Printing on Plastic Pipe: Laser vs Inkjet vs Embossing

Joey MezistranoMachinery & Equipments, Pipe Extrusion

laser printing on plastic pipe

Printing on plastic pipe, or commonly referred to as pipe marking or coding, is an important part of pipe manufacturing. It ensures proper pipe identification in the field and can also help companies differentiate their products on the market. Read on to discover the importance of pipe marking, the most common pipe printing solutions, and how to choose the best option for your business.

Why is Plastic Pipe Marking Important?
Designation & Identification

High quality, long lasting codes are required throughout a pipe’s lifetime, they help identify and mark specific pipes performance attributes and branding. Markings include pipe information such as diameter, wall thickness, temperature and pressure rating, standards compliance (eg. DIN), identification code, barcode, country of origin, and company logo.

Safety & Maintenance

Plastic pipe comes in a wide variety of types to service an array of diverse industries. From commercial applications such as drip irrigation and leach mining, to common applications such as tap water piping and residential sewage drain systems. Depending on the pipe type some installations are typically expected to last as long as 50 to 100 years.

Inadequate pipe marking can result in costly installation or repair delays, pose health and safety concerns (eg. due to contaminated water supplies), and even be potentially harmful to the environment. Plastic pipe marking can provide a high level of traceability in case the plastic pipes integrity is compromised. Pipe with inadequate labeling can lead to it being misused in applications for which it’s not suitable. In case of maintenance, proper identification is key to avoid mix ups or ineffective repairs.

Market Differentiation

Pipe marking has the potential to help differentiate a product from the competition. For one, it simplifies the work of pipe sales points and stores. Moreover, it provides end users assurance that it’s properly rated for their application, contributing to perceived quality, increasing trust, and sales.

Available Pipe Extrusion Printing Technologies

Several solutions for printing on plastic extrusion pipe are available. And techniques for pipe identification can go beyond just printing. For example the DRTS 3-layer cross head can add colored stripes on the pipe’s outer surface during the extrusion process. However for the scope of this article, we focus on three prominent pipe coding methods: laser printing, inkjet printing, and embossing.

Laser Printing Machines

Laser printers utilize laser beams that mark the pipe at the point of contact with the pipe surface. This technique permanently etches the material surface, without requiring physical contact, inks, solvents, or other supplies. Laser printing on plastic pipe works on both white and black pipe materials. Many types exist, but PE pipe laser printers and PVC pipe laser printing machines are most common.

Industrial Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printing is an ink-based marking method that works on virtually any extruded pipe surface, and operates in high temperature environments. Moreover, it uses pigmented (colored) fluids facilitating bright, easy-to-read coding on both dark or light-coloured pipe extrusions. Lastly, inkjet can usually print larger marks or more lines of text compared to the rest of the pipe coding techniques. This versatility is what makes inkjet printing the most widely used pipe extrusion printing technology.

Embossing

Embossing is one of the oldest pipe coding methods. It marks plastic pipe by stamping it with pre-arranged metal digits using heat and pressure. This method creates permanent marks and doesn’t require the use of inks or other consumables. However it requires coming into full contact with the produced pipe, the markings can create potential weak spots on the pipe, and aren’t as clearly legible compared to other marking methods.

Which Method Is Suitable for Your Production Line?

Every pipe marking method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the correct pipe printing method for your application, requires taking several factors into consideration. These include types of produced pipe, extrusion speed, maintenance and consumables requirements, and of course budget limitations.

If you operate in a developing country or remote location could mean that consumable supplies and technical support come at an increased cost. In this case embossing or laser printing would be preferable, the two methods that don’t require consumables or high maintenance. On the other hand, if you want to sell your pipe products to a developed market and differentiate from the competition, you may require colorful or detailed pipe marking, so inkjet printing and laser are your best choice. Lastly, if you’re on a tight budget a viable option could be to purchase a used or refurbished pipe marking machine.

Consult a Pipe Manufacturing Expert

DRTS has more than 30 years of experience, setting up hundreds of plastic pipe manufacturing lines in factories all over the world. For expert help on the best pipe marking solution for your application, request a free consultation and speak directly with a DRTS industry expert.

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