HOW TO PERSONALIZE A PASSPORT：
A Comparison of Available Digital Print PersonalizaTIon
Technologies for Passports
Over the last 10 years digital print personalizaTIon and the incorporaTIon of biometric-carrying chips have revoluTIonized the way passports are manufactured， personalized， issued and used. The ceaseless activities of counterfeiters and criminals， and the spectacular growth in passenger numbers， are the twin drivers for change. Governments are faced with many factors to consider when choosing passport personalization technologies including quality， security， durability， throughput， cost and legacy systems， as well as the appropriate level of automation and centralization.
2. Key Performance Criteria
3. Available Personalization Technologies
4. Influence of Technology on Performance
1. Continuous Tone and Pseudo Continuous Tone
2. Process Constraints and Faults
3. Substrate Effects
3. Dye and Pigment Transfer
4. Laser Engraving
1. Automation and Multi-Site Issuance
5. The Future
HOW TO PERSONALIZE A PASSPORT
There is no right or wrong way to personalize a passport. So long as the International Civil Aviation Organization’s （ICAO） specifications are met， as described in Doc 9303 Part 1， then the passport will be machine readable and interoperable in all ICAO-compliant receiving States around the world.
And that’s important. It’s important to a nation that needs to protect its citizens and its borders， and it’s important to the traveler who has better things to do than languish in interminable queues.
One hundred ninety （190） countries have agreed to be issuing ICAO Machine Readable Passports （MRPs） by April 2010 – about 150 already do so – and these governments will surely use their personalization systems to include digital images in the booklet. Digital images have many uses in the battle against passport fraud， not least in their defense against the threat of photo substitution. Their incorporation on the data page of a passport requires use of a digital printing technology.
So， what technologies are available， which are being selected， and why？ This paper seeks to provide better understanding of available passport personalization technologies and to examine the selection criteria. It will also try to peek into the future， to promote discussion on where personalization technology might go.
2. Key Performance Criteria
The success of a passport personalization technology may be considered in terms of how well it addresses the requirements of the issuing authority. These requirements are many and complex， but the list of key performance criteria is much shorter and will be used in this paper to compare technologies.
When selecting its passport personalization technology a government should consider the following criteria：
These criteria can be related to the issued documents， as well as to the system that produced them. They should not be considered in isolation， as they are often related to each other.
HOW TO PERSONALIZE A PASSPORT
Sometimes the relationship is obvious; for example if the printed facial image in the passport is of such poor quality that it is not possible to make a valid comparison with that of the bearer， then quality has impacted security. Similarly， if the print quality falls short of the standards for OCR （Optical Character Recognition）， then automated reading of the MRZ （Machine Readable Zone） may not be possible and security is again diminished， particularly where Basic Access Control requires reading of the MRZ to gain access to the data on the chip. Alternatively， a technology that is not durable may alter （e.g. fade） over time， reducing both quality and security.
Other relationships are more subtle， for example the consistent visual quality of print is important for security because inconsistent passports make the job of the border control official more difficult.
The relationships may even be unexpected， for example， increasing cost does not always improve the passport. Money spent in one area – say on the implementation of e-passports – might reduce the available budget in another – such as the traditional security paper and print features – and result in the unexpected and unwanted side effect of reducing overall security.
Factors affecting how centralized and how automated the personalization systems need to be are complex and often go beyond consideration of quality， security， durability and cost. Selection may also be influenced by geography， infrastructure， legacy systems， customer service， and politics， and constraints may be many for an issuing authority. Nevertheless， a government should be aware that throughput and automation requirements will have an impact on the selection of the most appropriate print personalization solution.
In these ways and many others， quality， security， durability， cost， the degree of centralization and level of automation are all intrinsically bound together.
It is assumed in this paper that the choice of print personalization technology will not affect the performance of the electronic data encoding process， which must meet ICAO’s specifications to assure interoperability. The paper instead focuses on the selection of the personalization system for the physical passport booklet.
Print personalization is only one link in the chain that is the overall passport issuance process and the reader should bear in mind that the performance of the technology at this stage could be greatly influenced by the associated processes， both upstream and downstream of the printing， which are beyond the scope of this paper. “Garbage In， Garbage Out” is especially relevant when it comes to digital print systems， and all of the technologies described here can， and very often do， fall victim to poor quality image capture or processing.
When selecting a solution it is essential for an authority to consider the end-to-end issuance process as a whole and to avoid the dangers of “cherry picking” individual processes and components in isolation. This risky strategy is likely to lead to incompatibilities and inefficiencies， and may directly impact the cornerstones of quality， security， durability and cost. Examples of incompatibilities include obscuring the watermark with heavy print and causing an accidental sensitization reaction in the paper with the laminate adhesive.