A post by 'The Ink Type’ for the inkjet Ink company 'Kao Collins Inc.' has researched the history behind the bar code and analysed the quality of it. The invention of the bar code was an innovative one, particularly for the field of marking and coding and back in 1952 it was granted a patent. This meant that the owners Norman Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver were given the legal right to prohibit others from making and using their invention. Woodland and Silver paved the way for the future of linking an image code to a price or other data. This was by filing for the patent describing both the linear (borrowing elements from Morse code and movie soundtrack technologies) and bull’s-eye bar code systems in 1949.
1932: Supermarkets were exploring an easier way to track products sold and bring together inventories. Wallace Flint, a Harvard business student, suggested a punch-card system, similar to the one for the 1890 U.S. Census. This idea never came to completion, as the system was costly.
1948: Bernard Silver, a graduate student at Drexel Institute, overhears the president of a major food company and a dean discussing research on automatically collecting product information at the supermarket checkout. Silver relays what he had heard to his friend and classmate, Norman Joseph Woodland. Captivated by this idea, Woodland begins conducting research.
1952: Woodland and Silver build the first bar code reader. That same year, the patent for the bar code system is granted.
1973: The Universal Product Code (UPC) is introduced, setting the stage for bar codes to take off.
1974: At a Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio, a pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum is the first retail product sold using a bar code scanner.
1994: QR Codes are created by Toyota subsidiary, Denso Wave, to aid in more quickly tracking vehicles and parts.
2004: 80 to 90 percent of the top 500 companies in the United States use bar codes, according to Fortune magazine.
The business of marking and coding products with bar code designs should reach $7 billion by 2024. Few products these days do not have bar codes, it varies from consumer goods to pharmaceutical products. The key products fuelling the bar code demand are food and beverage (FMGG) fast moving consumer goods.
Due to the demand on dependable bar codes, it makes quality bar codes very vital. The marking icon seems simple, a set of simple lines and/or shapes printed in black typically. However, there is a significance in the structure and design of it that is often overlooked. For example, imagine the fury and disruption that would be caused if global supply chains such as UPS, FedEx and Amazon had problems with the quality of their bar codes and how they scan. It would cause a delay in receiving your product.
Bar codes have a requirement to be printed consistently so that they can have a high quality for scanning. The quality depends on a multitude of things. This includes printing resolution, ink and contrast, the substrate, the printing environment and the bar code design.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) established bar code standards in partnership with the uniform council in 1990. Initially, these standards deviated from standards in Europe, but currently it is more universal. To further attain bar code quality, some fields have created unique standards. (The pharmaceutical industry, military and air transport companies.)
Trouble with barcode quality is the ultimate issue in the barcode industry. Which In turn as previously discussed, impacts a staggering quantity of other industries. Poorly printed barcodes involves all printing processes and prevents them being in sync. The substrate impacts the success of the scan, alongside the ink. This is why the substrate can cause scan failure. The main issue is that there can’t be any contrasts between the ‘dark’ bars and the ‘light’ spaces.
For example, you can think of the example provided by Collins: "While aluminium cans, for example, may appear to have the necessary contrast, the light reflection or dispersion from the metallic surface may compromise the scan."
Additionally, Printing resolution is another factor that may cause a scanning malfunction for the barcode. Printer dpi defines the resolution of the barcode. Higher-resolution printers produce sharper images with well-defined edges. A barcode can be designed and engineered to build a higher margin of error. The inks, substrates, speed, and other factors all contribute to developing a barcode to increase success. Printing consistent bar codes requires adherence to strict controls. All the components must be matched to achieve optimum results. Evidently, there is a lot more detail in barcodes which is disregarded.
The clothing industry thrives on being able to produce collections of clothes seasonally, think of spring, summer, fall and winter clothing lines. With new clothing to be produced every three months, it’s important that many clothing manufacturers can print both quickly and affordably.
Fast Fashion Leaders:
Luckily, today’s clothing manufacturers can use digital printers for direct to garment (DTG) printing. Digital printers allow inkjet ink to be absorbed by the fibres of the garment and help with the accuracy of colour matching, shortening run times and cost-effectiveness.
With these benefits and many more, it’s easy to see why DTG printing is expected to grow rapidly in the near future.
The Growth of DTG Printing
There’s a lot to love about DTG printing, including revenue projections and the near future. According to research and consulting firm Future Market Insights, the DTG printing industry was valued at $1.76 billion in 2018 and that number is expected to increase to $2.31 billion by 2023,
One of the biggest reasons for the growth of DTG printing is the buying habits of today’s consumers. Millennials are increasing their spending for graphic printed clothing featuring unique designs that are created through digital textile printing. T-shirts, in particular, are becoming more fashionable and trendy, thus creating a rise in the market value for DTG printing. The demand from millennials for more DTG printed t-shirts, long sleeve t-shirts, ¾ length tees, tank tops and other items of clothing are expected to be a key factor that ultimately impacts the overall value of the DTG printing industry in the near future.
