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Converting processes offer brand protection: 9th MMK Symposium at KBA

The subject of brand piracy today permeates practically every sphere of our daily lives. Whether consumer or luxury articles, hardware or software, textiles, sports goods, spare parts for cars and aircraft – even pharmaceuticals, the fake products spectrum is growing continuously. The value of pirate brand products confiscated by the German customs alone in 2003 rocketed by 134 per cent* on the previous year, to reach €178M. According to the German Anti-Piracy Association, such forgeries wipe out up to 70,000 jobs each year in Germany alone, and many hundreds of thousands worldwide.

The urgent need to implement effective measures for brand protection also at the packaging production stage was the focus of the 9th Mayr-Melnhof Karton Symposium, held at Koenig & Bauer’s Radebeul site.

A new alternative is offered by Israeli company StarBoard Technologies. Its CIT (Concealed Image Technologies) technology offers an “inexpensive and reliable” method of security marking using encrypted 2D and 3D images that can only be recognized under a special decoding lens. The images can be applied by a variety of printing techniques, including offset, gravure and flexo. The customer’s files are processed ahead of the normal prepress using the StarBoard software, which manipulates the pixels and line segments in such a way that the information implanted in the image remains hidden to the human eye. These ‘hidden images’ can only be decoded or reproduced, if at all, with considerable outlay and with questionable results, as scanners capture only the visible image, not the coding.

A further advantage of this technology is that it requires only an optical decoder for verification. This matches a programmed image in the same way that a key matches a lock,and requires neither a power supply nor special chemical/forensic methods. To uphold brand protection over the whole process chain from the manufacturer to the packaging on the shop shelf, it is also possible to apply several hidden images to the same package. These can then be verified either individually or in combination.

To date, CIT technology has only been used in connection with screened image data; it cannot be applied to solids of special brand colours. However, an innovation presented at the symposium by Jürgen Veil, head of KBA sheet-fed offset marketing, was claimed to be a “revolutionary advance”.

His team has developed a technique that uses contrasts between different transparent varnishes to permit a CIT image to be placed at any chosen position on the sheet – including non screen areas. It is then completely impossible to reproduce the CIT image. Participants in the symposium were able to check the results for themselves during live print demonstrations on a Rapida 105.

Two further methods of forge proofing are available from German company identif Technologies. Molecular fingerprints are based on synthetic DNA and said to offer “ultimate protection” against forgery thanks to the highly precise key coding mechanism. Between 1,012 and 1,016 customer-specific codes can be generated and either attached as a label or printed directly onto folding cartons. During a symposium demonstration, a food package was marked in this way by an inkjet system. KBA believes process integration into the offset press is only a matter of time.

High security marking with nano-optical codes is another possibility to distinguish genuine and fake packaging. In this case, a label comprising a reflective layer, a spacer film and a metal layer with nanoparticles is attached to packaging as a closure seal. This label, whose security information is encrypted with more than 15 parameters, can also incorporate a company logo and bar codes. The authenticity of the seal is verified with a portable scanner or high speed reader unit.

KBA, and ink and varnish suppliers Epple Druckfarben and Terra Lacke also presented an overview of current options for security markings on printed products, such as holograms, visual effects, watermarks, coatings, and special tints. All these techniques were presented in practical use during the symposium. The various demonstrations were performed on KBA’s Rapida presses using GC2 and GD3 boards supplied by Mayr-Melnhof Karton.

* Taken from an address by Hans Eichel, Federal Minister of Finances, at the annual press conference of the Federal Customs Administration www.bundesfinanzminsterium.de/Aktuelles/Reden and www.zoll-d.de



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