Simple coding and labelling acronym guide

Confused with all the coding and labelling acronyms? Our guide explaining what LPA, LA, TIJ, TTO, CIJ, DOD and LCM all mean makes it simple.

Firstly, labelling technologies:

1) Label Printer Applicator (LPA)

Label Printer Applicators (LPAs) print variable large and small human-readable text, graphics, logos and barcode information (including 2D and linear 1D codes) onto pressure-sensitive labels and then automatically apply those labels onto cartons, pallets and some primary products. Also called “print and apply” solutions, LPAs can label a variety of substrates, such as secondary packaging boxes, plastics, metal (including steel) and timber. They are also used to print and apply RFID Smart Labels, and are ideally suited to high volumes of labels with variable barcodes, product information or graphics. Their high print resolution means barcode labels and SSCC pallet labels are fully compliant with strict GS1 and retailer quality standards, ensuring smooth flow of goods though the supply chain.

2) Label Applicator (LA)

 Label Applicators (LAs) are automated labelling systems that apply pre-printed pressure-sensitive labels onto cartons, trays and primary products. They are typically used to apply labels such as ingredient lists, nutritional panels and general product information, to flat, tapers and round surfaces. They are often used to apply pre-printed barcode labels or promotional and marketing labels onto retail packs. Without the print technology of Label Printer Applicators, LAs tend to be the perfect cost-effective alternative to the manual “slap-and-ship”, especially for barcoding, giving a professional finish with precise label placement.

And now, coding technologies:

3) Continuous Inkjet (CIJ)

 Small character continuous inkjet (CIJ) is a non-contact printing method where electrically charged droplets of ink are expelled from a nozzle at up to 120,000 droplets per second and accurately propelled onto a substrate. They are ideal for high-speed lines and irregular products in food & beverage, grocery, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and timber industries. CIJ codes variable information such as date codes, batch numbers, promotional codes, serialisation codes, product-identification codes, graphics and logos and text in upper and lower case. They are very easy to use, reliable and have a low cost of ownership because of their robust, sealed print-head, which is perfectly suited to harsher production environments.

4) Drop on Demand (DOD)

 Large Character Drop on Demand (DOD) inkjet printers can mark onto a variety of substrates, such as secondary packaging, through to timber and metal. Each print-head contains several individual valves that prints dots at regular intervals. Arranged in a single column, the valves are able to open and close independently. They form ink drops “on demand” to print characters onto the substrate as it moves adjacent to the print-head. DOD is a highly reliable and durable coding technology.

5) Thermal Transfer Overprinter (TTO)

 Thermal Transfer Overprinters (TTO) is a highly cost-effective printing solution that prints easily onto generic flexible packaging film and self-adhesive labels, producing crisp, durable print. They are commonly used to print date codes and automated barcodes onto snack foods, confectionary and fresh produce. TTOs use a high-resolution thermal print-head that melts a wax or resin-based ink from a thin thermal transfer ribbon (“foil”) coating onto the product’s surface. The thermal transfer ribbon’s smooth, waxy surface creates less friction when coding onto packaging, making it ideal for high-speed production and clear printing results. A thermal transfer barcode is highly resistant to any chemicals, humidity, UV rays, abrasion and climatic changes that product packaging may encounter along the supply chain.

6) Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) Coders

Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) Coders are renowned for their print quality, even at high line speeds. This is because they use a cartridge containing an ink reservoir and a series of resistive elements. An electrical current activates each element, which then heats the ink to create an ink droplet. The droplet is ejected out of the faceplate nozzle to land precisely on the substrate. Because the time between each firing is only 100 millionths of a second and the technology has a throw distance of 1-6mm (depending on the print-head technology employed), TIJ technology is extremely fast and will print exceptional quality. TIJ can code onto almost any substrate, including porous and non-porous surfaces, across a variety of packaging materials, such as cartons, through to industrial environments for marking timber.

7) Large Character Marking (LCM)

Another acronym you may come across is “LCM”. This stands for “large character marking” and is a feature of some inkjet technologies. Advanced DOD and hi-res technology allows easily modified character heights, from 5mm to 128mm. LCM can then be achieved by stacking several print-heads on top of each other to even make a large graphic, such as a logo.


You can find more information on product identification technologies in Matthews’ resource library and coding and labelling on the website. All information is free to download.