How to make the best inkjet technology choice for your job

Aug 31, 2020 by Mark Dingley

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A Product Manufacturer’s Guide to the 4 Types of Inkjet Coding and Marking Printers

The inkjet printer has come a long way since Lord Kelvin patented his delightfully Victorian contraption, The Syphon Recorder, back in 1867, which used an inkjet nozzle to record telegraph signals as a continuous line.

In our nearly 40 years as leaders in label and code technologies, Matthews has watched inkjet technology evolve. From bulky printers with limited applications that were hard to maintain and required costly consumables to the versatile, efficient, and economic inkjet coders and markers we use today.

Just as your manufacturing business has a niche, the four main inkjet technologies have applications they are best suited for, let’s take a look to see which inkjet is best for your business.

What are the 4 types of inkjet coders and markers and their uses?

In no particular order, the four main inkjet printer technologies used for coding and marking products and packaging are:


Small Character Continuous Inkjet (CIJ)

Small character continuous inkjet (CIJ) is a non-contact printing method used to provide high speed, high accuracy, consistently reliable product marking, and coding on a moving production line.

The system expels up to 120,000 electrically charged droplets of ink from a print-head nozzle through an electric field to precisely directing them onto products or packaging, producing precise, high-quality codes.

CIJ is ideal for

  • Variable information, such as product identification codes, batch numbers, and use-by dates
  • Graphics, such as your logo
  • Small character text
  • Primary packaging at high speeds

Not recommended for

While it is certainly possible to print barcodes using CIJ inkjet technology, major retailers don’t tend to accept it, barcode labels are the preferred method for generic cartons in Australia.



CIJ printers are ideal for printing little codes on high-speed lines, and various packaging sizes, shapes, and substrates. Sectors using CIJ include food and beverage, grocery, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and timber – to name a few.


Thermal Inkjet (TIJ)

A thermal inkjet (TIJ) coder uses a standard ink cartridge system, removing the need for bottled ink or solvents, making them clean and simple to use.

TIJ printers use a drop ejection process: each cartridge containing an ink reservoir with a series of resistor elements, activated by electrical current, to heat a 0.1-micrometer thick film of ink to around 340°C. An ink droplet is formed and then ejected out of the faceplate nozzle precisely onto the substrate.

With only 100 millionths of a second between each firing, and a throw distance of 1-6mm depending on the print-head technology in use, TIJ technology is high speed. It will print exceptional quality, error-free coding, even at high line speeds.

TIJ is Ideal for

  • Carton coding
  • Porous and non-porous packaging for food, beverage, household products, and more
  • Use in some industrial environments, including timber marking and grading

Not recommended for

Wet environments or high vibration production lines.



TIJ ink cartridges can print on films, flexible packaging, cardboard, and corrugated surfaces even with a glossy finish making these printers a great choice for coding and marking packaging for food, pharmaceuticals, and other consumer products..


Drop-on-demand Inkjet (DOD)

Drop on Demand (DOD) Inkjet printers offer large-character printing heights and the ability to use a wide variety of inks.

Each print-head contains several individual valves (typically 7, 16, or 32) arranged in a single column. These valves open and close independently to form ink drop ‘dots’ on demand. As your product moves adjacent to the print-head, these dots are transferred resulting in printed characters.

DOD printers can make low to medium resolution marks over heights ranging from 2.5mm to 128mm — or even higher when print-heads are linked together. These printers are an extremely versatile and easy way to print codes and marks onto a wide range of substrates, including timber, cardboard, and other secondary packaging.

DOD printers are ideal for

  • Secondary packaging and carton coding
  • PFibre cartons and shrink-wrap, such as product descriptions and batch numbers
  • Hardware product marking, g. timber, metal products, steel pipes, roofing, concrete, and plastic substrates
  • 2D codes on a variety of packaging materials

Not recommended for

Most retail packaging, due to lower printing resolution.



DOD inkjet printer design allows them to withstand harsh environments with dust, shocks, and vibrations. As such, they tend to be the printer of choice for more demanding industrial applications, such as printing onto timber and hardware, plasterboard, metals, concrete, plastics, foam and packaging products.


High-Resolution Inkjet

High-Resolution Inkjet Printers use piezoelectric technology to provide optimum print resolution and high-speed printing for large or small mark sizes.

Each nozzle has a piezo crystal located at the back of the ink reservoir. When activated by an electrical charge, the crystal vibrates. As it vibrates inward a tiny amount of ink is forced out of the nozzle, when it vibrates out, more ink is pulled back into the reservoir to replace the discharged ink.

High-Resolution Inkjet Printers create super-crisp images, with print heights of up to 100mm from a single print-head; these can stack together to achieve over 900mm in print height.

These printers are ideal when you need the highest quality print on corrugated boxes and other porous materials.

High-Resolution Inkjet is Ideal for

  • Barcodes, graphics, and text on primary and secondary packaging
  • Specialised timber applications


Typically designed for large character coding, generic package coding onto cartons, and corrugated boxes, High-Resolution Inkjet printers are suitable for use in a variety of environments. They are also scalable with the ability to add features to grow with your business.


Why choose inkjet coders and markers?

Whichever inkjet technology you choose will deliver substantial benefits to your business processes and bottom line, because they are:

  • Versatile: Inkjet printers can print date codes, batch codes, text, and even graphics onto a wide variety of packaging sizes, shapes, and substrates, from primary and secondary packaging to timber and steel.
  • Fast: With a wide range of printing speeds on offer, you can find an inkjet coder for even the most rapid production line.
  • Low maintenance: The quality design of modern inkjet machines means minimal downtime and requires little operator intervention, so your lines keep moving.
  • Low cost: Depending on the machine, inkjet coders can be incredibly cost-effective. Matthews’ range of Linx CIJ coders is renowned globally for their ease of use, reliability, and low cost of ownership thanks to their robust, sealed print-head, ideal for harsher environments. Of all the inkjet technologies, DOD printers tend to have lower capital and operational costs.
  • Exceptional quality printers: Thermal printer and thermal inkjet coders especially have excellent print quality, even at high speeds.
  • Easy to use: Inkjet coders are very straightforward to set up, easy to use, and maintain.

Need expert advice?


If you are looking for an inkjet printing technology designed for a specific application, no matter how large or small, give Matthews’ a call!

Our team of intelligent identification specialists can offer tailored advice to meet all your coding and marking requirements.