Single File Line for Anticounterfeiting and Tracking

A technology is awarded for a tracking application at the work-in-progress stage.

By Anastasia Thrift
Managing Editor

Polyonics (Westmoreland, NH) debuted its label material Product Sentry to acclaim when it received Circuits Assembly’s New Product Introduction Award. 

The labels use Polyonic’s Thermoguard “durable label” technology. The quality being honored is the ability for labelers to collect track-and-trace information along with anticounterfeiting information in one step. Real-time WIP data collection is combined with layered technologies for product authentication.

When packages are labeled on the production line, serialization data and anticounterfeiting information is scanned with proprietary and secure scanners to collect the WIP data. Simultaneously, the ProductSentry feature is then read to match the proprietary covert or forensic features used in the ribbon or label material, which uniquely identify each individual product.

“You’re just enhancing what you already do,” says Jim Williams, founder of Polyonics. “Yes, you have to buy new scanners—it won’t be chump change, but when you consider buying other things it seems like a reasonable, affordable way to tackle the problem.”

The additional data stream collection enhances protection against counterfeiting, product diversion, and other fraud. Labelers will have to create another field for brand protection within their databases, but one that can simply confirm yes or no. This information will allow automatic withdrawl from the production flow. Packagers need a way to detect fraud and a means of using that information, Williams says, and today’s existing labels contain much of this information.

Williams says the ease of incorporation is such that if a company simply has an assembly line set up it’s “90% of the way there.” Information used to keep track of distribution channels can be adapted to also add authentication and brand protection features without having to shut down and reinvent the production process. Product Sentry also can be used with multiple tracking features. 

“The taggant can be anything, it’s almost independent of the technology chosen,” Williams says of the product’s flexibility. “It can be taggants, it could be optical ‘smart holograms’—anything that can be incorporated into labeling and printing processes that you already use. Doesn’t have to be DNA. A lot of us get confused about the technology choices and the trade-offs you have to make—is it easy for the bad guys to figure out where it is or what it is, or how much does it cost.”

Williams says the technology was deemed noteworthy enough that the electronics community prized it. He says judges selected the Polyonics solution because they considered it effective, easy to implement, and cost-effective.

“I think one of the big reasons was that the infrastructure, bar coding, that they were using, they asked ‘Why not incorporate an additional piece of information?’ ” Williams says.

The New Product Introduction Award is the journal Circuits Assembly’s way to recognize leading products for electronics assembly within the past year. An independent panel of practicing industry engineers reviewed this year’s entries and the awards were presented at IPC Apex 2009 in Las Vegas.

At the show, Williams also led a discussion panel on counterfeiting issues in electronics, and delivered a presentation on preserving the integrity of the electronics supply chain.

Williams believes that the counterfeiting problem that affects pharmaceutical products and others must be addressed somehow, whether or not with his particular innovation.

“By not picking a technology, you are making a choice,” he says. “That will cost you.” ■

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