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UFI regulation and the coding technologies that can help

  • By Chris Thorpe
  • May 22, 2018
  • Cleaning Products

Under new EU legislation, manufacturers of products that contain hazardous mixtures must add a special sixteen-digit code to their product labelling. This code links to a central database that spells out the safety advice relating to each hazardous mixture. Whilst most manufacturer’s will likely want to print these at source, the ability to print this data variably on-line potentially adds flexibility, versatility and security to manufacturer’s production and processes. Here’s an introduction to the upcoming regulations and a guide to the technologies that may allow you to comply, all whilst maintaining an efficient and cost-effective production line.

UFI regulation aiming to help save lives

From bleach to sink unblocker, there are thousands of everyday items that contain hazardous chemicals. To help combat the danger, each EU member state has something known as a poison centre. Its purpose is to give advice to health personnel in emergency situations, when poisonous or hazardous substances have been ingested. Each year the EU’s poison centres receive around 600,000 calls related to different kinds of emergencies. Nearly half of these emergencies involve children.

In an emergency, quick access to the right information saves lives. To make it easier for poison centres to provide this information, manufacturers of products containing hazardous mixtures will soon be required to add a Unique Formula Identifier (UFI) to product labelling. This identifier - a sixteen-digit code that is specific for every product formula - will create a direct and unambiguous link between the mixture they place on the market and the safety information relating to that mixture held by poison centres.

The deadlines for compliance with the new regulation are:

  • 1st January 2020 for products used by consumers
  • 1st January 2021 for products used by professionals
  • 1st January 2024 for products used on an industrial scale

Which technologies can help?

There are a number of different types of coding technology available for potentially adding UFI codes to your products for compliance. Finding the right technology for your application will depend on several factors within your production environment - for example the substrates you are working with, the products you are making and the speed of your production lines. Taking the time to research the technologies that best fit your specific production environment will help you comply with the new legislation while maintaining optimum efficiency and profitability.

Coding hardware

As a manufacturer it’s likely you are handling an increasing number of SKUs and depend on high-output to stay profitable. Speed and flexibility in your choice of coding technology is critical.

One technology that can help is Thermal Transfer Overprinting (TTO), which is capable of producing variable codes at high speed and up to 300 dpi. However, while TTO is ideal if you are working with flexible packaging, it may be more cost-effective to look at coding technologies that are more flexible if you are working with multiple substrates.

>> Choosing a thermal transfer overprinter supplier: 7 key considerations

>> Introducing quality TTO printing that’s better by nature

Thermal Ink Jet (TIJ) systems use solvent and water-based inks to print codes at line speeds of up to 300m/min. The ability to integrate small printheads into both single lane and multi-lane applications makes TIJ technology an efficient choice for a variety of substrates. You can use multiple print heads to deliver individual codes from a single controller, potentially unlocking significant cost and productive benefits. However with TIJ technology you must apply product coding before filling the packaging and require the printhead to be very close to the area being marked.

Laser coding provides yet another option: ideal if your production speeds are fast and your production rates are high. These systems are increasingly compact, and the reduced use of consumables potentially provides a faster return on investment in the long term when compared to traditional coding technologies. Yet the upfront cost of laser coding technology can be high, particularly as you will be advised to install safety infrastructure - such as guarding - to protect your production staff from exposure to optical radiation.

>> Keeping your staff safe when coding with lasers

A perennial coding favourite across so many sectors and industries is Continuous Ink Jet (CIJ) technology. It offers speed, clarity and a lot of flexibility in terms of choice of substrates. CIJ technology also allows for coding onto the finished product, so it can be retrofitted to existing production lines.

>> Made in Cambridge: World’s most advanced CIJ coders launched in the UK

Coding software

The UFIs are to be created using the Poison Centres’ online UFI Generator. However, it’s possible to integrate this UFI Generator into your own IT system. That’s particularly useful - not to mention far more efficient - if you are managing large numbers of hazardous formulations that demand the creation of multiple UFIs.

QuickDesign - a Domino software solution - is a way of seamlessly designing labels, adding unique product codes and controlling your coding operations on the production floor. This highly automated way of working makes for enhanced cohesion, faster product setup and minimises reworks: a single application for designing labels, printing and managing your coding operations. This may be a potential solution for managing this UFI traceability challenge - for example, you may decide to store the UFI number in an accessible location for QuickDesign to access the data (for example an internal/external product database or provided via a file transfer (MES/ERP). Manufacturers would have to ensure the UFI number provided is correct. Such project details would depend on your manufacturing environment and variables.

On-site label production

Adding UFI codes to pre-existing product labels is one thing. But what if you had the ability to quickly and cost-effectively create your own product labelling from scratch? Domino’s N610i digital ink jet label press is highly productive, reliable and built to make light work of multiple job changes - making it perfect for manufacturers handling multiple SKUs or working with several different brands.

The Domino N610i is capable of printing up to seven colours at 600dpi ‘native’ print resolution with operating speeds of up to 75m/min (246ft/min) or around 3,000m (9,900ft) per hour. The N610i enables  you to print high-quality finished labels in a single pass, incorporating variable data printing -such as UFI numbers - integrated into your label designs for each product.

>> 5 ways the N610i label press can enhance your profits

>> 5 reasons the N610i is a high-performance label press

Which coding technologies are best for your business?

Identifying the best technologies to help your business comply with UFI regulations isn’t easy - legislation frequently requires change management. Making the best choices for your bottom line requires a nuanced appreciation of the opportunities and limitations presented by different coding technologies together with an understanding of your specific production environment. For help joining the dots, ask the experts at Domino. We are a global leader in coding and printing technology and have created some of the most advanced coding systems available. From the simple to the sophisticated, we can help you find the best technology for your business and obtain compliance. Get in touch.

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