Variable Data on Pharma Labels

Variable printing on pharma labelsWith the increased demand for item level serialization of pharmaceutical products (the new rules having finally been passed) and the increase in barcoding, pharmaceutical packagers often have to look at ways of adding variable text and barcodes to primary product labels.

Traditionally, pharma labels are imprinted with date and lot codes right on the labeling system – usually using hot stamp printers. While the hot stamp imprinters are fast and can (if correctly set up) produce good print quality, the fact they use steel type characters makes them unsuitable for printing on-demand variable data.

A good alternative to hot stamp printing is to switch to digital thermal transfer technology – not a printer like a Zebra or Datamax, but an inline Thermal Transfer Overprinter (TTO).

thermal transfer coding on filmsThese TTO machines are very compact – not much bigger than a conventional hot stamp imprinter – and are specifically designed to print variable data, such as text, linear and 2D barcodes and graphics onto labels and films.

Compact 32d TTO

Compact 32d TTO & nifty interface

I remember many years ago being involved in some of the first TTO installations in the US pharmaceutical industry and the printers at that time were really not up for the job (I think that is where all my grey hair originated!). Fast forward to today and TTO devices such as our IDT Compact 32 are perfect to drop in as replacements for obsolete hot stamp printers.

The print width of 1.5 inches, means that the Compact 32 matches the print area of the most commonly used hot stamps from companies such as Norwood/Allen and Open Date. The small physical size means that it can often be installed using the existing brackets. Unlike earlier TTO printers, the Compact 32 doesn’t need to have a factory compressed air supply, install, connect and it is ready to go.

32D TTO Overprinter on LSI by ID Technology Labeler

Because the Compact 32 is network enabled, it can be controlled from within a web browser – a nifty touch screen interface is available as well. Pharmaceutical serialization is going to need GS1 Datamatrix barcoding – the ID Technology TTO printer is a simple way to introduce these codes into your labeling process.

With the changes in pharmaceutical labeling on the horizon, this might be a good time to think about updating your in-line coding to  digital printing.

How are you addressing the need for viable data in your labeling operations? Contact us today at: 888-438-3242 Option#3 or you can email me directly at We’ll get you in touch with one of our specialists, right in your area! – we love talking labels and coding!

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