Technology Snapshot: ID Technology, a ProMach product brand, will introduce their CrossMerge label applicator module for print & apply labeling at Pack Expo Las Vegas booth #C-3225. Ideal for high-volume secondary packaging lines, the patent-pending new CrossMerge technology increases label output at the same time it simplifies mechanics and improves print quality and barcode readability.
“CrossMerge is a unique new concept for labeling secondary packages with GS1-compliant barcodes at very high speeds,” said Mark Bowden, regional sales manager at ID Technology. “Like other label applicator modules in our PowerMerge family, CrossMerge decouples print speed from line speed to simultaneously increase output and improve print quality compared to traditional tamp or feed-on-demand print & apply labelers. Now, with CrossMerge, we’ve rotated the print head to change the orientation of printing. It has all of the advantages of PowerMerge and takes it further, with even higher throughput and print quality for select applications.
By rotating the print head, CrossMerge optimizes the conditions for both barcode printing and label application. To produce well-defined edges and ensure the best scores when verified, the bars of linear barcodes run parallel to the direction of feed (called ‘picket fence’ printing), rather than perpendicular (called ‘ladder’ printing). Unlike traditional print & apply labelers that must produce linear barcodes in the non-preferred ‘ladder’ direction to apply GS1-compliant labels in landscape orientation, CrossMerge prints barcodes in the preferred ‘picket fence’ direction and applies labels in landscape orientation.
Rotating the print head also enables CrossMerge to increase output and decrease print speed to reduce print head wear and tear and further improve print quality. For example, instead of using 2x4 GTIN labels, which are 2 inches across the web and 4 inches long in the direction of travel, CrossMerge customers can use of 4x2 labels, which are 4 inches across the web and 2 inches long in the direction of travel. In this example, CrossMerge is able to dispense labels at twice the rate or slow the print speed in half to improve print quality and double the life of the print head. Furthermore, CrossMerge customers switching from 2x4 to 4x2 labels get twice the number of labels per roll and cut label roll changes in half.
CrossMerge is the newest addition to ID Technology’s PowerMerge family of label applicators, which features a totally reimagined way to handle and apply labels to secondary packages. Unlike traditional systems that require the printer to pause while the tamp pad is traversing, CrossMerge decouples print speed from line speed. Using a vacuum belt to transfer labels from the print engine to the point of application, PowerMerge allows multiple labels to be on the vacuum belt at the same time and enables the system to start printing the label for the next product without delay. CrossMerge reaches up to six inches (15 cm) over the conveyor to gently apply the labels without skewing or creasing. The all-electric design features a fan-based vacuum generator – it requires no factory air.
Compared to traditional print & apply labeling systems, PowerMerge increases packaging line throughput while decreasing print speed. Lower print speeds result in higher print quality, including sharper images and more readable barcodes, as well as longer print head life and less print engine maintenance to reduce the total cost of ownership.
Together, the high-speed vacuum belt, which transfers the labels, and the spring-loaded roller, which applies the labels, minimize moving parts to further reduce maintenance and enhance reliability. The system achieves consistently precise label handling and placement, easily tolerating low quality labels, older labels with adhesive ooze and non-conforming packages and package placement for better label adhesion. Rolling labels onto packages eliminates complicated timing issues and improves worker safety compared to traditional tamp assemblies.
The CrossMerge label applicator module can be combined with a thermal transfer or direct transfer print engine to print linear and data matrix barcodes, including serialized barcodes, and variable information text to ‘bright stock’ or pre-printed pressure sensitive labels. It can be equipped to apply side labels to cases, trays, shrink-wrapped bundles and other secondary packages. An optional ‘zero downtime’ configuration speeds changeover.