Coding Machines and Marking Machines

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Codes on packaging are a vital part of multiple industry sectors, displaying essential information for consumers and manufacturers, as well as meeting legislative requirements. 

Approaches to coding and marking are constantly changing to meet the changing demands of end-users, the supply chain and the law. And with continual advances in technology, coding and marking requirements continue to be in a state of flux. 

As a result, specifying coding and marking machines needs to be based on an up-to-date view of your options. Ideally, you will be able to accommodate flexibility and adaptability for future needs. 

Over 80 PPMA member companies are experts in Coding and Marking Machines. Find the expert for you with our Machinery Finder, which includes full contact details for each one.

Coding and Marking Considerations

Topics to keep front of mind as you weigh up your options on coding machines include the following: 

  • Materials 
    What substrate(s) do you need to code? Manufacturers use a plethora of different substrates and shapes in modern packaging including paper, card, plastics, bags, tubes, pouches, medicines, glass, tape, tin, foil, film and many more. It is vital to have a clear view of the coding and marking tasks you need your equipment to perform. 
  • Speed 
    As in all manufacturing processes, balancing speed, efficiency and accuracy are critical. 
  • Legibility 
    The quality and readability of the codes you produce are vital and in some cases will be covered by detailed legislation. 
  • Data features 
    Data driven codes come in many forms including variable data, embedded data, QR codes and graphics. 

What are the types of Coding and Marking Machine?

There are two basic methods of adding a code to a product or package – either by applying a label (contact), or by using an inkjet or laser to print the code without being in contact with the product or package (non-contact). 

There is a whole range of machines and equipment carrying out these functions, from simple mechanical stamps or overprinters to sophisticated ink jet and laser coders applying computer generated data. These machines are usually attached to a larger packaging machine such as a cartoner, filler or wrapper. 

  • Inkjet Coding 
    Sets a jet of ink onto packages as they pass in a production line. Includes options for larger characters, porous materials, wet or uneven surfaces such as cheese or fruit.
  • Laser Coders and Laser Coding
    Programmed laser beam burns code onto packages. Can be used for plastic, glass, paper, cartons and more.
  • Thermal Transfer Printers and Printing Machines
    High speed printing on paper and other materials using a transfer ribbon or foil. Includes barcode labels, plastics and clothing.
  • Wet Ink Coding Machines 
    By means of a heated die or inkjet.
  • Emboss Coding 
    Marks a package with raised type.

Modern inkjet and laser coders can be programmed to carry a large amount of variable information such as lot number, date code, and sequential coding based on a unique serial number which is recorded in a secure database. A range of styles, typefaces and character sizes can be used and changed easily especially in comparison with older mechanical devices.

Sophisticated software means coders can be programmed to create a different mark for every product to create a track-and-trace feature on a pack. This helps to prevent counterfeiting. Track-and-trace features can also be used to ease product recall, monitor product quality and track products internally. Examples include sequential or non-sequential codes, a covert code or a machine-readable code.

Both small and large character inkjet coding machines are available. The former tend to be used for individual pack information and can be effective at high speeds, such as drink can lines. The latter tends to be used in warehousing and distribution on transit packages and pallets.



Find full information about PPMA Member Companies who are experts in Coding Machines and Marking Machines through PPMA Machine Finder.

Common Coding and Marking Machine Terminology

  • Bar codes
  • Data capture
  • Dot matrix
  • Scribing
  • Drop on demand
  • Ink reservoir
  • Stamp
  • Die
  • Ink reel
  • Ink droplets
  • Laser tube
  • Print head
  • Embossing
  • Large character
  • Small character
  • Track & trace
  • Programmable
  • Overprinting