Sherwood Technology, which provides chemistry solutions for a wide variety of applications including laser imaging and printing, has developed a so-called virtual labelling application which allows images, including barcodes, logos and graphics, to be transferred directly onto any packaging surface.
According to the Cheshire-based manufacturer, its patented DataLase imaging technology removes the need to use adhesive labels on packaging and can also be formed through a transparent overlying film - making it ideal for use on products such as yoghurts and dairy-based beverages.
The manufacturer claims that the technology uses non-toxic, environmentally friendly ink transferred by a low-power CO2 laser, making it safe for use in the food and beverage industry. When the ink, coating or additive undergoes a simple chemical colour change, it creates a stable, high-resolution image.
Traditionally, adhesive labelling solutions have proved slow and complicated, relying on high maintenance thermal transfer or inkjet printers to produce labels.
Andrew Jackson, application marketing manager at Sherwood told DairyReporter.com that "solvent based labelling is an not ideal solution for dairy packagers, particularly those who produce chilled food items, as adhesive labels have a tendency to peel off".
Recently the company signed a licensing agreement with Domino, the largest international producer of CO2 laser-marking systems, in a bid to rollout its patented DataLase technology worldwide.
The licensing agreement between the two companies has resulted in contracts with a number of European clients, including German-based Müller Dairies, which installed date-coding marking equipment used across its dairy product range.
Although there are substantial costs involved in converting from adhesive labelling to laser-marking systems, Jackson believes that the long-term benefits for food and drink packagers are obvious. "As well as lowering consumable costs on items such as labels, DataLase also avoids thermal transfer, which can be high maintenance for food and drink producers."
Steve Kelly, managing director for Sherwood, commented: "Not only is the technology considerably cheaper to use and maintain than previous applications, but it also virtually eliminates downtime by removing the need to print and apply labels."
It also " provides producers with the opportunity to increase their average daily output," he added.