Topic of the month january 2010

Figure: Security-relevant products like drugs can be checked with mobile phone cameras in the future. Source: Christian Lampe / Fraunhofer IPM.

It is obvious that materials, prefabricated parts and components firstly have to fulfill their constructive and functional requirements in their specific applications. Besides their availability, processability and their environmental compatibility additional characteristics are of growing importance. An efficient material management in a warehouse or on a construction site, the retraceability of products along the whole production chain or intelligent arrangements for the protection from forgery are examples, which underline the importance of communicative aspects in state-of-the-art applications. All these intelligent functions can be realized in a reliable and quick way by the positioning or the implementation of communicative interfaces on various products – such as wires and tubes. These intelligent features enable a more efficient, secure and sustainable working process.

Laser Coding Technology for Glass

Scientist of the Schott AG developed in association with engineers of partner companies a novel laser-coding system which enables a defined coding of glass parts. The system allows an exact retraceability – a so called Track & Trace system – of products from the fabrication plant to the customer. Especially in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries this innovation is of particular importance. In addition to a reliable tracking system, companies get a method for the reduction of the risk of mixing up batches as well as an effective strategy against dangerous and market harming drug counterfeiter. The method is based on the creation of a tiny sized 2D data matrix code having dimensions of only 2 mm by 2 mm. The code contains essential data of the respective product, such as specifications or information concerning production lines or batches. Furthermore additional data can be inscribed if demanded. During the fabrication, the data matrix code which is barely visible to the human eye, does not cause any micro-cracks and it has no negative consequences on the mechanical stability of the glass at all. The laser-coded glass parts fulfill the demands of clean room standards, because no additional chemicals or materials are required for coding. Through the development of special algorithms, the complete and secure readability is guaranteed, even on complex shaped glass surfaces. The laser-coding system can also easily be implemented into existing production lines and filling systems and for this reason it offers a stable, highly reproducible and secure process.

Weather-Resistant with System

Wax crayons, chalk or sprayed colour markings are still frequently uses methods, to mark metal tubes, steel girder or similar large-sized building elements on construction sites or in depots for materials. The disadvantages of these solutions are obvious – in general such methods are not systematically applied, neither water-resistant nor resistant to age and most of all not automatically readable. Schreiner ProTech now offers intelligent solutions in this application area, which make an efficient, retraceable and reliable management of building elements possible. The method is based on the development of special and robust labels, which withstand exposures like humidity and extreme temperatures. Furthermore these labels can be fixed on soiled, rough or even corroded surfaces. The inscription on the labels can be performed directly at the client by using thermotransfer printing. Bar codes, logos and other required characteristics can be fixed on, just as desired. Specific options of labelling like lacquer protection or the equipment with strong permanent adhesives are also possible. Besides the handling of parts in transport and warehouse management or in day-to-day work, this novel labelling technology also supports the complex and often time consuming inventory.

Forgery Protection: The Package as a Fingerprint

Almost everything is being packed and almost everything is being falsified today – not only drugs, which are the central point of the following innovation. As part of the research project O-PUR, scientist of the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM in Freiburg developed in collaboration with colleagues of the Mannheim University of Applied Sciences a solution that allows a simple, quick and low-cost method of testing the genuineness of drugs by using a mobile phone camera. For this purpose the scientist take advantage of the characteristics that every package obtains during their specific production process. Depending on the structure of the paper, different shades of colour occur during the fabrication process – so every package gets an unique fingerprint. The combination with a printed barcode provides the possibility to carry out an easy check with stored data of the specific item via the internet. This delivers a reliable method to detect counterfeit, because they have a different paper structure and colour appearence. Besides the simplicity, this method convices through economical and ecological advantages, compared to conventional techniques to detect counterfeit products. “Since we are applying no additional materials, but simply exploiting the available offset printing, one could say that we are providing security at virtually no cost”, says scientist Dr. Dominik Giel, who is involved in the project. Further the scientists see huge potential in technology transfers, because every material obtains unique characteristics, which can be utilized by this technology to gain forgery protection – just think about the surfaces of metal or plastic materials or even leather or wood.

Dr.-Ing. Christoph Konetschny
Material and Nano Expert

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