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Coating & Laminating

Less is more: Coating system requires less laser power but still improves visual quality

3C! Packaging has spent recent years developing a new coating for coding applications that was shown at the Pack Expo show in Chicago this month

company that specialises in the design and manufacture of custom folding cartons, printed literature, inserts/outserts, labels/foils and unit dose applications. Clear Code is a system employing an


industrial CO2 laser, which works with a clear coating by causing a colour change reaction to produce a positive contrast image. The result is enhanced clarity and contrast. The Clear Code process offers significant improvements over traditional coding and competing clear laser- etching applications. It involves etching new information into the black box area for unique ID numbers, whether it is sequential or for grouping, and the process successfully achieves an especially accurate, opaque image. This coating system is said to significantly

enhance the customer serialisation and coding experience. By employing a low or high wattage CO2, fibre, or Yag laser, and a proprietary colour change technology, 3C! Packaging is able to offer high-contrast imaging on a colourless coating that provides a quality image tailored for Optical Character Recognition (OCR) vision systems. The Clear Code Process offers significant

improvements over traditional inkjet coding, thermal transfer, and laser etching applications. It delivers scuff resistance and image adhesion and it is compatible with the industry’s widest choice of suitable substrates, from folding cartons and inserts to labels and Tyvek. Russell Hill, technical innovations manager at

3C! Packaging, spoke exclusively to Converter to explain more about the technology. He says that Clear Code is a coating that only requires around 10 or 20 per cent of the power of a laser, which, as a result, allows for faster line speeds. “While we’re not using as much heat from the laser we can go on very thin substrates. The

orth Carolina, USA-based 3C! Packaging is an independent, privately-owned packaging solutions

bottleneck on primary packaging lines when doing a blister pack or a sachet is the imprinting of the lot and date code. A laser is a cleaner type of imprint system, but you have to beef up your structure to make it more robust to withstand the heat, and with this you are spending more money on materials. “We’re not burning it is just a

chemical reaction in the coating itself combined with the precise laser is and it turns the coating into a dark image. Clear Code does not require the heat, therefore you can run at faster speeds as well as on multiple substrates, as low as 16 micron blister foils. The reaction changes the colour of the coating where the laser hits it and it’s a specific heat that comes off the laser that changes it, but it’s at a low power setting.”

LIKE PAINTING A PICASSO WITH A LASER Another benefit, Hill explains, is that while there is usually a set parameter of digits to fit into a barcode, if information is added it becomes denser and more complex and at the ablating stage the ink plate will ruin the coat. However, the denser the coats become the easier it is for Clear Code to run, and also to maintain line speed. “Serialisation is where we have the biggest

effect. If you build a bigger barcode structure you’re burning off more ink and you have to slow down your line speed, otherwise it’s like painting a Picasso with a laser; you’re not going to get the anti-grade reading that you need for the pharma industry, for example. Clear Code is a very dense dark black on a white background with very little power from the laser, which gives the printer less rejects and faster speeds.” Hill goes on to say that after developing and

promoting Clear Code for around three years, 3C! is now working towards its direct food contact certification as well as different formulations for purposes such as high scuff resistance and imprintability. Clear Code can be printed on with inkjet and with thermal transfer; it is one of the only coatings on the market with this ability. 3C! is also currently

working on a UV version of Clear Code November 2016 17

now, allowing printing in ultra violet that only shows up with a blacklight; this will be useful for anti-counterfeiting applications. “We started with this as a serialisation solution;

it’s turned into so much more,” Hill continues. “Since we’re able to go across a wider variety of substrates we’re looking at the food and the medical device industries (with our clean room environments and using medical grade paper) and also industrial and postal applications too. “Clear Code sits across each of the three

business units of 3C! A lot of printing companies just look at print in a basic format but we look at enhancing the eficiencies on the production line; we work very hard to demonstrate the benefits beyond just a printed piece of material. It’s another piece of the puzzle of 3C! being the full solution to all of our customers.”

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