Articles

REVOLUTIONARY HOLOGRAPHIC PROCESS PROVIDES NEW LABEL SOLUTIONS


The widespread availability of relatively inexpensive technology, such as desktop computers, high resolution laser printers and colour copiers, which can readily be employed for unauthorized duplication and counterfeiting of documents, has led to an increased demand for new, secure and cost-effective anti-counterfeiting technologies.

Counterfeiters target everything from negotiable documents to industrial and consumer products, product labels and packaging. The costs of product counter-feiting alone is staggering. According to the International Anti Counterfeiting Coalition, US businesses lose $200 billion annually as a result of product counterfeiting.

In response to the current counterfeiting problem, organizations throughout the world are developing solutions to deter document forgery and product \and label counterfeiting. The incorporation of a security hologram is one such solution. Holograms are widely recognized and used as an effective counterfeiting deterrent. Embossed holograms have been incorporated as a value-added security feature on debit/credit cards, bank notes, passports and other documents of value. Holograms are difficult to replicate and manufacture and as an overt security feature can be verified by eye without the need for special apparatus. While holograms are becoming more common in use, the current method of application is still relatively expensive, inefficient and time-consuming. These obstacles prevent many potential users of holograms from incorporating this valuable security feature into their products because they are unable to justify the expense. Consequently, products become easy targets for skilled counterfeiters and forgers.

NovaVision Inc, of the United States, has developed a revolutionary technology that allows manufacturers to license this product and create holograms in-line, in-house and in a cost-effective manner. The patented imaging foil represents a major paradigm shift in the way embossed holograms are produced and marketed. NovaVision’s technology offers a cost-effective security solution to security and commercial printers and label, tag and packaging converters. Also, since holography can be viewed as another form of prepress in the overall production process, the holography industry will benefit from overall market expansion and demand for originations. NovaVision’s mission is to make holography technology more accessible to printers at a significantly lower cost.

Traditional manufacturers of holographic images, after creating the nickel holographic embossing shim, employ a very expensive process in their own facility to transfer the holographic image from the shim to a metallized film which includes acetate, PVC and polyester material. The current conventional process uses up to six separate machines in off-line processes with many more additional steps added for transportation and auditing. The NovaVision process uses two machine steps, typically in-line on a customer’s site for the entire process. These steps are accomplished on the same pass where the end document is printed. Auditing and secured storage costs are greatly reduced due to no ‘at risk’ images in The NovaVision process. Only the shim needs protection. Using The NovaVision process, the hologram is embossed on the document as the document itself is created. In the conventional process, embossed holograms are first created and separately applied at a later time to the end document. This creates the ‘at risk’ security situation for the embossed holographic foil which must be constantly monitored and audited.

Patented foil
The NovaVision system begins with the patented NovaVision Imaging Foil. This holographic hot-stamping foil is embossable on most rotary presses. The foil includes a layer of metal having a thickness in the range of 20 millimicrons to 100 millimicrons, a lacquer coating with a thickness in the range of 0.5 microns to 3 microns and a heat activatible adhesive. The metal layer lacquer coating and heat activatible adhesive are caused to be adhered to the substrate forming the final document during a stamping operation which releases the matal layer, lacquer coating and heat activatible adhesive from a plastic carrier film to which it had initially been applied. At present, the holographic hot-stamping foil has been successfully tested on various rotary and larger platen presses running at press speeds of up to 250 feet per minute and up to 24 inches wide. Further research will continue at NovaVision in order to extend these performance ranges. NovaVision is also developing several other types of proprietary foils including a partially-metallized film and a de-metallized film that can be used in over-stamping clear holograms on the end document. Each type of imaging foil can be slit to a customer’s width specifications and is supplied on standard inside diameter cores of one or three inches.

Since the imaging foil is being hot-stamped and embossed with a holographic image directly on-press, the security risk and associated costs of transporting and storing conventional holographic hot-stamping foil is virtually eliminated. Traditional embossed hologram producers must audit and securely transport each roll of holographic hot-stamping foil to the customer. The customer must then audit and inventory that holographic hot-stamping foil in a secure location since the roll of foil already has the value-added security holographic images incorporated into it. Conversely, the NovaVision Imaging Foil does not incorporate the holographic images until the customer decides to emboss the image directly onto the end document.

