“We combine decoration and traceability with authenticity and brand security,” said Veronica Savu, of Switzerland-based Morphotonix in an interview during K 2019.
"No additives, no labels – zero consumables.” Wholly unique, a Morphotonix marking is unable to be copied, providing protection against counterfeiting and decoration at the same time. The technology is being embraced by manufacturers of plastic closures, among others, as it is completely safe for food and beverage packaging.
Taking a cue from nature, Morphotonix creates patterns and designs by taking advantage of structural colouration – colour caused by light wave diffraction, the same phenomenon that gives the Morpho butterfly, part of the inspiration for the company’s name, its brilliant blue wings. In other words, a case of biomimicry in its purest form.
How does it work?
The technology makes use of engraving at nano scale. The engraved features are so small that they split the light and look like holograms in the steel. The hologram effect is transferred and replicated in the plastic product.
Veronica Savu: “We have a patented technology platform, but we started with some basic effects. Clients send us their designs – a logo or whatever they want. Using a lithographic machine, we take these designs and nano-engrave these on flat or free-form metal parts – like moulds. We don’t make anything in metal, as our customers simply send us their cavities, we create the specific features requested on the lithography machine, we engrave the cavities and send them back. They plug them into their production and it’s ready to go.”
It sounds like a simple idea, but when Savu started out in 2014 with her business partner Vaida Auzelyte, they were nowhere near having the fully developed product they produce today.
Savu: “We looked at the market to see what we could do with the technology. Of the various options, brand protection seemed like the one with the best potential. We worked closely for several years with potential customers, developed our final plug-and-play product that answers the need of industrial production. And we own the company – we are fully revenue funded by customers.” The company has customers around the world, many of whom are in the Asia Pacific, where counterfeiting is a major problem. “We are also starting to move into China,” Savu noted.
The company is looking at further developments. To help designers with deciding what the pattern should look like, they have developed a technique to simulate the effects in the product, which makes it “very helpful for them to understand what they are going to get because we are getting more and more complex designs,” said Savu.
A brand new development which was communicated for the first time at K 2019 is the possibility of incorporating covert security into a plastic product, using an invisible design. “You see nothing on the sample at all – a normal roughness surface, and then you shine a laser pointer on it and it projects your logo on the wall, anywhere,” she explained. “We take the logo of the client and then we transfer it, with a specific roughness that we engrave in the mould and replicate in the plastic. When this controlled roughness - an engraving at the nanoscale - sees the laser it reconstructs the original image and it projects it on the wall. While we’ve had a few customers who have used the covert security feature for their medical products, the rest of the clients tend to want more overt features.”
Next to all other achievements, Morphotonix also became an award-winning company this year, taking home a coveted IMDA award for best technical achievement for its long-running collaboration with United Caps. The jury lauded the company’s bio-inspired and sustainable closure design in “nano-engraved steel cavities with 130,000 dpi precision custom diffractive holograms, which were replicated by United Caps into the closures via injection moulding. The cavities are seamlessly integrated in the moulding line, and the closures are produced at standard speeds. The irremovable security designs provide immediate verification without scanning.”