by Patrick Helskens
In the world of tax stamps, the counterfeiting fight is raging. Security printing, specifically digital security printing, caught the attention of key market players vying for counterfeiting pirates. We’ve elaborated on the benefits of digital security printing in writing before, but in May 2022 we decided to also talk to people about it. Off to Malta in May we went to attend the Tax Stamp & Traceability Forum. From our conversations and the presentations we joined, we picked up 3 key insights, or trends, into digital security printing our industry needs to be mindful of.
1. Acknowledge the rise of digital and its gain of market share in security printing
Under the leadership of a new chairman, Gerben van Wijk, the 2022 Tax and Traceability Forum (TTF) Forum edition welcomed 194 registrants from 99 organizations in 35 countries to learn the latest developments.
Digital security printing was a key theme at this year's forum, including a pre-conference workshop and various presentations. This focus was good news, as attendees are becoming increasingly aware of the value of digital security printing and how it can support their counterfeiting purposes.
It was good to see and hear a growing consensus in the security industry that digital printing has an added value that should not be overlooked. This viewpoint represents an important change in mindset and, if you ask me, a relatively recent one. Most speakers at the forum acknowledged that digital features have a lot of merits, and that digital is a complementary instrument to add to the security toolbox.
But still, "digital" remains a relatively new concept, and the industry needs to understand and trust the benefits it offers. Reluctance to investigate the new possibilities that digital printing brings will be counter-productive in the medium to long term.
Because today, more than enough purely digital characteristics offer a security level up to par with analogue systems. Depending on the needs of the job, users can employ a combination of digital techniques to produce the security needed. And, since secure products already combine different techniques, why not add the unique capabilities of a digital print system and a digital workflow to your capabilities?
Did you know? 80.000 unique tax stamps containing 160.000 variables and a bunch of technical stuff around it based on a set of production rules, as requested by the customer, without pre-press tools, starting from 1 (one!) on-press background pdf, hands-off, could be ready to print in 3 minutes and 26 seconds. Our Xeikon X-800 workflow can make this happen with the VDP feature, as you could read in this blog. The tech is ready to make this happen, it’s the industry mindset that needs to adopt the possibilities.
2. Consider developing new skills, like designing for digital, to open new job opportunities
Another consensus at the Forum was that we are not talking about using a new tool to produce existing applications in another way. Rather, when entering the digital space, one needs to design for digital, using its distinctive abilities in an optimized way. That calls for a different skillset, especially from the design perspective. If you want to do this right, you must get it right from the start.
For example, the method used to produce a secure document typically requires multiple elements. These elements can include any combination of particular substrates, custom toners, several variable data fields, unique backgrounds, and meticulous attention to design details.
Keep in mind that when you are digitally printing secure documents, the elements you use will vary depending on the needs of the job you are printing. Every process must be tailored to perfection, depending on the use case.
We have also written this informative blog post that provides an in-depth look at these techniques in more detail.
It will call for training, servicing, learning, and growing continuously to expand this knowledge and build an expertise that is meant to last and keep you one step ahead of the competition. You’ll might have to ask existing human talent to retrain or attract new talent. Either way, it is bound to rejuvenate your product and/or solution offering. Luckily, the tech providers have taken this into account and offer the trainings programs to evolve with you as you master the tech.
3. Always keep your eye on the bigger picture and the contribution of digital print
Although there were many presentations on digitally printed features and security inks, much of the discussion at TSTF 2022 was on track & trace. Attendees learned that achieving complete supply chain management requires various systems to be in place.
This means that multiple levels require tackling. Xeikon, as a provider of digital print configurations, workflow systems, and security "colors," has the expertise to share. We can guide users in designing digital security applications, integrating in-line finishing steps, using camera inspection systems to automate track & trace, etc. But governments and print providers must look at a much bigger picture when writing/answering tenders.
For example, a "full circle" solution encompasses many capabilities. These capabilities include data flow, substrate management, production (design, print, embellish, finish, track), post-production authentication tools, in-the-field scanners and (mobile) applications for excise officers and consumers to spot counterfeit products, reporting tools, and cross-government, cross-border exchange of information on imported/exported products and tax collection.
While some of these capabilities are outside the expertise of Xeikon, the main point remains: In the end, there will be a printed variable security "something" to be glued onto, sewn into, transferred upon, wrapped around, or incorporated into a physical product. When it comes to digital, what was not possible yesterday might be possible today. Therefore, print providers specializing in security applications should continually update themselves on digital capabilities. And, for the best performance and highest security, every security application will need to be designed for digital, in an intelligent way, for a specific digital press. And that’s where we come in. Trust us.
Today, Xeikon is seeing a small but growing demand for security products. Now is the time to prepare for the future. We acknowledge that re-designing a security product is not done rashly. Every project is different. But if you’re ready to explore, reach out to us so that we can share the digital knowledge we have to advance your security offering.