Brand protection is a concern for brand owners who have seen the brand equity of their own products and those of other brand owners undermined by counterfeiting. In response, Pillar Technologies, a business unit of ITW and supplier of induction cap sealers and surface treatment technologies, has formed a business partnership with Applied DNA Sciences, a provider of DNA-based security and product authentication. The agreement for marking and authenticating original products and packaging was reported by our sister publication, PlasticsToday, in an article that describes how Pillar will offer its customers the ability to prove the authenticity of its products by tightly binding ADNAS's SigNature DNA in new ways to existing and new physical substrates.
We go deeper into this timely development—especially the packaging aspects—in this Q&A with Pillar Technologies’ Rory A. Wolf, CEO/Business Unit Manager, surface modification & induction sealing systems, who reminds us that “Pillar has been in brand protection for many years with its induction-sealing systems. This collaboration with ADNAS is an extension of that experience.”
What led to this collaboration?
Wolf: It’s all about brand security. There have been a number of industries which both Applied DNA Sciences (ADNAS) and Pillar Technologies serve that have been impacted by counterfeiting. Existing industry verticals in military supply chains and in textiles served by ADNAS are already specifying DNA solutions for brand protection. These same verticals are served by Pillar Technologies, so the collaboration is a logical extension of our business models.
How will this technology work for Pillar’s customers?
Wolf: Much of the process technology is proprietary, but I can generally share that botanical DNA, branded by ADNAS as its SigNature DNA product, is arranged in a way that allows a specific consumer product to carry a unique product identifier in a predetermined location to authenticate the product. Existing and new physical substrates, in two- or three-dimensional orientations, are easily adapted to the DNA product. For Pillar customers, awareness of this DNA technology and its delivery and improved affixation to the surface with Pillar surface treatment technology will offer a convenient adaptation of the process.
How are the markers applied to the packaging materials?
Wolf: The DNA markers can be applied anywhere in the process and anywhere on the package. However, these decisions are made in collaboratively with the consumer products company so that authentication is optimized.
What is required to authenticate a product or package?
Wolf: From a consumables and capital equipment perspective, the brand owner/customer typically commits to installing the delivery methodology most conducive to their process. Sampling techniques involving brand owners as well as personnel within the ADNAS authentication network streamline the authentication process today. Lab analysis at ADNAS currently provides definitive authenticity (or lack thereof), with in-field authentication techniques also currently being calibrated to specific application processes within supply chains.
What product and packaging applications are possible?
Wolf: That’s what makes our collaboration so enabling. The combined implementation of our technologies allows for any flexible or rigid packaging to carry DNA. The same applies to all types of physical products manufactured by all types of product fabrication and decoration methods, such as plastic extrusion/molding, paper-making, weaving, metal fabrication, spunbonding, dyeing, printing, coating, adhesive application, etc. The opportunities to introduce the DNA product within the supply chain are limitless.
What is the timeframe for implementation of the tech at Pillar? And how seamless is it?
Wolf: Because our technologies are complimentary in their current states, the timeframe for implementation is immediate. Pillar’s surface modification technologies, particularly those involving atmospheric plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) methodologies, are currently in service commercially so there is no process change required. In summary, it is nearly completely seamless.
How does this arrangement expand ADNAS’s markets?
Wolf: This collaboration with Pillar Technologies has the potential to expand the ADNAS technology initially into food and beverage markets, and onto substrates such as polymer films, foils, synthetic/natural fabrics, glass, and natural fibers. Substrate configurations can be in the form of a web, a sheet, a yarn, or a 3D object.
How much of a cost premium does this represent?
Wolf: Because the DNA product is highly reliable in very low concentrations and its methods of delivery (including Pillar surface modification technologies) are well-established, the cost of product and delivery combined is extremely low. This becomes particularly imprtant when considering the significant scale and impact of lost revenues to globally-based counterfeiting opportunists.
What kind of interest do you anticipate?
Wolf: There is already established and working commercial applications within the financial industry (physical currencies and their transfer), the high-end apparel industry (fashion wear), government (military component parts, personal I.D.), and many others.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Wolf: Because the application opportunities span so many industries which have been financially impacted by counterfeiting of their products, we are in the process of focusing our joint efforts on developing application solutions which are most synergistic to our mutual organizations, and which can be implemented quickly by our customers.