Zodiac Hawk operates without compressed air to generate the necessary force for the printhead. The removal of this external energy source, which is both costly to provide and maintain, means the entire printing operation is now controlled by the Zodiac Hawk’s software, helping to ensure consistent and reliable coding. The electronic system used to provide and regulate print head force is also said to provide increased print head life in most applications.

The Zodiac Hawk is able to operate in continuous or intermittent print modes with line speeds as high as 700 packs per minute.

“We believe the Zodiac Hawk represents a major step forward in thermal transfer overprinting,” says ICE director Chris Simpson. “A reduction in code quality can disrupt production and has the potential to generate consumer complaints and damage brand reputation, but in the past monitoring codes effectively has required investment in additional expensive equipment. Now with the Hawk, this vital task is carried out as part of the actual coding operation, offering a highly efficient and cost-effective means of ensuring the quality of every code.”

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