With the shift of manufacturing to countries outside the U.S., counterfeiting of parts has become a serious problem. But a new plastic Microtagging technology from RTP Co., Winona, Minn. (www.rtpcompany.com), helps ensure parts are made with the exact materials or resins specified by designers. Microtagging was originally developed to help the explosives industry track and avert terrorism. It has turned out to be useful in high counterfeiting markets such as sporting goods, entertainment, and high warranty markets such as electronics, automotive, and aircraft.

"Microtag particles are essentially unique numeric code sequences in a microscopic multicolor format," says Stu Swain, color product manager for RTP Co. "Sequences are certified and registered on a database and will never be used again for any other purpose."

Putting microtags in thermoplastic compounds provides a means of identification and authentication and should help limit counterfeiting and warranty/liability issues. "Particles can be formulated to the approximate size of ground pepper or almost completely invisible to the naked eye," says Swain.

Standard particle size ranges from 20 to 600 µm. "A simple nondestructive, UV light test and a 100X magnifying glass is all that is needed for a customer to test parts and find out if they contain the correct resin, compound, or alloy," says Swain. Microtags are added to resins during compounding or supplied in concentrate form for use at the molding press. Fluorescent or magnetic materials detectable by scanners and electronic sensors can also be compounded into the resin.