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Invisible inks - Designing & Reading

From lottery tickets to pharmaceutical bottles, security ink keeps customers and businesses safe. As inkjet technology evolves, so does the range of applications for security inks.

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 too. An example of this is passports, many passports contain photosensitive ink that's visible to the naked eye, but changes colour or disappears when placed under a UV light. 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, these include concert tickets, coupons, high priced branded products, prescription medicine bottles and lottery tickets. With such a wide range of applications, security ink doesn't just protect countries from master forgers, but it protects consumers from fraud, deception and in the case of pharmaceuticals, physical harm.

What makes Invisible Ink invisible?

Ink 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 invisible to the naked eye. There are also taggants, which are particles added to the ink that are developed to react in proximity of a unique reader or verifier, are typically microscopic in size.
Because invisible ink doesn't 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 children's science experiments than in enterprise applications.
The scanner used 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.
The components in an invisible ink are all developed and mixed to create a fluid that is transparent to the naked eye, but re-active 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 that the ink adheres properly to the substrate?

Operating Conditions

Will the printed item be used just once or many times?

Visible Properties

Does the ink need to be invisible to the naked eye?

Detection Mechanism

Is there specific equipment that will be used to validate authenticity (such as light sensitive ink on a passport) or will it be validated by the naked eye?

Security Level

Are there other security protocols being implemented for the application? 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 manufactures to develop an ink formulation that meets all of a customers' needs. 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 marking on pharmaceutical bottles can help identify theft and counterfeiting at all stages.
For businesses, inkjet security ink has obvious value, such as reducing printing downtime and expanding production line capabilities. But consumers also benefit, the adoption of security measures by companies ultimately protects customers from harm; and to make everybodys' lives simple, the InData Barcode readers in Daemon Print Supplies - product range have optics that have been specifically designed to work with the our range of Kao Collins security inks

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