Coding & Marking

ICE Interactive Coding Equipment
Markem Imaje
Cobalt Systems Ltd
Domino Printing


Machines which apply a code, (including bar codes), dates and other variable or unique information to a package or transit container. There are two basic methods: contact or non-contact; and programmable and non-programmable. (See also Print & Apply and Weigh Price Labelling).

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.

Modern ink jet and laser coders can be programmed to carry a large amount of variable information such as lot number, date code; 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 ink jet 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.

Common 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