Clear Code®: Next generation coding experience

20 Jul 2021

Several years ago, in addition to preparing for the Drug Supply Chain Security Act’s serialization deadline, our customer, a pharmaceutical contract manufacturer (CMO), began to focus on improving its pharmaceutical packaging capabilities. Among other challenges, our customer was experiencing difficulties with its ink jet/laser ablation on cartons. Moreover, the quality was inconsistent in terms of printing and production timeliness. This CMO company recognised that, with the first U.S. serialisation deadline looming (which at that time was November 2017), it needed to address the problem expediently and effectively. 

The customer approached Essentra Packaging in Clayton, (formerly 3C! Packaging). Aware that Essentra Packaging was well-known for working with customers to resolve packaging codification issues, the Director of Engineering asked Essentra to help the company improve its printing precision prior to DSCSA enactment.

The CMO began working closely with the Essentra Packaging team to develop a system which incorporated the innovative Clear Code® system, making it better able overcome color and coding problems (including discoloration). 

Clear Code® is Essentra Packaging’s next-generation coding system that significantly enhances the customer serialisation and coding experience. By employing a low or high wattage CO2, fibre or UV laser, and a proprietary colour change technology, Clear Code® offers a high-contrast imaging on robust coating that provides a superior quality image tailored to Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Vision Systems.

The Clear Code® process has significant advantages over traditional inkjet coding, thermal transfer, and laser etching applications. The Clear Code® process:

  • Delivers superior scuff resistance and image adhesion versus competing approaches.

  • Is compatible with the industry’s full range of suitable substrates, from folding cartons and inserts to labels and all flexibles, including Tyvek, as well as consistent with UDI system.

  • Has proven itself to be the preferred laser imaging coding of industry-leading laser equipment and OCR vision system companies

  • Provides high contrast & clarity of imaged code that increases production efficiencies.

  • Minimal dwell time results in significantly faster line speed.

  • Fewer production line rejects due to vision system failures coding.

  • Is fully compatible with other imprint technologies such as thermal transfer, hot stamp, continuous Inkjet and Thermal Ink Jet. 

  • Is specifically formulated for customised application.

  • Produces no degradation of the code image in heat, humidity, cold storage and cryogenic environments.

  • Avoids dust particles in the packing lines, which are normally associated with ablation. 

  • Is environmentally-friendly because it does not need additional consumables. 

Clear Code® implementation

Our customer needed to use its existing Thermal Ink Jets for lot and date code printing whilst validating the new Clear Code® technology in its packing lines. Since Clear Code® is compatible with all imprint technologies, it allowed them to continue production and validate the new serialisation lines simultaneously. The use of a unique feature of imprint compatibility offers customers product standardisation so they don’t have to customise packaging for specific imprint technology on their production lines.


At the end of the implementation process, the CMO was extremely pleased with the results achieved. Having converted the whole coding system to laser marking and run the system commercially for about two years, the company is now producing high-quality clean print at much faster speeds than before. The reject rate is low (1-2%), and in terms of cost, the full lifecycle savings of utilising Clear Code® laser printing is about 60%.

According to Russell Hill, Vice President of Sales & Innovation for Essentra Packaging in the US: “As evidenced by the customer’s experience, the next-generation Clear Code® coding system has proven highly adaptable, along with its revolutionary ability to optimise production line speeds whilst minimising production line rejects by enhancing visual quality.”

The CMO’s Director of Packaging close cooperation was necessary to adapt the Clear Code® solution to their needs. “We were so pleased with the way the team at Essentra Packaging took the time to understand the challenges we were facing, and to work closely with us to make the corrective adjustments to Clear Code® needed to help us achieve success. Despite some initial challenges, the final formulation was well worth it.”

At Essentra Packaging we specialise in the development and manufacture of pharmaceutical packaging, supplying at a global level. If you would like us to help you with your packaging codification project, we are at your disposal, contact us and one of our specialists will analyse your case closely.