Space laser tech could let companies track items, reduce counterfeiting

Space laser can inscribe ID numbers in glass without damaging it

Laser technology developed to etch the surfaces of space measuring equipment,  telescope lenses and mirrors is now being touted as a way to inscribe identity numbers in all manner of glass items from medical syringes and bottles to car parts for traceability and anti-counterfeit applications.

Belgian start-up Trackinside in Belgian Space Technology's Centre Spatial de Liège (CSL) which was initially devoted to developing cleaning processes using lasers. The CSL is part of the European Space Agency.

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The company's 'femtosecond laser' works much like the laser used in eye surgery, where it beams energy through the surface of the eye to make incisions deep below, the company stated. Femtosecond lasers have a number of applications from microfabrication to cameras that can shoot around corners.  In the Trackinside case the laser is calibrated for glass.   The beams are directed at a focal point inside the glass, marking the material there. Serial numbers or other identification are inscribed using very brief pulses. All of this can be done without cracking, heating or leaving any external marks on the glass.

"It's the only technology that can mark glass without damaging it," said Jean Michel Mestrez, Trackinside Managing Director in a statement.

The company has focused the technology at the medical market in particular.  For example, in the past, medicines would be marked in batches, not syringe by syringe. But new European regulations are leading more pharmaceutical companies to seek out this kind of technology to track medicine from the point of production to use and ultimately disposal.

For luxury goods, this new type of numbering is useful not only to track products, but also to protect high-profile brands from counterfeiting, the company stated.  Labeling individual items gives producers the ability to track distribution channels and grey market activities.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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