What Is the Best Way to Print Production Codes, Expired Codes, and Other Custom Codes?

Printing production codes, expiration dates, and other custom codes onto products is crucial for traceability, product safety, and quality control. There are several methods and technologies available for this purpose. The best method depends on the material you’re printing on, the environment, the longevity of the mark, and other specific requirements.

Here are some of the most popular methods.

5 Different Ways to Print Production, Expired and Custom Codes

1. Inkjet Printing (CIJ – Continuous Inkjet)


  • Can print on a variety of surfaces
  • Fast and adaptable
  • Can print real-time information.


  • Maintenance can be slightly higher
  • Ink can be expensive
  • May not be as durable on certain surfaces.


2. Thermal Transfer Overprinters (TTO):


  • High resolution
  • Good for flexible packaging
  • Can be quite durable depending on the ribbon used.


  • Requires a ribbon (an added consumable)
  • Not as fast as some other methods.

3. Thermal Inkjet (TIJ):


  • High resolution
  • Good for cartons
  • Less maintenance than CIJ.


  • More suited for porous surfaces
  • Ink cartridges might need frequent replacement.


4. Laser Coding:


  • Very durable
  • No consumables needed (like ink)
  • Good for glass, plastics, and metal
  • It’s permanent and difficult to tamper with.


  • Higher initial investment
  • Might cause damage to certain materials due to heat.


5. Label Printers:


  • Versatile
  • Can include a lot of information, including barcodes or QR codes.


  • Adds another material (the label) that may not be suitable for all products or environments.

How to Choose The Right Method?

1. Consider the Material.

Different materials require different methods. For example, plastic and glass are well-suited for laser coding, while flexible packaging might benefit from TTO or CIJ.

2. Think About Durability

If the product will be exposed to moisture, friction, or sunlight, you’ll want a method that’s long-lasting and won’t easily fade or rub off.

3. Speed of Production

Some methods are faster than others. If you’re running a high-speed production line, you’ll need a method that can keep up.

4. Cost

Balance the initial investment against ongoing costs. For instance, laser printers are expensive upfront but have little to no consumables, while inkjet printers may have recurring ink costs.

5. Variable Data

If you’re printing variable data (e.g., sequential batch numbers or real-time expiration dates), ensure your chosen method can handle it.

6. Regulations and Standards

Ensure that the inks or methods used comply with any industry or regional regulations, especially for food and pharmaceuticals.


Before making a decision, it’s a good idea to consult with suppliers, get demonstrations, and even test different methods on your products to see which fits best.

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