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  • Barry McCann

Specialty Security Inks: Staying One Step Ahead of Criminals Part I

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

Specialty Security Inks

Thirty years ago, far out in the parking lot, a ticket scalper approaches a group of friends going to see their favorite jam band. “Need a ticket?” Sure enough, four don’t have tickets yet. “$20 each – face value. My friends just couldn’t go tonight because of a family emergency.

After the money and tickets change hands, the friends happily make their way to the arena front door. After security, the attendant’s scanner doesn’t work on the parking lot tickets. “They look the same, but the barcode doesn’t work …” Dejected, the friends check to see if they have enough money left to buy real tickets.

Technology has come a long way since the 1990s, but the need for authenticating documents and thwarting criminals remains. Here are some ways to use printable security technology to protect your customers:

High-Temperature Color-Changing Thermochromic Inks

One simple and inexpensive way to verify authenticity would be to use a higher temperature thermochromic ink, that, when rubbed, will change from the color – black, purple, red, etc. – to clear, or even from one color to another, such as from green to yellow, orange to yellow or purple to pink. Some have even put color-changing dots into paper that change from purple to aqua to clear when rubbed. Obviously there’s no special equipment required – just a finger.

Visible and Invisible UV Fluorescing Inks

Visible and Invisible UV Fluorescing Inks

Everyone has seen “100% cotton” watermarks on resume paper – yet these can be easily mimicked to make counterfeit paper. That’s not such a big deal for resume paper. When it comes to official government currency, original documents, collectibles, textbooks, concert tickets and high-end brand products, it’s projected to be a $4.2 trillion dollar worldwide problem by 2022.

What if you could print an invisible ink that could only be seen with a special light? That’s exactly what fluorescing inks do. Here’s a little primer on how they work: Visible light – the white light that makes up the rainbow of colors – contains wavelengths between 400-700 nanometers (nm). Non-visible Ultraviolet A light ranges just below that, from 315-400 nm. The purple blacklights you might see in indoor laser tag arenas and nightclubs emit filtered low-power UVA light to make décor, white fabrics (and your teeth) glow. That glowing comes from phosphors, which converts invisible UVA light into visible light. That excitement and resulting light is called fluorescence.

Fluorescing pigments in commercial large-format printing inks can be visible or invisible on paper, film and metal substrates, then when placed under a blacklight or UVA light, they will emit a strong color, depending on the fluorescing emission wavelength.

Most paper currencies around the globe use fluorescing inks as a quick way to spot counterfeits. For instance, here are features in U.S. bills:

  • All notes: red and blue fluorescing fibers on the paper

  • $5: a blue fluorescing thread

  • $10: an orange fluorescing thread

  • $20: a green fluorescing thread

  • $50: a yellow fluorescing thread

  • $100: a pink fluorescing thread

You might think that counterfeiters could simply buy fluorescing inks and easily make fake documents, products or labels, but it’s not that easy. First, CTI ensures that every customer is a legitimate business, and we do not sell small quantities. Second, brands and agencies use machines to read the fluorescing color strength, and a criminal would need that reader and the specification to produce fake prints. Finally, most security prints have layers of features.

For example, a lottery ticket agency might combine a heat-activated thermochromic ink and a fluorescent ink in a design, which would be difficult and costly to reproduce.


Ask the Experts at Chromatic Technologies

At CTI, we’ve helped thousands of companies across 55 countries with unique applications of thermochromic, photochromic, glow-in-the-dark and security inks. We don’t just sell technology delivered through commercial inks – we offer expertise with problem-solving, concept development, technology solutions, qualification and production.

Contact our team today to talk about how we can help you and your customers.

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