Contributing Factors that have Helped Increase the Value of Printing on Fabric:
- The growing demand for sustainable printing
- Faster adaptability for clothing lines
- New emerging technologies in the fabric printing industry
- The reduced cost of printing digitally
- The growth of ecommerce clothing sales
- The influx of creative design in fashion
Direct to Garment Inks
As the demand for DTG clothing increases, so too will the demand for DTG inks. Sublimation inks are the most common type of ink used for DTG printing and they offer an array of benefits, like non-solubility, damage resistance, colourfastness and the absence of hazardous components often found in other types of ink.
Sublimation inks can be used on a variety of clothing materials, with each varying in the amount of time required for post-treatment heat. Materials such as polyester, acetate rayon, poly-lycra and acrylics take the longest time for post-treatment heat.
DTG Printing Outlook
The popularity of DTG printing will continue to rise as the consumer demand for printed designs on t-shirts and other clothing expands. This increase in consumer demand will grow the value of the DTG printing industry by approximately 31 percent by 2023. The impact DTG printing has and will continue to have on the ink industry is tremendous, with sublimation inks expected to be used even more to keep up with the fashion industry’s seasonal clothing lines.
From lottery tickets to pharmaceutical bottles, security ink keeps customers and businesses safe. As inkjet technology evolves, so too does the range of applications for security inks. The market for security ink is expected to be a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4%.
Security Ink Doesn’t Have to be Invisible
One common misconception about security inks is that they are the same as invisible inks. While many security applications of ink do take advantage of invisible ink, there are a variety of visible security ink solutions as well.
For example, many passports contain photosensitive ink that is visible to the naked eye, but changes colour or disappears when placed under a UV light. On the U.S. passport, the letters “USA” are printed with a security ink that appears gold when viewed from one direction and green when viewed from another.
On the other hand, many people assume security ink is only for protecting important documents like passports and paper currency, but that isn’t the case. There are a number of everyday applications where security ink is a common protective measure, including:
- Concert and sports tickets
- High-dollar branded products like watches and purses
- Prescription medicine bottles
- Lottery tickets
With such wide-ranging applications, security ink doesn’t just protect countries from master forgers. It protects consumers from fraud, deception and (in the case of pharmaceuticals) physical harm.
The future is strong for this product. The current market totals close to $1 billion and is expected to be a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4% through 2027.
What Makes Invisible Ink, Invisible?
Ink, by definition, does not have to have colour. In fact, while dyes and pigments are what give ink its physical colour in most applications, in security applications, the same dyes and pigments can be formulated to be naked to the visible eye. Additionally, taggants – particles added to ink that are developed in react in proximity of a unique “reader” or verifier – are typically microscopic in size.
Because invisible ink, by design, does not have colour, most applications of invisible security ink involve a taggant that reacts with a specially designed camera, light or scanner. When implementing security ink, the taggant is developed to react only with proper equipment using a UV, infrared or near-infrared light at a specific wavelength. While heat and chemical activating inks do exist, they are more popular in kids’ science experiments than it enterprise applications.
Just how specific is the scanner used? It depends on the level of security needed. In less secure applications, the ink reacts under a broad range of wavelengths. For example, ink on a concert ticket might fluoresce under any black light. In some high-security cases, the taggant reacts only under a light specifically calibrated for that ink.
In short, the components in an invisible ink are all developed and mixed to create a fluid that is transparent to the naked eye, but reactive (and visible) under certain operating conditions.
Creating Security Ink
To create a security ink for a custom application, ink manufacturers must consider a variety of elements:
- Substrate – What material will the ink be printed on? How can we ensure the ink adheres properly to the substrate?
- Operating conditions – Will the printed item be used once or many times?
- Detection mechanism – Is there specific equipment that will be used to validate authenticity (as in light-sensitive ink on a passport) or will it be validated by the naked eye (as in the watermark on a U.S. $20 bill)?
- Security level – Are there other security protocols being implemented for the application? Just how secure does this item need to be?
- Printing – What production speed needs to be maintained? What printing equipment or technology will be used?
These, and many other questions, lead ink manufacturers to develop an ink formulation that meets all of a customer’s needs.
Of course, the ink manufacturer isn’t the only participant in these discussions. Companies looking for security solutions often have to work with a printer as well as the security company that provides the taggant and the machine people will use to confirm the authenticity of the ink.
Security Printing in the Age of Inkjet
Security inks have been around for a long time, but technological advances made possible through inkjet technology innovation have greatly expanded the availability and capability of security inks.
Because inkjet printing requires minimal setup time, printed security ink can be customised at a per-unit level. For example, individual SKU markings on pharmaceutical bottles can help identify theft and counterfeiting at all stages.
For businesses, inkjet security ink has obvious value, reducing printer downtime and expanding production line capabilities. But consumers also benefit! Greater adoption of security measures by companies ultimately protects customers from harm.