According to Wikipedia, “Security printing is the field of the printing industry that deals with the printing of items such as banknotes, cheques, passports, tamper-evident labels, security tapes, product authentication, stock certificates, postage stamps and identity cards.”
Because these items are high value, they offer a significant opportunity for printing operations who are looking for applications that can help them get out of the commodity zone to a place where they are producing higher margin, higher value products that have substantial benefits for their customers and that result in a more profitable printing operation.
But security printing does require specific skills. First, of course, is the ability to print at a very high quality level. These documents contain security features that require perfect registration and the ability to produce very small elements such as microprint and other anti-counterfeiting techniques. Security documents also often use special inks and pigments. This includes inks that smudge or fluoresce if alterations are attempted using water or solvents; inks that fluoresce under UV or infrared light; and thermochromic inks that change color or disappear when subjected to heat.
Many security documents are printed on costly substrates, such as plastics. When the cost of substrates is combined with the cost of special inks and pigments, excess waste during the production process can mean risking profitability on the job. So, in the security printing field, containing waste is also a very important capability.
In the Czech Republic, most security documents are produced by the State-owned Printing Works of Securities (STC). STC’s Ondřej Hyršl, Production Director, states, “For many of our security documents, we have been using waterless offset printing, primarily those printed on plastics. This includes ID cards, resident permit cards, public transportation cards, driving licenses and more. We believe that there are benefits to moving some of our paper-based products to waterless offset as well. I personally believe waterless is the future of security printing for most applications. It’s easy to use and enables us to print very high definition products with minimal waste. This is important, since plastic substrates and security inks and pigments are expensive, and waste is costly. Waterless offset is key to remaining competitive in the future, and we hope to be able to leverage that to expand our customer base even more, including shifting other applications to waterless and producing more work for other countries and commercial concerns.”
Two key areas where Hyršl is experimenting with waterless offset are passports and banknotes. “For ID cards and passports,” he says, “the normal life cycle is five to seven years between redesigns, making 2019 an ideal time to update them.” The Czech Republic has also recent introduced new currency, and Hyršl is looking at whether to convert banknote production to waterless offset s well. He adds, “We believe we could easily convert that product to waterless offset and benefit from the very high resolution this technology offers, using IMPRIMA SD printing plates from Toray that are capable of generating a printing resolution in excess of 10,000 dpi.”
For printing companies, switching from conventional to waterless offset requires only minimal adjustments to workflow. In addition to security printing, Toray’s versatile line of waterless thermal plates is suitable for use in a number of other diverse applications such as labels, CD/DVDs, fine art reproductions, and newspapers. Waterless offset printing is also ideal for printers using UV curable inks for packaging printing on non-absorbent substrates as well as for sheetfed applications and publication printing on web presses that require exceptional image quality. This makes waterless offset printing ideal for producing any number of high-value printed products.
IMPRIMA SD Plates and Security Printing
IMPRIMA SD plates were specifically designed to address the needs of security printing. They feature a layer of silicone that is applied on the surface of the plate’s thermal sensitive layer. Plates are imaged using a thermal laser in a similar manner to imaging of conventional digital offset plates.
Many highly secure documents are produced using technologies such as flexographic or gravure printing where set-up can be expensive and shorter to mid-sized runs can be cost prohibitive. With Toray IMPRIMA ™ SD super high-resolution waterless printing plates, security documents can be printed using the much more cost-effective offset printing methodology commonly used to produce high quality commercial printing. In addition, by switching to waterless offset, not only do firms deliver a more environmentally sustainable printing solution, but press operators are able to shorten makeready times and significantly reduce makeready waste due to the fact they do not have to worry about issues caused by improper ink/water balance, an issue common to conventional offset.
Implementing Waterless Offset Printing for Security Documents
In addition to the special electronic prepress systems typically required for security image design and production purposes, which can vary based on the application being produced, there are only a few basic requirements for successfully implementing IMPRIMA™ SD super high-resolution waterless printing These include:
For Ondřej Hyršl, the collaboration between Toray and STC in further developing STC’s security printing capabilities over the past five years has been an important aspect of the organization’s ability to provide exceptional support to its Czech governmental and other clients. “The new IMPRIMA SD plates will help us boost our print quality to better address requirements for the new Czech passport and IDs,” he says. “It’s good to know we have a very strong supplier like Toray on our side. The support has been excellent, and waterless offset printing with Toray plates means high quality and low waste. These are the reasons we prefer to use Toray plates and waterless offset printing for production of as many applications as possible.”