Authentication technology materializes for flexibles

By Rick Lingle in Pharmaceutical Packaging on December 31, 2013


Ghost filmOn Sept. 23, 2013, during PACK EXPO, Rollprint Packaging Products launched its Ghost technology as an economical alternative-done seamlessly during film converting-to create a unique, customizable barrier to packaged product counterfeiting. Rollprint president Dhuanne Dodrill demystifies and updates this intriguing brand protection product, which is available license-free to customers.

How does Ghost work and in what formats can it be implemented?
The process creates an integrated, repeating watermark embedded in the composite flexible packaging material. The easily visible, overt watermark provides visual confirmation to the user that the products being used are authentic. 

The Ghost watermark is created by differentially cooling the extrudate to generate an optical effect that appears as a watermark. The key to making it work is to precisely control cooling to create a sharp, distinct image rather than a smeared image. 

Adding the watermark requires specialized equipment with knowledge of proprietary, advanced technology, coupled with significant financial investment, making it technically and economically challenging to duplicate. 

Ghost can be produced as an extrusion coated or extrusion laminated composite and is compatible with a variety of chemistries, including polyethylene, polypropylene and polyester. Sealants can be either peelable or welded and paired with polyester, nylon, foil and other substrates. The final composite material can be used to create packages such as chevron pouches, or package components such as an overwrap or lidding.


What options and variations are possible?
There is a fair amount of flexibility on size. We can produce the Ghost technology on web widths up to 64 inches. That means that the largest image size possible is 25 x 64 inches. On the opposite end of the scale, we can create small hairline images-complex line work, and type as small as 4 point remains crisp and legible.

Companies have the flexibility to use corporate logos, brand names or other symbologies. 

The technology was initially developed for clear structures. However, we quickly learned that it works equally well with opaque and colored materials, as well as foil composites.


What market need does it address?
Ghost is an inexpensive approach to brand protection. Because the watermark is added concurrently during normal processing, we can usually add the feature at little or no additional cost. It requires no additional ingredients or additives, and has no impact on the packaging manufacturing process-sealing conditions and speeds remain the same. This cannot be said for the majority of anti-counterfeiting techniques. Most other options add significant cost and frequently require specialized equipment. Examples include inks only visible under UV light, forensic markers or taggants, and micro printing. Ghost pairs well with these other techniques and can help create a layered approach to brand protection.

Can you provide more details about costs?
The watermark is produced during a proprietary differential cooling process to provide an optical effect without the use of ink or any chemical additives. The costs associated are for tooling that is required for a custom image. At large volumes, this would translate into a minimal expenditure.

What about the "specialized equipment" that produces the mark?

Due to the nature of the product and its intended use, we are unable to discuss the exact process for obvious reasons. The whole point of this type of technology is to minimize the chance of duplication so we are keeping the specifics confidential. The equipment is located in Rollprint's Addison, IL, facility outside Chicago.

How did this technology come about? What was the biggest technical hurdle?
Rollprint has a reputation as a packaging development pioneer for medical device and pharma applications. As such, we are always on the lookout for trends, technologies, regulations and such, that are going to drive next-generation packaging structures.

Our Ghost technology is a collaboration between marketing and R&D to proactively create an option based on criteria listed in the European Falsified Medicines Directive. 

Although the guidelines do not currently apply to medical devices or to the United States, we believe that they might eventually filter down to us. As a result, we wanted to create a technology that customers would find beneficial.
One of the criteria in the directive calls for an "obligatory authenticity feature on the outer package of medicine." We can envision Ghost technology being used on the sealing web of a blister package, for example.

Regarding the technical hurdle during development, one of the issues was reaching a "visibility" balance-trying to find that sweet spot between visibility and being too hard to read.


Please comment about the level of interest and market status.
There has been significant interest from medical device and pharmaceutical companies exploring anti-counterfeiting options. Some are looking for an inexpensive option to help protect their brand that does not slow or disrupt their established process flows. Others like the fact that Ghost can easily be coupled with other established techniques-such as forensic markers or taggants, micro-printing and holographic options-creating the recommended layered approach to addressing counterfeiting and product diversion. 

For high-risk products, customers are looking at potentially integrating this technology with serialization initiatives and creating a "moving target." Because the design of the watermark can be changed very inexpensively, the design can be updated regularly and tied to a particular lot or range of serial numbers. This provides yet another layer of protection and further confounds counterfeiters.

However, in addition to those security-oriented applications which were anticipated, we were surprised to discover significant interest from companies wishing to use this technology to enhance branding. We've received queries from cosmetic, personal care and even household chemical companies looking for ways to boost brand equity. For example, instead of using a clear film on a peel-off cosmetic application, the Ghost technology can be used to subtly repeat the logo. You could do the same for higher-end personal care products (such as razors and tooth brushes) and household chemical items (such as scent dispensers and bug repellants).

This additional branding is another reminder that consumers are purchasing authentic items and not lesser-quality duplicates.



How is this layered with Chameleon and what is the status of that sealant technology?
Ghost is compatible with Rollprint's Chameleon proprietary color-changing sealant technology for heat-seal applications. Chameleon was engineered to allow a film of one color to transfer a peel indicator of a different color to provide strong visual indication that a package has been opened. The objective is to enhance product security and help deter counterfeiting, in a cost-effective manner. 

Since we launched Chameleon in late 2012, it has generated an unprecedented amount of market interest and feedback-particularly from the medical device segment. Many companies expressed their "pain" regarding hermetic seal authentication. We've funneled that feedback back into R&D to create new ways to address this issue.


Rollprint Packaging Products Inc.



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