Marking and coding in the food industry are crucial in traceability, identification, and efficient information dissemination. All these functions ensure that the food industry maintains food safety, a stringent industry requirement.
Markings and coding used in the food industry must have unique properties such as high readability and clarity. However, these properties depend on the marking system and machine. This article aims to help you decide on the right marking system for food products by showing you things you can consider.
Properties of Marking and Coding in the Food Industry
Markings and coding used on food products must have the following properties:
– High clarity
Clarity helps humans easily identify the product. It improves traceability and efficient dissemination of information (e.g., product details, warnings, guides, ingredient details, etc.)
– High Readability
Readability ensures that humans and machines can easily read the marking or code on the food product. This is an important property that helps in traceability and logistics. The right marking machine must be highly readable.
Marking made on food products must be permanent due to the need for food safety and product identification. Permanent marking reduces the marking system option available for the food industry to about three, which we will discuss fully under the types of marking systems you can use.
Types of Marking and Coding used in the Food Industry
You can make many types of markings on food products, and they determine the type of marking system you use.
– QR Codes/Barcodes
QR codes and barcodes are types of codes that manufacturers use to denote information such as expiry date and manufactured date. They are efficient because even though they are singular entities, they can contain much information about the food product. QR codes and barcodes are used in batch food production and allow food manufacturers to sort out recalled products and improve logistics.
– Serial Number / Alphanumeric
Instead of QR codes and barcode marking, you can also use serial numbers. Like QR codes and barcodes, they are suitable for denoting the expiry date and manufactured date. Furthermore, they can hold other information.
Serial numbers and alphanumeric markings are suitable for making the information such as the ingredient details, address of the manufacturer, and other wordings on the food product. Depending on the part of the food product, you can use either an inkjet marker or a laser marking machine.
Photo-marking aids the visual part of the food product and helps food manufacturers improve the aesthetic value of their product. Photo marking is possible by processes such as a photo engraving machine, chemical etching, etc. The right process and machine depend on the part of the food product or packaging you want to mark.
Common Marking Systems Used in the Food Industry
Among the plethora of marking systems, only three are common in the food industry. Below is a little introduction to the three marking systems.
Laser marking involves using a laser beam to mark a material. A common laser marking machine used in the food industry is the laser coding machine which inscribes markings or codes on the food material. There are other types of laser marking machines compatible with food or food packaging.
Inkjet marking is another marking process used in the food industry that involves a nozzle depositing ink on the material for marking to take place. Two major types are continuous marking and drop-on-demand inkjet marker (DOD). Both are applicable in the food industry. However, there is a keen look at the type of ink used in inkjet marking for food products due to the need for food safety.
Dot Peening Marking
Dot peening is the least common marking system for the food industry because it can only deliver permanent marking with no contrast. Nevertheless, it is suitable for marking metallic food packaging materials and machines that require such properties.
Factors You Should Consider About Marking Machines in the Food Industry
Before you choose a marking machine for a food product, there are many things you must consider. Below is an in-depth analysis that you can adapt to your project.
The material makeup of the food product plays a very important role in the choice of marking system and machines. Below are the common materials the food industry uses, and suitable marking systems and machines are right for them.
Plastics (flexible or rigid) are the most common materials used in the food industry as packaging. Common examples include nylon and polythene. Laser and inkjet marking is the most suitable marking system for the material.
There are many laser marking machines you can use:
- Fiber laser markers such as the HS-FL10, HS-FL20, HS-FL30A, and others will generate a white mark on the plastic material
- CO2 laser markers such as the HS-CL20, HS-CL30, and HS-9060 are the most common marker for plastic materials for etching or engraving
- UV laser markers such as the HS-UV03 are cold lasers hence suitable for plastic with a low thermal threshold
Inkjet marking machines such as the HS-PT01 are also common because they allow more markings to be customized.
Metals such as aluminum foils, tinplate, and tin-free steel are applicable in packaging. Metals are compatible with laser marking, dot peening, and inkjet marking. However, laser marking and inkjet marking are the most common due to the higher contrast and many color option. Fiber laser marking machines are the best machines for working on metals food products.
Glass materials are best marked using laser marking. The markings appear as a beautiful sand-blasted matt finish depending on the laser machine power, wavelength, focusing, pulse frequency, etc. A common marking machine used for marking glass food products is the 30W CO2 laser engraver, known for its speed and quality markings.
What Part Are You Marking?
The marking system suitable for the food industry depends on what you are marking. There are many questions you must answer:
- Are you marking the food directly?
The right marking system and machine must be compatible with the food without affecting its quality. Laser marking systems are the most suitable for direct food marking.
- Are you marking the packaging?
This depends on the packaging and the closeness to the food itself. The right marking system must deliver a permanent marking as the packaging will be exposed to the environment. Dot peen（for food metal packages）and laser marking systems are ideal.
- What part of the packaging material are you marking?
If the packaging comes in contact with the food itself, it must deliver markings that don’t affect its food quality.
- What materials make up the machines?
For marking machines, ensure that the marking system is compatible with the material. For example, dot peening machines are suitable for rigid and solid materials, while laser markers are compatible with all materials.
Get the Best Marking Machine for Food Products
Marking in the food industry is an essential part of the food industry to ascertain food safety. The process helps in traceability, identification, and information dissemination.
This article talked about the best marking machine for food products. Do you want to mark your food product and need a marking machine? Please go through our recommended machines or contact us.