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A small company in Southern Germany has developed a new means to help plastics processors, their customers, and others take some of the sting out of the damage done by product piracy. The high-tech solution relies on a material used for centuries to give a product "its own DNA."

Matt Defosse

November 9, 2010

2 Min Read
Ceramic nano-particles could help processors beat copycats and pirates

The company, Polysecur, is based in Freiburg, Germany. Although there are thousands of different tools available to help prevent product piracy, Joechen Moesslein, managing director at Polysecur, claims his company's is both unique and more effective. "We've a very clear vision—to give every product its own DNA," is how he describes the results realized using the company's product. Polysecur dopes micro- or nano-scale powder granules of ceramic to take advantage of the material's properties such as temperature stability, inertness, compression strength, and more. The supplier claims adding its powder will only add marginal cost to a product, similar to that for a colorant or other additive dosed in low levels.

According to Moesslein, the code given to each powder particle can be controlled and also read on an automated scale. These particles can be distributed freely over plastic pellets, for example, with just 50 needed to sufficiently code one million pellets, he says. During plasticizing, the powder is distributed homogenously in the raw material and the marker does not influence the physical and chemical properties of the original product. Because they are insoluble and non-toxic, the powder already has FDA approval for use in applications in contact with food, beverage and medicine. Temperature stability of the powder is above 1700°C so that even when a product is charred, the powder still can be read.

Euromap, the European organization representing plastics machinery and moldmaking manufacturers, has made defeating product piracy one of its primary goals. Product piracy, of end-use products, machinery or raw materials, has become a huge business for organized crime as the profits often are even higher than can be achieved with illegal drugs, but the penalties are very light in comparison. According to the VDMA, the association of German machine manufacturers, product piracy is estimated to have cost German machinery manufacturers about €6.4 billion in 2009, translating to some 4% of total sales. Much worse for plastics processors, one out of every 11 machines copied is for plastics or runner processing equipment, according to Thorsten Kuhmann, the managing director of the VDMA's plastics machinery group. Just two years ago, the figure was one in 20, indicative of the increasing risk that plastics processors may be tricked into purchasing machinery that is not original and may well be unsafe.

To help highlight the anti-piracy effort, the VDMA has formed a "Product and Know-how Protection" working group, with information on it available at www.protect-ing.de. The group also has an English-language video highlighting the dangers of piracy; that video can be viewed here. —Matt Defosse

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