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.
Optical fibre is used abundantly in today’s advanced era of communication, high-speed internet calls for the use of fibre-optic cable to transmit signals over long distances. By using fibre cables, the speed of the internet vastly increases while the chance of a lost signal significantly decreases. Fibre is also used in newer computers to help create efficient transmission and processing. Recently scientists from ITMO University have been working to create fibre on a microscale to keep up with the demand for smaller and thinner devices, this microscale fibre is known as micro waveguides.
Waveguides have historically been created by laser ablation or photolithography, but these methods require complex equipment and a plethora of rare materials. Advancements in inkjet printing technology, however, have started changing the production of waveguides.
Inkjet Printing is Changing the Computer Industry
ITMO University scientists have figured out a timely and cost-effective way to inkjet print micro waveguides. Using a special inkjet ink composed of titanium dioxide nanoparticles, micro waveguides are able to be highly refractive to adequately conduct signals over long distances.
“It is obvious that the creation of elements of data storage and transmission of data based on the photons movement control is the basic technology for future computers. The most difficult part for the engineering of such devices is the creation of efficient signal transport lines. Our solution, actually, removes all the major limitations in this area and I have no doubt that soon we will see photon computing devices with waveguides created with our method.” Alexander Vinogradov, ITMO University Researcher.
The main benefits of inkjet printing micro waveguides are a quick turnaround time and the ability to print materials at an affordable price, unlike when waveguides are created through laser ablation or photolithography. By using a suspended solution composed of titanium dioxide particles, waveguides don’t need rare materials to be created, saving manufacturers a significant amount of money.
What the Future Holds for Inkjet Printing Waveguides
Inkjet printing waveguides will soon ensure that micro waveguides are printed as quickly and affordably as possible, while inkjet printing waveguides isn’t yet the standard, it only makes sense for those in the technology industry to shift in that direction. Inkjet printing elements are the future for computers, especially as devices and components continue to get smaller. Scientists are already hard at work to begin printing other elements related to processing and signal transmission.
As the complicated process of the United Kingdoms’ withdrawal from the European Union progresses and as the 29th of March - the date the UK is meant to leave the EU -approaches we want to reassure you that this will in no way affect the availability and delivery for supply of the products that you purchase from us, as we have now put in place a new Distribution Centre in the Netherlands.
As previously notified, we have set up our Distribution Centre in The Netherlands, and this has been stocked and running for some weeks – in fact your recent orders from us have probably been shipping from the Netherlands already.
You can therefore be confident that when ordering from Daemon Print Supplies in the coming weeks and months – both before and after ‘Brexit’ – you will see no variation in the price, availability or delivery services to you. In fact, in many cases, the delivery of goods may be faster than would have been the case from our UK Distribution Centre.
Please know, that Daemon Print Supplies is sorry that the UK has chosen to leave the EU and that we will do everything we can to ensure that we continue to serve our EU customers to the best of our ability.