Security Printing Technologies

November 4, 2011

security printing bar codes

Security printing technologies enable brand protection for products and the production of secure documents for a wide variety of applications including product authentication, tamper-evident labels, business documents, stock certificates, identity cards, currency, gaming/event tickets, travel documents, etc.

Counterfeiting – A growing world-wide epidemic

The economic costs of counterfeiting are high. The US Chamber of Commerce estimates that between eight to 10% of the Global GNP is composed of counterfeit goods. That is equivalent to $750 Billion globally and $250 Billion in the US alone. This results in lost sales, liability suits and ultimately, loss of lives.

The primary cause for the proliferation of document fraud is easy access to low cost digital computers, copiers and scanners. In 2010, 82%of all counterfeits are due to digital imaging (up from just 1% in 1995). High quality desktop publishing tools also increase the ease of creating counterfeit documents.

Everything is being counterfeited: toothpaste, coupons, library cards, and textbooks. Offshore printers and domestic document mills are producing counterfeit documents such as false IDs, passports, vital records, diplomas, and transcripts. Organized crime is perpetuating brand theft. Counterfeit packaging in third world countries erodes brand trust.

Brand Protection & Document security technologies

The main goal of security printing is to protect the brand, and prevent forgery, tampering, or counterfeiting. There are a number of technologies used in the field of security printing. These technologies can be grouped by the method in which the security feature is detected.

1. Forensic – High security, in-lab tests (DNA)

  • DNA – incorporated into “ink” or a taggant has recently been used as an information carrier and as an encryption and computation device for security printing.

2. Covert – Field detection with specialized detectors

  • Taggants – Either in the form of radio frequency microchips (RFID) use radio waves to track and identify items, such as pharmaceutical products, by assigning individual serial numbers to their containers.
  • Chemical markers – Taggants can also refer to chemical markers integrated into the item itself or into the packaging. Once integrated, the taggants can only be verified with specially engineered readers.

3. Semi-covert – Field detection with simple tools

  • Microprinting – Extremely small text indiscernible to the naked eye. This method is usually difficult to reproduce without equipment capable of output at a high resolution.
  • Engineered defects – Defects such as slits or shapes strategically die-cut into documents.
  • UV Fluorescent inks – These inks are nearly invisible upon normal viewing, however they fluoresce under a UV light source, allowing validation via flashlight.
  • MICR – Magnetic ink character recognition is used extensively in banking for cheques.
  • Thermochromatic inks – Security ink with a normal “trigger” temperature of 88 degrees F, which will either disappear or change colors when the ink is rubbed by the fingertips or a coin to create friction.
  • Barcoding and serial numbers – Both methods are not difficult to forge, but make legitimate documents easier to track and audit.

4. Overt – Field detection no tools

  • security printing holographic foilsSpecial papers & security threads – using special cotton or linen fibres giving the paper added individuality.
  • Holographic Foils – High end packaging (holographic foils). Holograms are becoming easier to counterfeit as they can simply be reproduced offshore.
  • Optically variable color-changing inks – The apparent colour of the ink changes when viewed at a different angle (a tilt to view effect).
  • Watermarks – A visible pattern in the paper itself. Watermarks in paper have been used as far back as 1282.
  • Tactile effects – 3D Toner applied to regions of the document by specialized digital output devices.
  • security printing copy evident paperCopy-evident paper – Using a special pantograph embedded in the background of the document, once photocopied the document will display the word “VOID” on the copy, even though it is absent from the original.

Is your business dependent on finding cost effective methods to stay ahead of counterfeiting, tampering and forgery? Contact us for more information on how you can incorporate any of these physical features into your next print project.

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