Tetramer Technologies was awarded a Phase I contract (SP4701-17-P-0156) from the US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for the development of tamper-indicating labels and packaging. Within the Department of Defense, the DLA sources nearly all the consumables required to operate the United States military effectively. Food and fuel, medical supplies, and logistic information products are all provided by the DLA to the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy, and in some cases, partner nations’ armed forces. Annually more than $42 billion worth of products and services are delivered by the DLA in 28 countries from 24 large distribution centers worldwide. The nine supply chains for this equipment, replacement parts, and other consumables must be secured given the high cost, in terms of financial and human lives risked, if the DLA provides and armed forces use defective counterfeit items.
During this Phase I, Tetramer will develop a novel metachromic pigment and develop labels and packaging marked with inks based on this pigment that can be easily applied and verified by DLA personal with little training. A metachromic pigment takes advantage of color inconstancy, the quality of some pigments to appear different colors depending on the light source under which they are viewed. Initially, Tetramer will model the reflectivity of a range of potential pigments, quantifying each pigment’s color inconstancy. Guided by this information, novel pigments will be developed—prioritizing color inconstancy—using chemical coprecipitation, ball milling, and annealing techniques. The pigments developed will be analyzed digitally and visually. Upon successful development of metachromic pigments, these pigments will be incorporated into appropriate ink vehicles for printing. The printed metachromic inks will then be analyzed to downselect pigment(s) and pigment/ink combinations for further advancement.
Upon completion of this SBIR development program, Tetramer plans to deliver a tamper-indicating and authentication packaging and labeling solution to the DLA. It is envisioned that the DLA will purchase the new packaging and labels in bulk for distribution and use at their facilities. Minimal time and effort will be required to incorporate and use the new packaging, both at the repackaging and verification locations. However, a significant step-change is anticipated in the trust-worthiness of products’ authenticity and supply chain security. Furthermore, Tetramer will seek to commercialize metachromic pigment based packaging solutions in a range of commercial sectors. Tetramer has already begun work with printing materials suppliers to analyze the pigments developed and obtain feedback throughout the development program.