Security innovations to help ensure product safety
Deep in a state-of-the-art lab in Mississauga, Ont., researchers are tackling problems that cost businesses around the world billions of dollars every year.
The engineers and scientists at the Xerox Research Centre of Canada (XRCC) spend much of their time helping companies come up with innovative security solutions to battle counterfeits and protect their brands against pirates. This is an enormous challenge with an annual global price tag of $1.7 trillion, according to the Organization for Economic Development.
It may be surprising at first for some to learn that Xerox, a company that made a name for itself by inventing the photocopier, is so heavily invested in developing security materials, but the work is a natural extension of the innovative research and development we have carried out for decades.
For more than 40 years, XRCC developed new materials like inks, toners and photoreceptors for the Xerox’s own purposes. As the primary materials research and development centre for Xerox’s operations around the globe, virtually every Xerox product in market today has been influenced in some way by the research team in Mississauga.
But over the past five years, however, we have opened the doors to our labs so we can put our experience and expertise to work for other companies, collaborating with them to develop custom high tech security solutions and bring them to market.
Not only do we have state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to handle R&D for just about any security materials challenge, including mining, we also have a world-class team of more than 60 chemical engineers, physicists and scientists who understand the importance of getting products to market quickly.
Our researchers have also demonstrated particular expertise for developing materials that enable security features, including fluorescence, colour shifts, metallic finishes, and electronic properties. These materials can be incorporated directly or indirectly into life-critical products like medicines, food, toys, cosmetics, fertilizers, aircraft and car parts.
To illustrate how the process works, consider a recent example of a client who came to us with a unique security challenge that required a creative solution. We were approached by a company that delivers fuel across the globe who needed to guarantee that their product was genuine and hadn’t been diluted or tampered with in any way.
Working closely with the client, our scientists began to develop and test a series of chemical markers that could be added to the fuel to show a specific response when exposed to a stimulus.
One of the many challenges during the research and testing phase was trying to come up with an additive that could survive the complex chemical environment of liquid fuel for its lifetime.
Once our team formulated a marker that met all of the client’s goals, we were able to begin manufacturing large batches of the additive in our Scale-Up Engineering Pilot Plant, which is outfitted with chemical reactors capable of producing anywhere from 2 to 2,000 litres of material at a time.
Innovation is a critical success factor for Canada’s long-term economic resilience. Our vision is to help drive innovation in Canada, and to help businesses grow through the commercialization of breakthrough materials, technologies and services.
As we look to the future, we envision that XRCC will continue to invent and develop new materials’ platforms, explore ways to incorporate materials into functional prototypes, and push the limits of materials and ‘device’ performance to impact business across markets in Canada.
Dr. Paul Smith is Vice-president and Centre Manager, Xerox Research Centre of Canada, Mississauga, ON.