Innovation That Matters

Moldable, invisible 3D barcodes

Sport & Fitness

Researchers at Bradford University have designed a barcoding system that can be moulded into products to prevent counterfeiting.

Counterfeiting is believed to cost companies trillions in annual profit and is a source of public health concern. We’ve covered an edible barcode to combat counterfeiting in the pharmaceutical industry, and now researchers at the University of Bradford have developed an undetectable 3D barcode designed to mould into a variety of products.


Developed with Sofmat and SME UK, the barcodes use a series of pins to create 3D patterns moulded onto a small plastic surface. By varying the heights and spaces between pins, millions of unique configurations can be produced. The barcodes are virtually invisible to human eyes and touch, ensuring that products can only be verified by a laser scanner and preventing copycatting. Barcodes can be built into or stamped on to products, making successful tampering very near impossible. Phil Harrison, Sofmat Director, explains: “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.”

In industries such as pharmaceuticals and electronics where counterfeiting is a major safety concern, making hard-to-fake materials protects people as well as profits. Can the technology be used in other counterfeit prone consumer goods?




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