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Hologram security: a familiar packaging device still offers value in both decoration and protection of products and other valuables.

One school of thought says that the hologram, as a useful device to deter theft or counterfeiting, is a thing of the past. Its purpose on a credit card, for example, no longer is to stop crooks, but for decoration. Credit card companies won't issue a card without one, however, because the public expects to see it there, for the comfort level.


It used to be understood that a hologram could not be duplicated by counterfeiters, or if it could, the task was far from simple. Today that appears not to be the case.

"It is commonly believed that holograms cannot be counterfeited. As a matter of fact, it is rather easy to counterfeit the holograms that are commonly used today in security applications, and holograms have been counterfeited more than once," says Stephen P. McGrew, president of New Light Industries, Spokane, WA, USA, which conducts research into holographic printing and replication processes, optical security seals and other technologies.

"There are several straightforward, simple and inexpensive ways to counterfeit the kinds of holograms currently used in security documents and credit cards," McGrew says. "This is not news to the holographic industry, but it may be a revelation to some of the users and potential users of security holograms. That is the bad news. The good news is that there are countermeasures against hologram counterfeiting which can be extremely effective. Holograms are already well entrenched in the security printing business, and they do add incrementally to the challenge faced by the counterfeiter." McGrew goes on to explain how holograms are counterfeited, and suggests how that can be stopped, in a paper that he has published at

Despite what people think about their usefulness as a crime deterrent, however, holograms are still alive, and very much in use as security devices on packages and labels.

"With so much at stake, food and drink manufacturers, product producers and marketers must endeavor to stay one step ahead of the counterfeiter, and packaging is the most obvious and easiest place to start," says John D. Brown, chairman of Light Impressions International Ltd., a supplier of optical anti-counterfeiting devices based in Surrey, England. "Holograms have enormous potential, not only guaranteeing the genuineness of a product or package, but acting as a catalyst to boost sales by suggesting increased reliability. Moreover, if 'classically' produced holograms are involved, duplication by the counterfeiter is impossible."

Holograms, says Brown, belong to a class of imaging devices known as diffractive optical variable imaging devices (DOVID). "They can be applied to most smooth coated paper and board stocks, as well as printed and standard aqueous coatings. The material can also be UV coated after stamping for high abrasion applications, and plastic surfaces can accept holograms.

"Moreover they can be overprinted using processes such as gravure and flexography, making them suitable for flexible packaging applications."

"The most common uses for holograms are brand enhancement, added value, and for protection," says Brad Long, director of business development for brand protection at Kurz Transfer Products, Charlotte, NC, USA. "When it comes to brand protection, the presence of a hologram makes it easy for the brand owner in litigation. Someone has to go to a great extent to copy a hologram. If someone is doing that, it makes it easier to go to court to prove counterfeiting. It's much easier to go up against that than other forms of brand protection."


"Some people will tell you that holograms are passe from a security standpoint, but not at the forensic level. There they are still very robust," says Robert Sherwood, vice president of sales and marketing for Sekuworks, Harrison, OH, USA, and owner of Holoshape Products in Ivy, NC, USA. "Holograms make it more difficult for the counterfeiter. Forensically they are almost impossible to duplicate."

Karen Harth is an owner and operator of Security Hologram Inc., of Chanhassen, MN, USA. As someone whose business revolves around holography, packaging, decoration, and security, Harth has direct knowledge of the marketplace and the attitudes.

"In some markets, and in some areas of the world, people have to have holograms on their products," she says. Still, there has been an adjustment in people's perspectives about whether they should incorporate holograms or not. I agree that in certain contexts holograms might be on the way out, but they still have value in certain industries, and will not go away. They offer a level of added value, and people enjoy looking at them. They are a pleasing add-on to a product."

In Asia, she says, "there are so many manufacturers out there who are making it more difficult for European and North American countries and companies. We are seeing hologram counterfeiting from Asia. I can't assure someone that I can prevent it. If a counterfeiter has the time, money and will, they can do it. In the West," she notes, "we have a good infrastructure to combat counterfeiting, but elsewhere in the world, not so.