Nickel masters
NovaVision’s in-house electroforming facilities produce nickel masters from an ‘H2’ master hologram. The ‘H2’ is silvered in a bell jar vacuum deposition chamber and then the silvered master is placed in an electroforming bath and a master nickel shim of specified thickness is formed. The master nickel shim is the first nickel master grown as a result of electroforming and the image is wrong-reading. That master is replicated to form ‘mother’ (right reading image) and those ‘mothers’ are replicated to form ‘daughters’ (wrong reading image). The master nickel shim is archived and the mother is stored and inventoried to grow more daughters’ as needed. The ‘daughters’ are then sheared to the customer’s mounting specifications and are shipped to the customer’s production facility. The nickel shim (daughter) will be mounted onto a brass rotary die using a proprietary ‘raised shim’ technology developed by NovaVision. Nickel shims can also be developed for vertical applications on platen presses.

A shim clamp is affixed to the second brass rotary die with pin locators and holes positioned for mounting the leading edge of the shim. NovaVision can also provide a shim punch fixture that will accurately pre-punch the holes onto the leading edge of the shim.

The shim is then clamped in position using the pin locators for position and secured with Allen screws. The trailing edge of the shim is then fixed using slots punched into the shim which match the pre-punched holes. The shim is clamped and tension is applied to allow even shim-to-cylinder contact. Any excess nickel should be trimmed away with a sharp knife. The embossing die with the mounted shim can then be inserted into the second stamping station and is ready for embossing.

Embossing techniques
The NovaVision process incorporates the use of slightly modified conventional hot-stamping technology, so basically any rotary printer currently hot stamping can use the direct application process on-press, in-line and under their control. Two die stations of the rotary press are used, the first station for hot stamping the NovaVision Imaging Foil onto the end document and the second station for embossing the optically variable device. The NovaVision process allows for in-line embossing using light pressure, around 200-300 psi, at press speeds up to 250 feet per minute. The two most critical factors related to image quality are the heat and pressure in relation to the speed of the press. The overall efficiency of the process can therefore be improved with the aid of thermal couple units or infrared sensors, die pressure gauges and die assists. The incorporation of the thermal coupled unit can help to determine whether accurate heat is being applied. The pressure gauges will help indicate whether cylinders are delivering even pressure on the bearers and the die assist sets will help in keeping the cylinders level and even, as pressure is being added.

As mentioned before, The NovaVision process incorporates hot-stamping technology that is slightly modified. The NovaVision Imaging Foil is delivered through the system using the existing unwind and rewind units of the printing press. Two die stations of the existing press equipment are retro-fitted with two modular hot-stamping units. The first hot-stamping station is consistent with conventional hot-stamping for a rotary press which incorporates a silicon rubber base roll. Using the rubber base roll and conventional brass rotary hot-stamping dies, which are configured to the customer’s imprint specifications, The NovaVision Imaging Foil is laid down, or stamped, from the carrier film onto the substrate document due to the combination of heat and pressure being applied. After passing through the first station, the specified amount of NovaVision Imaging Foil will adhere to the document substrate and is now ready for embossing at the second die station.

The second hot-stamping station, referred to as the embossing station, uses an adjustable steel base anvil base roll and a second brass rotary stamping die with a consistent repeat that was used at the first hot-stamping station. A nickel production shim is mounted to the brass embossing die, using the clamp-down system. Once the press is running and the embossing shim makes contact with the NovaVision Imaging Foil surface, laid down at the first station, a holographic image will appear. Holographic image quality can be improved by applying the right combination of heat and pressure.

NovaVision has also been working on another significant innovation, the Foil Saver. Co-developed with an equipment company, the Foil Saver is a higher speed rotary incremental foil feeder which reduces foil usage on rotary applications. This foil feed unit is synchronized with press speed through an optical encoder attached to the press drive. This will allow the foil to be supplied at proper speed and tension while conserving the use of foil. The incremental foil feed mechanism is controlled by a stepper motor programmed to accelerate and decelerate the whole foil web in an ‘up-and-down’ motion, which will present an incremental amount of foil to the rotary stamping nip appropriate to press speed and image repeat. This significantly reduces the amount of foil waste used in both conventional hot-stamping operations and using The NovaVision process.

The major benefits of the NovaVision system can be summarized as cost savings and increased control due to the elimination of image registration from conventional hot-stamping foil to the document, reduced inventory costs and risks due to the elimination of prepared inventory. This will also increase the printer’s flexibility and customer control in terms of the number and type of images to be produced.

 

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