• Barry McCann

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

Updated: Dec 18, 2019


Freeze/Heat Tamper Ink Technology

Criminals learned quickly that if they can simply intercept and open a box, take valuables out and make the box appear unopened, they can easily steal items anywhere along a delivery route. What’s common to most shipping boxes? Tape with adhesive that can be melted with a hair dryer or heat gun – or frozen with liquid cold spray. Both loosen the tape enough to open a package.

Among many other anti-theft techniques, some security packaging tape manufacturers use irreversible inks to show if heat has been applied. Clear in the untampered state, these inks change color when heated. For instance, an ink might turn from clear to red to show tamper evidence.

While these irreversible inks have been on the market for many years, they have several flaws that criminals can exploit. The most important is that they often will change color after being exposed to high heat – they can revert back to their original clear color. Exposure to high temperatures for long times or even higher than targeted temperatures can also make irreversible inks lose color. There are also manufacturing issues. Irreversible inks tend to be highly sensitive to solvents that may be present in tape adhesives and overprint varnishes, which makes printing difficult, with sometimes less than ideal results. For instance, if a patterned adhesive has to be used, then lamination bond strengths may not be optimal. Obviously, high temperature irreversible inks also don’t stop criminals from using cold to loosen packaging tape adhesive.

Our CTI chemists saw the limitations of these older irreversible inks and decided to go a different direction, developing a combination of Freeze and Heat Tamper inks that would stymie thieves. On the one hand, our Heat Tamper ink changes to bright orange when temperatures exceed 65 to 75°C / 149 to 167°F; on the other hand, if temperatures are less than -10 to -20°C / 14 to -4°F, the Freeze Tamper changes color to blue.

In concert with other security features, CTI Freeze Heat Tamper inks make it nearly impossible to tamper with a package using cold or heat undetected.

The Ultimate: PhotoTag Raman Fingerprint Inks

Since September 11, 2001, airport security has increased dramatically, and one key high-tech device in the battle against terrorism has been Raman spectroscopy, which reveals the Raman signature of, say, a liquid in a bottle. In a nutshell, a laser beam interacts with the vibrations of molecules, and a device reads the electromagnetic radiation, with software identifying the chemical composition.

This same technology may be used to read a specific taggant – a uniquely encoded material that’s virtually impossible to duplicate – in a printable ink.

Not everyone has a hand-held portable Raman spectrometer, and they can be relatively expensive. Yet for the highest level of security for very valuable items and documents, PhotoTag provides the ultimate protection. Criminals would have to have doctorates in chemistry or physics, access to the exact raw materials, a Raman reader with the fingerprint programmed and the ability to make a printing ink with the exact characteristics not only for the taggant, but also for printing in a large format commercial manufacturing facility.

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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