Continuous Inkjet and Thermal Inkjet: What is the difference?

As the two predominantly utilised coding technologies currently available, this blog aims to shed some light on how CIJ and TIJ both work, how they are used and their benefits.

When it comes to batch coding products, there are a number of technologies available; Laser, Thermal Transfer, Drop on Demand to name just a few. But it’s Thermal Inkjet that has come a long way over the past decade and is now challenging Continuous Inkjet’s dominance of the market. As the two predominantly utilised coding technologies currently available, this blog aims to shed some light on how they both work, how they are used and their benefits.


With Continuous Inkjet (CIJ), a high-pressure pump pushes ink through nozzles on the printhead, creating a continuous stream of ink drops. This stream of ink is then broken up into a large number of ink droplets through vibration. Once the droplets are formed, specific droplets are charged by electrodes. The stream of droplets then passes through deflector plates which create an electrostatic field.

The charged drops are deflected as they move through the deflector plates, to be ejected from the print head and placed on the product to form the required message. Uncharged drops are not deflected and returned to the CIJ ink system.



Coding Food TinAn industrial CIJ printer is typically used for coding and marking products and packaging during production and packaging processes. CIJ printers print a range of data on products with typical applications including expiry dates, batch and production information, serial numbers, and promotional codes.


One of the main advantages of CIJ printers is that they are non-contact - they do not need to come in contact with the product when coding onto it. Ink drops are deflected from the print head and land on the product as it passes the print head. This makes CIJ printers a good choice for coding fragile products.

CIJ print heads are mounted at a distance from the product. This distance is flexible, which allows for printing onto curved or uneven surfaces. If you need to print onto cans, bottles, or pipes, a CIJ printer can be an ideal solution.

CIJ print-heads can work with a wide variety of general-purpose and speciality inks to accommodate a multitude of applications:

Based on a winning, tried-and-tested design, the N-SERIES range of CIJ printers can be found at the heart of many global packaging and manufacturing facilities. This resilient range is able to withstand some of the harshest environments and is often considered second-to-none.


The Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) process utilises ink cartridges as opposed to the replenishable tanks used by CIJ printers. Through a process of 'drop ejection', TIJ printers propel ink droplets using heat. The ink is heated to a temperature of 340°C which generates a bubble. As this bubble expands, it propels the ink to the surface of the material being printed on. Once the ink droplet leaves the ink nozzle, the bubble collapses and creates a vacuum for the process to repeat.


DOD box


TIJ is the best choice for printing on porous surfaces such as paper, cardboard, wood, and fabric. Dry time is very good even with mild inks. These applications lend themselves to bolder text, higher resolution, and sometimes bar codes.


TIJ, by comparison, is low maintenance and cost-effective method for producing high-resolution codes on a variety of surfaces. TIJ technology is also highly dependable, being a newer and much simpler technology than other printing methods such as CIJ; the only ongoing cost of TIJ printers is replacement cartridges.

In addition to reduced upkeep costs, the simplicity of TIJ technology allows for the machines to be compact and easily mobile compared to other printer types. The portability of TIJ printers makes them a fantastic solution for applications where there is a requirement to fit into tighter spaces or production processes with bulky materials which are difficult to move, such as lumber production, construction material production and automotive/aerospace part manufacturing.

We hope that this blog has helped to shed some light on two of the most utilised coding technologies currently available. Here at Needham Ink Technologies, we have decades of experience in providing reliable coding solutions and consumables you can rely on.