In mid-October 2016, Domino Printing Sciences organized a preview for packaging journalists at the new Maxwell Centre in Cambridge, not far from its own UK plant where it has researched and invested considerably in the development and manufacturing process for its new Ax-Series of continuous inkjet (CIJ) drop generator and printers. Domino says that it has listened to its customers who essentially require high quality, error-free codes and service-free systems. With brand owners and packaging customers looking at more integrated operations with machines talking to each other and the cloud, there is a growing
need for coding and marking systems that are easy to integrate in Industry 4.0.
Domino has revisited the underlying science behind CIJ coding and marking. A comprehensive re-engineering of the technology that will reset customer expectations of productivity, quality and cost of ownership has led to the new Ax-Series of CIJ printers—optimized for the most demanding industrial packaging environments. Slated for a launch in November from the Cambridge UK factory, the Ax printers will also roll out from the Chinese and Indian factories by March 2017. The series comprises the Ax150i, Ax350i and Ax550i with a range of printheads and accessories—offering a choice of systems tailored to differing customer requirements.
Domino’s three ‘pillars’ of innovation across the Ax-Series are the new i-Pulse printhead and inks, the i-Techx electronics and software platform, and Domino Design, a fresh approach to the total product design for maximum productivity and ease of operation. “CIJ remains the coding solution of choice across many markets and industries, but we saw the opportunity to rethink three fundamental elements of the technology to deliver measurable benefits for customers and change the way CIJ is perceived,” says Paul Doody, marketing director at Domino Printing Sciences.
Domino’s new i-Pulse printhead and unique frequency-matched drop generator uses a mechanical fine-tuning method specifically designed for the Ax-Series. Demonstrated on the Cambridge testing rig and assembly line, the i-Pulse controls individual ink drop formation to create the ‘perfect’ drop every time with significant advances in droplet accuracy, placement and ink usage for reliable, high- speed and consistent code quality. The higher quality codes are optimized for Machine Readable Codes (MRC) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) systems, which in turn reduce reject rates.
Completely new inks have been designed for more challenging CIJ applications, including retort (sterilization) processes, frozen food applications and returnable glass bottle processes. Unique new fast-drying, ketone-free inks for flexible food packaging applications also form part of the extensive range. i-Pulse inks are designed and manufactured to recent global standards including the latest EuPIA Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for food contact material (FCM) applications.
Thanks to the latest user experience (UX) development techniques, the redesigned user interfaces are intuitive to use and include language and character options that enable operators to customize the touchscreen format and ensure ease of operation. As a result, i-Techx electronics and software achieve System Usability Scores that are comparable to smartphones.
Designed from the ground up to be Industry 4.0 ready, the Ax-Series not only integrates into existing production lines but also supports a variety of standard factory automation communication protocols, such as PACK-ML and OPC-UA. Meanwhile, the high-speed electronics enable serialization and other unique item coding applications on the fastest production lines.
The Domino Cloud is being introduced alongside the Ax-Series to provide a powerful remote diagnostics, remote monitoring and customer reporting capability using an array of integrated sensors. This predictive and proactive Domino Cloud support is provided as standard on Ax-Series as part of the Safeguard Extended Warranty, which is available for up to 7 years.
The Ax350i and Ax550i feature an IP66 sealed electronics enclosure and unique plenum air cooling system suitable for washdown conditions, while guaranteeing protection against steam and contaminants. Constant automatic monitoring and control of the ink condition through the Quality Management Module optimizes the ink for the i-Pulse printhead and promptly informs the operator when an ink, makeup or service-free i-Tech filter Module (ITM) change is required. The three-stage solvent recovery system with active gutter control minimizes solvent consumption, while the thermally engineered cabinet reduces heat build-up, extending component life.
The ITM can be replaced without tools or specialist skills by operators enabling continuous production with optimum line availability. Clean-Fill technology and colour-coded one-fit consumables eliminate the risk of spillage, and simplified overall design reduces stoppages.