3D printed barcode to help combat pharmaceutical counterfeits

The first 3D barcode which can be built into products during manufacture has been developed by Yorkshire engineers.

The anti-counterfeit marker is virtually invisible to the naked eye and impossible to detect by touch. It can be read using a laser scanner, allowing anything from phones to pills to be tracked and verified as authentic.

The patented technology is already generating interest from the electronics, automotive and pharmaceutical sectors, where counterfeiting is a serious issue. Many pharma companies are now developing moulded tablets, produced using an injection moulding process, into which a 3D barcode could be incorporated.

Recently made public at the British Science Festival in Bradford, the technology was devised by the UK SME, Sofmat Ltd, and has been developed in collaboration with engineers from the University of Bradford.

The 3D barcode is made up of tiny indentations in the surface of the product, created by pins which are integrated into its mould. Using micro actuators, the pins can be set at different heights, each step corresponding to either a letter (A-Z) or a number (0-9). The prototype – developed with funding from Innovate UK – works with a four pin array, enabling over 1.7 million different configurations.

“The system enables very small displacements to be made in each pin – each step being just 0.4microns, 100th of the width of a human hair,” explains Dr Ben Whiteside, from the University of Bradford. “These have to be set with a very high accuracy, and with sufficient force so their position is maintained during the manufacturing process. While our system has been developed initially for products made from plastics or composites through injection moulding, it could also be used to stamp or emboss the code onto a product.”

Estimates for the total value of fakes sold worldwide each year reach as high as $1.8 trillion. Most anti-counterfeit devices are stuck onto the product or its packaging after manufacture, making them easy to copy. Because the 3D barcode is an integral part of the product itself it is very difficult to reproduce.

“A 3D barcode allows much more complexity than existing anti-counterfeit systems,” adds Sofmat Director Dr Phil Harrison. “You can have multiple configurations, different codes on each individual product and additional details such as patterns on the heads of the pins themselves, making copying the code extremely difficult. For the first time the same technology and coding can be used on bulk packaging, individual packaging and on the actual product, making it much harder to create and ship fake products.”

The system has been verified in the laboratory using high-tech scanning devices including a white light interferometer and a laser-scanning confocal microscope to characterise the surface of the coded ‘product’ to ensure the code is accurately reproduced. A laser scanner is currently in development that will be able to read the code and wirelessly transmit the result via an app to either a phone or tablet.


A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our news site - please take a moment to read this important message:

As you know, our aim is to bring you, the reader, an editorially led news site but journalism costs money and we rely on advertising and digital revenues to help to support them.

With the Covid-19 lockdown having a major impact on our industry as a whole, the advertising revenues we normally receive, which helps us cover the cost of our journalists and this website, have been drastically affected.

As such we need your help. If you can support our news sites with a small donation of even £1, your generosity will help us weather the storm and continue in our quest to deliver quality journalism.

In the meantime may I wish you the very best.

- Advertisement -

FDA approves Roche’s Phesgo for HER2-positive breast cancer

The FDA has approved Phesgo, the fixed-dose combination of Perjeta (pertuzumab) and Herceptin (trastuzumab) with hyaluronidase, administered by subcutaneous injection in combination with intravenous...

Carmine Therapeutics & Takeda to develop novel on-viral gene therapies

Carmine Therapeutics has signed a research collaboration agreement with Takeda to discover, develop and commercialise transformative non-viral gene therapies for two rare disease targets...

Catalent to fill-finish manufacture Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine canidate

Moderna and Catalent have entered into a collaboration for large-scale, commercial fill-finish manufacturing of the former’s mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate (mRNA-1273) at the latter’s...

Enrolment opens for 4D Pharma’s phase II study of live biotherapeutic in COVID-19

4D Pharma, the listed Leeds-based pharma company developing Live Biotherapeutics, has announced that its Phase II clinical trial of oral immunomodulator MRx-4DP0004 for patients...

Pharma industry invests £381m in UK R&D activities

The pharmaceutical industry has invested £381.2 million on R&D activities in the UK during 2019, up from £377.3 million in 2018, according to new...

Related news

CDMOs team up to simplify processes, optimise time-to-market

CDMOs Vetter and Rentschler Biopharma are collaborating to enhance their services and offer complementary skills and experience along the biopharmaceutical value chain. With drug development...

FDA approves Roche’s Phesgo for HER2-positive breast cancer

The FDA has approved Phesgo, the fixed-dose combination of Perjeta (pertuzumab) and Herceptin (trastuzumab) with hyaluronidase, administered by subcutaneous injection in combination with intravenous...

Carmine Therapeutics & Takeda to develop novel on-viral gene therapies

Carmine Therapeutics has signed a research collaboration agreement with Takeda to discover, develop and commercialise transformative non-viral gene therapies for two rare disease targets...

Catalent to fill-finish manufacture Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine canidate

Moderna and Catalent have entered into a collaboration for large-scale, commercial fill-finish manufacturing of the former’s mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate (mRNA-1273) at the latter’s...