In a bid to enhance product authenticity and traceability, researchers of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU)'s Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology have developed an innovative Anti-Erasing (ATE) Ink for use in various kinds of fast-moving consumer goods such as food, drink and drug packaging.
Inkjet printing is a common and well-known technique for printing or marking package information (e.g. manufacturing and/or expiry dates, lot numbers, and manufacturing locations, etc.) on consumer products such as dairy, beverage, snack, food products, plastic bottles, etc. In addition to providing information for consumers, these markings also support production lot traceability for manufacturers to track products from the production line to the retailers along the supply chain. More importantly, product traceability protects public health, allowing manufacturers or the distributors to quickly and accurately identify problematic products for their speedy removal from the market place if needed.
In recent years, there has been a surging increase in counterfeit consumer goods. Reselling of spoiled goods (e.g. dairy and food products) or lost inventory and contaminated products are becoming common practices even in sizable markets in the world, thus threatening public health and tarnishing consumer confidence and brand value. Some of these unethical acts are directly related to tampering of product markings that can be easily altered by simple procedures. The printing of non-removable (indelible) marking on packaging materials is one of the effective and economical ways to combat counterfeit products with accurate product tracking along the supply chain.
Professor Pei Li and her research team of the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology have been commissioned by Hallyuen Holding Limited since 2011 to develop a breakthrough solution to this urgent problem. After nearly three years of research and development, a series of anti-counterfeiting products has been developed, including irremovable coatings and ATE Inks. Printing with ATE Ink can leave irremovable trace marks, thus allowing consumers to detect tampered goods. This technology is pivotal in solving the problem of tracing product information, prevent counterfeiting, and in protecting consumers against counterfeit or expired goods.
The anti-counterfeit technology adopts a fast-drying formulation which is compatible with various continuous inkjet printers. It is not only applicable to rapid packaging production lines, but can also be printed on different packaging materials. The printed information can withstand physical tampering and leave non-removable trace marks. Users may also choose their preferred trace marks from a selection of ink colours.
"With the adoption of ATE Ink, product manufacturers now have an effective tool to combat counterfeit and tampered products that could result in disastrous impact on its operations and goodwill. More importantly for the society, consumers can be rest assured that their purchased food and beverage products are safe as the expiry dates on them are genuine," Professor Li said.
Three patent applications have been filed for the development of ATE Inks. The production of ATE Ink has been scaled up for commercialization in the Chinese mainland through the partnering company, Hallyuen Holding Limited. This breakthrough anti-counterfeit technology has received immense attention from the market. Notably, China Mengniu Dairy Company has started using the ATE Ink in their production lines, while a number of corporations are also interested in this new anticounterfeit technology.
Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology
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