Printing Options That Hit the Mark

Thermal and laser systems offer speedy ways to mark components

September 16, 2006

6 Min Read
Printing Options That Hit the Mark

Originally Published MPMN September 2006


Printing Options That Hit the Mark

Thermal and laser systems offer speedy ways to mark components

Trumpf's laser marking systems can make annealing marks in medical components made from stainless steel or titanium.

Thermal printers and laser marking systems continue to advance in order to meet manufacturers' requirements. Thermal printing offers medical OEMs a way to quickly label products at high resolutions. Laser-based marking systems are becoming faster and more accurate.

Laser-Based Systems Clearly Mark Products

High-speed laser marking systems can make annealing marks in medical products made from stainless steel and titanium. VectorMark laser marking systems from Trumpf Inc. (Farmington, CT) can be used to identify and trace components. Laser marks are compatible with passivation and sterilization, since neither process alters an annealed mark. The laser creates crisp, dark marks. Because material surface quality is maintained, rust and bacteria growth are prevented.

Medical implants can be tracked using laser marking. The firm's laser technology is used to create tiny two-dimensional data matrix codes. The laser marker's beam quality results in an accurate, long-lived mark, which is critical when tracing medical components.

VectorMark systems are available as OEM components for integration in automated production lines. The units can also be used as stand-alone workstations with a Class 1 safety enclosure and integrated fume extractors.

Thermal Printers Feature Several Data Interface Types

Ultracompact, lightweight, portable thermal printers have a simple paper-loading feature and a range of data interface options. The MCP7800 printer series from Martel Instruments (Huntington Beach, CA) includes a standard reservoir lid that holds a 25-m paper roll and locks securely in place. A low-profile lid with a 10-m paper roll is also available. Data interfaces include Bluetooth, RS-232, IrDA physical layer, IrDA stack, and several infrared protocols. The printers are housed in an ABS enclosure that measures 85.5 × 150 × 55 mm and weighs approximately 400 g. Low-profile models are 45 mm high.

Capable of printing high-quality text or graphics, the printers are maintenance-free, according to the company. Standard units can be supplied with a protective bumper, with molded-in magnets for temporary mounting, a belt clip for mobile applications, or threaded inserts for secure fixing. When powered by rechargeable NiMH AA batteries, the printers include a fast-charge option. The units can also be permanently connected to a mains adapter for trickle charging. All models are offered with a choice of power sources, including operation from an external 5-V-dc supply for fixed applications.

The printers offer a number of easily configured options, in addition to a range of software-selectable functions. Energy saving is obtained through a sleep mode or power-off timer. The series is fully compatible with existing systems and a driver for Windows 2000 and XP is available on request. Standard printing speed is 10 lines per second. Medical applications include printing reports on the function and activity of medical processing and analytical systems, such as autoclaves, sterilizers, washers, blood analyzers, and audiological equipment.

A viscosity controller from Automated Industrial Systems Inc. can be used with pad printing equipment to monitor ink thickness.

Pad Printers Can Be Modified to Track Ink Thickness

A maker of pad printing equipment has developed a device to monitor and correct problems with ink thickness. The VC-1 ink viscosity controller is available from Automated Industrial Systems (Erie, PA). The unit continuously monitors ink thickness inside a sealed ink cup. If the viscosity varies outside a preset range, a solvent is automatically added to bring the ink back to the proper viscosity. The system operator does not need to intervene or stop production.

The controller can be retrofitted to most sealed-cup pad printers. It is mounted directly in the ink cup to eliminate the need for off-printer ink reservoirs, allowing for easy cleaning and color changeover. The controller works with single or two-component inks.

Anodized Coatings Can Withstand Sterilization Processes

A firm offers aluminum anodizing for precision medical products. Florida Anodize System & Technologies Inc. (F.A.S.T.; Sanford, FL) supplies Colourlock and Colourgraphics anodic finishes. The finishes come in a range of colors that are compatible with Sterrad and Steris sterilization systems. Colourlock enables the anodic coating to endure exposure to extreme heat, light, and oxidation present in the sterilization process. The finishes do not fade after repeated sterilizing. Tolerances of 0.5 mil can be achieved. The company's finishes are suitable for use in endoscopy, laparoscopy, and other medical equipment and components.

Anodized aluminum products from F.A.S.T. Inc. do not fade with repeated sterilizing.

Plasma Treatment System Also Removes Contaminants

A compact, full-featured benchtop plasma surface treatment system uses a Windows-based PC control. The PJ plasma treatment system from AST Products Inc. (Billerica, MA) is designed for both laboratory and production use. It can be used for surface treatment and cleaning or removal of organic contamination from metals, ceramics, glass, and silicon. The system fits in one cabinet.

The company's plasma science group has developed plasma treatment processes for various medical applications. Plasma treatment can be used to improve bonding and adhesion, and to create barrier coatings. It also can be used to add surface properties, such as water resistance, biocompatibility, and reduced friction, to medical products. Systems with a patented chamber design and various configurations for process consistency are offered. Technical and custom services are available upon request.

Adhesive Placement System Can Be Modified for Printing

Film adhesive placement equipment includes a print-and-apply option.

A permanent stamping process from Oyster Bay Pump Works Inc. does not affect microplate well interiors.

The AEVO unit from AccuPlace (Plantation, FL) uses an optional 300- or 600-dpi thermal-transfer printhead and rollerless drive technology. Features include a TCP/IP-based interface for intuitive machine parameter setup. A simple material-threading system allows for quick roll replacement. Few mechanical adjustments are needed to change components. No tools are required for routine maintenance. An advanced cleanroom option for use in ultraclean areas is available.

Color Coder Uses Ink-Free Hot-Stamping Process

A company has added a color-coding system to its line of microplate processing systems. Oyster Bay Pump Works Inc. (Hicksville, NY) offers the microplate color coder. The coder applies colored foil to the tops of microplate wells at a rate of up to 800 plates per hour. This ink-free, permanent hot-stamping process does not affect well interiors. Easy-to-use stack feeders allow safe, automated plate handling. The system comes with a range of colors for simple product differentiation.

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