"Most of our clients still see value in holograms, but it can't be the sole source of a product's security. You have to combine multiple layers: optical variable inks, papers, graphics. These need to be worked in combination with one another in order to thwart the bad guys."


Uses, types and processes

Holograms are popular on high volume packaging, but they are also a hot item on short run labels, too. Holoshape makes labels using stock holographic foils, as well as laser cutting and thermal printing. "We specialize in really short runs," says Sherwood. "Our average job is under a thousand dollars. But we have stock patterns and laser-etched and/or printed and numbered products. We offer lasered logos, and also holograms for apparel."

Hot stamping is a common method of applying a holographic foil, but cold foil application is making strong inroads into that area. According to J. Michael Rivera, vice president of sales for Amagic Holographics, cold foil application offers lower cost, higher speed and a lower initial investment than hot foil.

"Cold foil was initially used for product decoration," Rivera says. "But it's now available for security hologram application that can easily be applied by the printer."

Brad Long says that Kurz has taken holography up a few notches with its proprietary Kinegram technology, which is used on bank notes throughout the world. "A Kinegram displays a kinetic movement within the optical variable device," Long says. "For commercial applications it's called a Trust Seal. The way they are made is completely different from conventional holograms. Standard methods can't copy the optics behind it. A Kinegram is very bright, but it doesn't have the depth of dimension. It can have multiple channels that are very clear and evident. With a typical hologram you see in one angle, but with a Trust Seal you see from all angles."

Long adds that the company is working on a surface relief aspect to the product: "Physically it looks like a hard emboss, like it would have touch and feel, but it hasn't. It's just a typical smooth surface."

DuPont Authentication Systems, Windsor, CT, USA, offers an optical variable device called Izon, which features full parallax deep 3D imaging that allows the viewer to look around the sides of the object in the image as if it were real, delivering instant visual verification of the authenticity of the document or product being inspected. The image can contain a variety of data and objects, and allows for 3D facial portraits for use in personal security documents. DuPont also creates layers of additional security by incorporating various covert properties to the Izon products.

Seal-It Inc., a converter and printer of heat shrink labels, sleeves and tamper-evident bands in Farmingdale, NY, USA, recently introduced holographic shrink bands and labels. The holographic strip is a three dimensional image and can be custom designed with a company logo or pattern.


Security Hologram works with a contract holographer, and is able to produce custom work. The company offers a multitude of holographic products and concepts, says Harth. "We work with concert promoters and event promoters for disposable products with holograms. We have stock images for those, so it's not a big expense.

"At the next level we take stock images and overprint a company's logo, company name, serial numbers, text, and so forth. The third level is a custom hologram."

Most of these, she says, are self-adhesive or produced on stamping foil, but a lot are still hand applied.

"What's amazing to us is that almost every printing company says that it offers holograms, and they do, but they really have trouble talking about how a hologram is made, how long it takes to make it, the details of it, and other major topics to discuss with the client to create a hologram.

"Some clients think they need a hologram because they are neat to look at," says Harth. "But I talked a guy out of a hologram the other day, because I was not so sure it was worth it to him. We try to understand scope of project. A hologram is still expensive, so we try to establish right away if the customer has the budget."

RELATED ARTICLE: Omet meets hologram insertion challenge inline

Omet, the press manufacturer based in Lecco, Italy, recently set up and tested its Holo-King Foil unit that can deposit--up to six ways--holograms that have an independent pitch among one another. The work was performed inline on a Varyflex press.


According to Marco Calcagni, Omet vice president, the unit "is the first worldwide that can make inline production of labels, plastic film and flexible carton, all of them hologrammed in the drawings and the most varied forms, starting from a standard roll of material, from paper to self-adhesive paper, folding carton or plastic film and coupling hologrammed material with the greatest ease of production."

The Holo-King Foil unit was tested at a speed of 80 meters per minute. The same unit is also suitable for the foil-saver application module, which reduces consumption of expensive foil during the stamping process.
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Author:Kenny, Jack
Publication:Label & Narrow Web
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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