Friday, October 25, 2013
Ink Drying on Security Print Deals
Near-term markets for security inks show the way for brand protection at large
Print-ready brand protection technologies are currently in a sweet spot for market penetration. For some, there is now legislative motivation for introducing authentication – with new regulations either expected or being discussed, in product categories like pharmaceuticals, or in managing the supply and distribution chains in a given region.
Beyond regulations, the threat of counterfeiting, while always substantial, is reaching a tipping point for various brands. Companies looking to crack high-growth markets, such as regions of Africa or South America, are looking to better protect their brands. Often they are making their products more widely available to growing middle classes in areas where counterfeiting is high. The efforts of cosmetics brands like MAC to extend distribution in these regions will come only with a solid anti- counterfeiting strategy.
These factors are increasing the engagement of brand owners and the print supply chain that serves them with brand protection technologies in general. Suppliers of RFID, track-and-trace solutions, and other elements of the brand protection toolkit are reporting high and growing degrees of interest from commercial partners, with some services graduating to considerable revenue.
For security inks, these factors are translating into commercial orders at an even faster rate. Brand protection solutions provider LaserLock Technologies recently announced an initial order for its SecureLight+ pigment ink, for the protection of game pieces used in a nationwide contest expected to launch in early 2014.
Neil Alpert, CEO of LaserLock, comments: ‘This was a modest initial order, but the value of the pieces is significant, which is why our client chose to use SecureLight+.
‘While there has been no discussion about other uses in this specific client’s portfolio, the contest is expected to experience significant growth, during which LaserLock will be responsible for ensuring its integrity. Accomplishing this may present us with more opportunities in the future.’
A further order was announced in October 2013. A Japanese pharmaceutical labelling company is conducting a pilot project for this industry using the technology.
A 2011 market report from Smithers Pira predicted that the security ink market would increase at a compound annual growth rate of 7.5% to 2015, compared to 2010 figures. The Future of Security Printing to 2015 outlines the variety of security ink technologies and their current market use.
Of ‘luminescent, phosphorescent and fluorescent inks,’ the report notes: ‘Whilst the fluorescent inks are available on the open market, inks used in security printing are usually more sophisticated, reacting only to specific wavelengths, for example, or emitting different colours at different wavelengths. These subtleties are often only detected by experts or by machines. An example of a specialised ink that reacts to both UV and IR illumination is Fire & Ice from Luminescence, which is invisible in normal lighting conditions, fluoresces in long-wave UV and emits a bright red flash at a specific wavelength. Luminescence is confident that ‘even sophisticated fraudsters would probably conclude the feature was a conventional fluorescent blue ‘ink and not locate the red flash’.
For security inks generally, there appear to be some positive opportunities for further market traction on the horizon.
Though the initial order for SecureLight+ is a modest one, it underlines what could be a trend for near- term markets in brand protection inks, as the growing demand from brand owners pushes the adoption of solutions that require the fewest steps to implement into existing production processes.
Alpert adds: ‘One of the advantages of SecureLight+ is its seamless integration with existing production and packaging systems. We have successfully incorporated a pigment-based marking solution into ink or dye form for all commercial printing methods – flexography, gravure, silkscreen, thermal transfer and inkjet. There are some limitations surrounding offset printing related to the amount of material that can be applied, but typically, this can be resolved as easily as changing the ink on the printing machinery in place.’
Initial market traction for security inks has been in government documents, such as ID documents and cards, as well as passports. Yet the technology seems set to excel beyond these categories.
Alpert adds: ‘[There] is a potential for LaserLock to meet the large-volume demand as well.
‘Unlike most standalone security inks, SecureLight+ is a unique pigment in that it uses multi-layer security features. SecureLight+’s value is demonstrated through its versatility, as the solution consists of both covert and overt components that are activated in various ways. For example, under different lighting conditions, the ink visibly changes colors but reacts differently in diverse conditions, such as natural, incandescent or fluorescent lighting.
‘The solution also includes concealed characteristics that respond to a variety of devices, such as laser beams that are only visible when they’re shined on the ink to which they’re specifically tuned.’
These features lend themselves to future markets where consumers are central to the authentication process.
Alpert says: ‘Because SecureLight+ is a consumer-level solution with forensic capabilities, it often provides substantially higher returns than the competing solutions on the market that require specialised equipment for authentication. Any consumer who uses readily available light sources – fluorescent, incandescent or LED light, for example – can easily authenticate SecureLight+, but its covert characteristics also allow for multi-layer authentication for forensic purposes.
Crucially, the low barriers to implementation for security inks will make this technology an important precursor for the brand protection industry at large. Security inks will help companies understand the benefits of implementing a combination of overt and covert brand protection technologies – and could even play a part in familiarising consumers too.
Alpert notes: ‘There are likely to be more high-volume markets on the horizon for these brand protection solutions, considering the ease with which the technology can be adapted to existing processes and products.
‘Implementing the SecureLight+ solution is as easy as changing inks, so our customers require very little initial investment. Oftentimes testing and quality control will represent the extent of the upfront costs. However, the solution can work with the existing printing equipment, so there is rarely an upfront investment required by the customer.’
As a result the return on investment case should be easier to make for other technologies requiring more concerted integration efforts, or greater upfront costs.
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