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What is the Best Coding Technology?

The Finishing Touch

Coding Technology

The product has been designed, produced, and packaged…the finish line is near…but, before your product makes its way to store shelves and customers around the world, you need to stamp it with a final touch. Perhaps you are adding some art or graphics to the packaging or maybe a barcode is required on a perishable or edible good. Manufacturers can overlook this crucial step, but the type of coding technology you choose (inks, cost of maintenance, etc.) can end up making a huge difference in your profit margin.

A brief word before we continue: unfortunately, it is unlikely you will find a coding technology that is definitively the best. All coding technologies come with their own set of pros and cons. For instance, laser marking is a more sustainable printing option, but the current substrates used in packaging are more difficult to use with laser printing. However, what we can do is highlight the positives of each coding practice whether that be higher quality, lower cost, or other attributes and find the right coding technology for your needs.

Laser Coding

Laser coding first came to market in the 1970’s and in the last 50 years has turned into a well-established technology. It is near impossible to match the speed of laser coding. Glass and plastic bottles, aluminum cans, paperboard and caps are all receptive to laser printing.

The downside to laser coding—if it is relevant for your project—is it is only capable of printing on a two-dimensional matrix. This can prove tricky with some flexible packaging, but its extreme productivity is unmatched for many common surfaces.

Continuous Ink Jet (CIJ)

Coding Technology

Cost, cost, cost. If you are working with high product volumes and your line runs continuously (pun intended), continuous ink jet (CIJ) may be your best solution. With a high cost of ownership and higher than average maintenance costs, your output also needs to be high to make this technology cost effective. The lower definition of CIJ compared to its thermal cousins can restrict small characters, barcodes, QR codes.

There is no question CIJ provides the lowest cost per application for ink. In the right set of circumstances, CIJ can provide a high-quality, budget-friendly solution across a variety of substrates.

Thermal Ink Jet (TIJ)

If you’re making a pros and cons list, Thermal Ink Jet (TIJ) is basically the exact opposite of CIJ. TIJ maintains unparalleled print quality at the lowest cost of ownership and maintenance. This option is so precise, TIJ can print characters as small as 2mm. But, don’t worry that you’ll have to sacrifice size, because prints can be stitched together to expand up to 4” wide.

A benefit of TIJ that should not be overlooked is its ease of use. One of the largest costs associated with packaging is waste from coding mistakes that are disproportionately related to human error or lack of proper training. You will not completely eliminate waste when using TIJ, but you will severely minimize the potential for rework.

Many manufacturers can be turned off by the high costs for ink, but remember to factor in maintenance savings when planning out your long-term budget! You may be surprised that TIJ becomes the most affordable option for lower volume projects.

Coding Technology

Thermal Transfer Overprinting (TTO)

Last, but certainly not least, is Thermal Transfer Overprinting (TTO). If you’re dealing with flexible packaging (such as candy wrappers, plastic bags, etc.) and looking for speed and quality it is likely TTO will be the obvious choice for you. There are no inks to worry about and TTO can print in an incredibly wide format. This coding technology has low startup costs and low maintenance on the backend.

Unfortunately, the cost per print is expensive and something to keep in mind for large product orders.


GCB Solutions is one of the few packaging companies able to offer all types of coding technology. Our focus is growing a long-term relationship with our clients and we will quote two or three technologies with every potential client so they can make an informed decision best for their packaging needs. If our customers have found the most cost effective solution without sacrificing quality, then we have done our job!

Call us at (904) 263-2804 or schedule a free consultation, today!


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