How to print and code in explosive atmospheres

  • By Luigi Pistilli
  • April 06, 2016
  • Industry
  • Industrial

Not all production and packaging environments share the same characteristics. Products that are made with, contain or are packaged using substances like glues, paints, varnishes or chemicals can create explosive atmospheres. When certain levels of flammable gases, mists, vapours or combustible dusts mix with the air, all that’s required to cause an explosion is a source of ignition.

Such as a printer.

Printers - like all electrical items - can generate hot surfaces or sparks which can ignite an explosive atmosphere. They also use flammable materials which can exacerbate the risk of explosions. That creates an environment that’s exceptionally dangerous (possibly even fatal) for staff. Even minor explosions - if there is such a thing - can destroy products and damage your premises.

So how do you add the batch, date and traceability information necessary for tracing your products in the supply chain? By following carefully defined EU regulations and finding the right printing solution and partner.

Protecting your environment

ATEX is the name commonly given to the European directives designed to control explosive atmospheres. (More in-depth information on ATEX is here.) Employers have a legal obligation to follow the necessary regulation to make their workplace as safe as possible.

Explosive areas must be classified into zones, with each zone given a rating that’s commensurate with the risk. All safety measures are designed to reduce the risk of explosion through minimising the release of dangerous substances and controlling sources of ignition.

Using the correct equipment is a huge part of this.

Getting the right printing equipment

To be safe for use in explosive atmospheres, printing equipment requires specialist design. There are three main ways to reduce the risk of explosion:

  • Seal electrical equipment so that the explosive atmosphere cannot come into contact with electrical components
  • Reduce the power of electrical equipment
  • De-energise electrical equipment where a fault or an explosive atmosphere is detected

Other ways to reduce the risk of ignition when printing include substituting solvent-based products for water-based products, avoiding low-flashpoint solvents (such as MEK), reducing solvent vapour, avoiding static generation by limiting liquid flow speeds, ensuring printers are properly earthed and following maintenance schedules for all zoned area printing equipment.

Printing products that comply with ATEX regulations are marked with the EX symbol. It’s a marker that the printer meets essential health and safety requirements and has undergone appropriate conformity procedures - including independent testing and certification for use in explosive atmospheres. (Manufacturers of printing equipment can self-certify their equipment for use in the least hazardous explosive atmospheres.)

Where to find ATEX certified printing equipment

Domino is the only inkjet manufacturer currently providing ATEX certified printers for use on production lines in explosive atmospheres. There are two systems available, both of which are compliant for use in Zone 2 environments.

The first option is the A300SE. This printer in encased in a stainless steel cabinet. It can be operated just like any other regular inkjet printer, but the casing protects the electrical components from coming in to contact with the explosive atmosphere. Additional safety measures include a purge and pressurising system, which features a visual alarm to draw the operator’s attention if low pressure occurs.

Alternatively we can provide an i-Tech printing system, which are among the leading continuous inkjet printers on the market - high quality, easy to maintain and with extremely low TCO. This setup further minimises the risk of explosion, because only the print head is housed in the risk zone. The printer cabinet stays outside the zoned area and is connected to the print head via a 6 metre cable that runs through a hole in the wall. Our unique QuickDesign software makes it easy to network the printer so that it can be programmed from anywhere - minimising the need for staff to enter explosive zones. 

Want to know more?

If you would like to know more about adding ATEX certified printers to your production line, we would be happy to answer any questions.

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