Case Study Pages:
Creating innovative applications
The Australian passport is the most widely held identity document used in the Australian community. Over many decades the Australian Government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has built a reputation for producing high quality, innovative passports that are recognised as being amongst the most secure in the world.
Since the early 1980s 3M has worked collaboratively with DFAT to deliver a series of unique laminates that secure the data page against fraudulent alteration. The data page contains the holder’s personal details, signature and facial image. To manufacture security laminates, 3M leverages a range of core technologies and processes including adhesives, vapour coat processing, optics, moulding and specialty materials. In the early 1980s, the practice was to adhere a photograph of the passport holder to the data page and cover it with a security laminate. While best practice at the time, it was open to the risk of fraudulent photo substitution. DFAT, in partnership with 3M, innovatively applied advances in digital printing technology to issue a passport with a colour facial image and signature digitally printed into the passport, a world first in passports. This evolution occurred over three phases, Dawn I, Dawn II and Dawn III. Dawn I was designed to create a passport with a laser printed machine readable zone (MRZ) and was successfully introduced in 1985. It was the first passport in the world to achieve 100 percent reading accuracy in the MRZ and set a new standard. A patent was lodged on behalf of the Australian government to cover what became known as ‘reverse imaging technology’ and 3M were engaged to commercialise the technology. Dawn II used the reverse imaging technology to directly image a black and white photograph into the reverse side of the laminate, a world first for DFAT and 3M. Dawn III built on the technology developed in the preceding phases of the project and culminated in the first passport with the holder’s facial image and signature digitally printed in full colour being issued on the 4th May 1994. The 3M laminate also contained new covert security features including images of the Australian Coat of Arms, which were visible under coaxial light, and three stylised kangaroos securing the signature label and a corner of the facial image. These innovations were another world first for DFAT and 3M and significantly reduced the security risk of photo substitution and data alteration. In 2003, the next generation of 3M laminate allowed DFAT to add the first ‘floating image technology’ seen on passports. Lasers were used during manufacture to create images of kangaroos and emus within the laminate that appear to ‘float’ above and sink below the surface as the page is viewed from different angles. In 2009, the 3M laminate was redesigned and enhanced to incorporate a continuous Australian wave pattern visible only under UV light. Today, this is one of the key features used by border control authorities to validate the integrity of the passport.