Xerital Develops Barcodes For Sanitaryware Sector

Xerital has developed high-temperature ceramic barcodes to suit the requirements of sanitaryware manufacturers. All the necessary technology - not only with regard to the in-process performance of the barcodes themselves but also the formulation and setup of the associated software and hardware - has been optimised to provide customers with the best solution at a reasonable price, according to the company.

Samples for evaluation can be dispatched anywhere in the world within a matter of days and the lead time for production quantities of the barcodes is around 14-20 days. Xerital worked in conjunction with Italy-based SRC Engineering for the provision of the complete concept for sanitaryware manufacturers of any size or complexity. SRC Engineering is a ceramic technology company specialising in the supply and installation of production control systems to sanitaryware companies throughout the world.

Its fully integrated technology allows for the complete monitoring and tracking of the production using Xerital barcodes applied to each piece after casting. The system, developed by SRC, provides information on individual pieces and, used as part of a statistical process control system, it allows for losses to be monitored and intervention via corrective-action strategies to be implemented at an early stage, saving time, money and excessive scrappage. Used in this way, it is necessary for the high-temperature barcodes to be fired onto pieces of ceramic ware; for this reason, they are stable to 1,250C and beyond.

The specialised printing technology developed for this in the UK is suitable for producing a full range of sequential ceramic barcodes, which retain their strong black colour after firing. The print medium is comprised of formulated ceramic pigments and via digitally processed laser printing. Xerital is able to supply fit-for-purpose sequential barcodes in all standard formats. Generally, these are supplied as waterslide decals (transfers), which are applied to greenware, such as after demoulding and prior to the ware drying stage.

The ability to code each individual piece of ware allows manufacturers to sense any problem that may occur in the different steps of the production cycle. Coding the product means that it is simple and straightforward to manage ware handling, especially with the benefit of today's advanced ware storage systems, added to the fact that the plant manager always has the real-time story of every single piece and statistics on the whole production batch, shift after shift, day after day.

All kinds of data are collected by association of the information to be traced and reported in a printed list obtained by the plant management to the barcode label applied onto the piece. Flexibility has been worked in to the available solutions so that data can be collected using a local-area network with PCs in the factory and portable standard barcode readers for data collection in the PCs or, alternatively, using portable wireless barcode readers for direct data collection in the main server.

Data can also be collected by touch-screen PCs; this is said to be helpful at the sorting step of the factory line. All necessary characteristics are bound to each product using barcodes applied to the pieces; in this way, each piece has a progressive number and it can be traced during its entire life in the factory. The barcode application follows the casting of the valid pieces. At the end of this process, the label reading is carried out with the terminal in the following way: set code; item code; dimension code; and barcode. Set, item and dimension codes are read from a printed table and this is the only information needed for the system to bind the barcode with the piece produced.

Shortcuts are available to minimise this reading process, such as when there are many repeated consecutive sets, items or dimensions in the casting lines. The casting date is automatically bound to the single piece/barcode when the information is downloaded to the server every day. It is possible to add other information to each single piece by reading the related barcode (always from a table printed with the software) as follows: mould; casting shift; casting line; and casting operator. The system can also be used more widely to further good effect. For example, it can mark those pieces not valid after casting (scrap).

On these pieces, the barcode is not applied, as during the reading process a special code (the zero) and the cause of scrap are associated by reading a table printed with the programme. This special code informs the system to record these pieces (without a number) as they are important for the production statistics. Coding the moulds from which the pieces are obtained allows the plant manager to glean from statistics possible problems, even in the moulds installed on the casting machines.

This level of information and response can be achieved with any of the current sanitaryware plant layouts - from the older, traditional types through to the technologically advanced ones. According to Xerital, it produces bespoke barcodes and markings to suit individual requirements and works closely with each client to achieve the best results. Colour logos can be incorporated into the label design and these barcodes can be supplied to give a glaze-free finish or for over-glazing with clear or transparent glaze.


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