New production process set to improve quality of identity documents

The Paul Scherrer Institute and the University of Applied Sciences of Northwest Switzerland are developing a new manufacturing process for security elements on identity documents together with Gemalto. This should, among other things, serve to improve the document quality.

Three-dimensional optical structures
Image credit: FHNW

Identity documents such as driver’s licenses, identity cards and credit cards are equipped with various security elements in order to avoid counterfeiting. Among other things, different structures are systematically deployed on the surface of such documents during the embossing process. However, the embossing plates required for this in the production process are complex and expensive. Moreover, the do not always guarantee the desired surface quality.

Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and the University of Applied Sciences of Northwest Switzerland (FHNW) are now jointly developing a new production process for security elements on identity documents together with the Aargau-based branch of the Dutch company Gemalto. The aim here is to “manufacture highly precise three-dimensional optical structures with top surface quality, all the while ensuring that production costs are kept as low as possible”, as detailed in a press release.

The first step in the new process involves ultrashort laser pulses being used to remove material from a plastic surface in targeted fashion. This produces defined microstructures. The second step sees the surface of these structures smoothed over. A method developed by PSI, intended for micro-optic applications, is used to achieve this.

Gemalto sees itself as a leading company in the field of digital and physical identity solutions and is aiming to systematically promote innovative technologies. Christian Sailer, Head of Physical Document Security R&D Switzerland at Gemalto, commented: “For us, it is of elementary importance that we invest in new, innovative technologies in the manufacturing of security products in order for us to maintain our leadership status”. The collaboration between Gemalto and the two research institutes has been arranged as part of the Nano Argovia project LASTRUPOL. This offers “an exceptional opportunity to benefit from the expertise of specialists in the field of plastics processing at FHNW and PSI”, Sailer explained.

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