The stakes are bigger, and so is the market for holographic film.
Several holographic film companies have benefited from working in a post-Sept. 11 world, where security has become tantamount to freedom for many Americans. They also have used their marketing skills to build on that fact with the public.
A DuPont brochure calls its new holographic-film joint venture a powerful weapon in the war against counterfeiting. Another company boasts of its product's covert features to meet security objectives. Those are the tools of the trade for several holographic film companies that exhibited at Pack Expo International 2002, held Nov. 3-7 in Chicago.
``After Sept. 11, there's been a lot more attention paid to counterfeiting and security issues,'' said Warren Molee, senior business development manager for Bridgeport, Conn.-based DuPont Authentication Systems. ``We've been able to respond to that market with a myriad of personal identification products.''
DuPont is emerging as the new kid on the holographic block, a once-novelty field that is gaining momentum. In August 2001, Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont formed a joint venture with Bridgeport-based Label Systems Inc., a provider of anti-counterfeiting images and programs. The venture blends DuPont's photopolymer film and holographic technology with Label Systems' security know-how.
Since Sept. 11, the companies have opened a new production facility in Logan, Utah, and a branch office in Tokyo. DuPont Authentication joins several other U.S. firms making holographic film for similar safety applications.
Applications for security film are growing at a fast clip and include toothpaste containers, candy wrappers and other big-name consumer products. The films typically are made of polyethylene or oriented polypropylene.
While some of the applications are quite new, some of the film companies are far from newcomers. One, American Bank Note Holographics Inc. of Elmsford, N.Y., was spun off in the 1980s from a printer of U.S. currency founded about the time of the American Revolution. Its holographic PE film allows images to be viewed in three dimensions but is not always visible, said Adam Scheer, vice president of corporate development. The images can be used with hot-stamped foils or laminated onto credit cards, or used to form pressure-sensitive labels
Those checking identification cards for foreign nationals can look for a unique pattern that others would not recognize, Scheer said.
``A number of governments use this in national ID cards, and we've begun marketing the product to states and corporations as well,'' Scheer said. ``It's a robust holographic image that is very obvious at certain angles but disappears at other angles. The printed information is underneath it.''
That high-security film now is found on some driver's license cards and passports, while the hot-stamp foils are used with credit cards in North America and Europe. New European currencies, including the euro, use holography to keep counterfeiters away, Scheer said. Counterfeit ID cards are a major focus area, he said. The terrorists responsible for the World Trade Center attacks were said to have used counterfeit driver's licenses to evade detection, he said.
American Bank Note also is embedding hidden images, such as bar codes, onto labels to authenticate packages, Scheer said.
``A counterfeiter will not be able to re-create or simulate a package because of holographic security,'' Scheer said. ``This is the business we've always been in. Others might be playing catch-up.''
DuPont's new joint venture is unlike others vying for increasing work in the security sector, Molee said. Instead of using an embossed PE film, DuPont and Label Systems start with an acrylic, photopolymer film developed in DuPont's Wilmington laboratories.
The DuPont film creates high-resolution images that in some cases can be seen only through a laser light source, Molee said at Pack Expo. The hologram provides a complete record on a label that can be validated by security or store personnel.
The company is looking at such applications as food and pharmaceuticals, where a holographic package can show evidence of tampering. Multilayer applications of the packaging film can be used for shipments made several times across countries or continents, Molee said.
Consumer applications dominate the holographic film market, and nonspecialist film companies such as the film division of ExxonMobil Chemical Co., Applied Extrusion Technologies Inc. and Sonoco Products Co., are going after their share. Meanwhile, the niche players are branching out.
CFC International of Countryside, Ill., is finding new retail markets - on its packages for Arm & Hammer baking soda, the bubbles seem to move. It also works with Titleist golf balls and gift boxes for Clinique personal-care products. The film only costs 2-3 cents more than traditional packages when sold in large volumes, said David Beeching, vice president of CFC's holographics unit.
``We used to see it mainly for promotional items on new products or for seasonal uses,'' Beeching said. ``But now, we're starting to see holographic film used more on a regular basis.''
But the industry still is guarded about its production. Holographic film maker Spectratek Technologies Inc. claims the technology it first created was stolen by competitors, said sales and marketing manager Marty Kelem.
So it updated its process to create sparkling PE-film images that are deeper-looking and more jagged around their edges and form a broader array of shapes, he said.
It now guards its work at its Los Angeles headquarters, where the company's 45 or so workers operate from a secure vault, Kelem said. Meanwhile, it makes retail products that can offer the shininess of galvanized steel on laminated film.
``Holographic film is getting a higher profile in the marketplace,'' Kelem said. ``Now we even have neon signs in Best Buy stores that you can see 100 feet away. You're seeing it on video games, toys, [digital versatile discs] and in security applications. It's turning heads.''