DNA marking technology improves quality through fraud prevention

By Michael L. Jones DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

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The Defense Logistics Agency is investigating the expanded use of DNA marking technology as a quality assurance method within its microcircuit supply chain since learning of its innovative use in 2009.  Representatives from Applied DNA Sciences, the company contracted by DLA, provided a research and development update on DNA marking (trademarked as SigNature DNA) to DLA associates during a Sept. 8 visit to Columbus, Ohio.

“This technology represents one of our more innovative initiatives that positively impacts the parts we supply to our warfighters,” said acting DLA Land and Maritime commander James McClaugherty. “We’re looking forward to strengthening the partnership we’ve forged with Applied DNA Sciences and share their enthusiasm about improving our supply chain integrity through our combined research and development efforts.”

The Applied DNA Sciences team began its presentation with a short video on the critical need to improve the integrity of the armed services' supply chain across a wide variety of parts. Specific attention was placed on improving traceability and authentication capabilities and the direct benefits to both manufacturers and customers.

Janice Meraglia, vice president of Government and Military Programs talked about some of the company’s more recent developments. “We just completed two contracts that have tremendous potential, and we’re using those achievements to better support supply chain integrity across a number of agencies. We’re currently working with three Department of Defense and three non DoD agencies to further incorporate the DNA-marking solutions.”

The DLA Land and Maritime Product Test Center established its DNA-marking lab in 2014 and has marked more than 120,000 microcircuits that support numerous military applications. More than 700,000 microcircuits have been DNA marked and are in circulation.

Since that time, Applied DNA Sciences has secured advanced accreditations and certifications that have expanded its capabilities, enabling the company to secure additional contracts.  One of the contracted programs awarded to Applied DNA Sciences was a two-year Rapid Innovation Program.

The RIF provides increased capacity and enables expanded marking and authentication options across a wider range of commodities. RIF also offers varied levels of customization for manufactures to incorporate DNA at differing points in their processes, effectively providing more capability over a wider number of products.

The RIF is being implemented in coordination with the Small Business Innovative Research contract also awarded to Applied DNA Sciences. The SBIR focuses more directly on scaling up the capabilities of DLA’s microcircuit anti-counterfeiting efforts.  Benefits gained from SBIR include improved in-field validation and authentication along with higher volume marking capacity.

“We worked closely with DLA subject matter experts to develop and introduce an improved process to review parts, streamline paperwork and provide other process improvements to help improve the program,” said Meraglia. “And that partnership has enabled us to enhance product traceability, while also introducing additional turnkey solutions to mark, validate and authenticate items more effectively.

Improved pre-production, in-production and post-production marking capabilities have been created using devices ranging from robotics to manual applications. Another method in development involves infusing DNA material during the injection molding processes used to manufacture O-rings, gaskets, and similar sealant parts.

Applied DNA also showcased a new, cloud-based track and trace platform called Digital DNA. Their team worked with the Columbus lab to capture part information that may be used in future authentication applications. The expectation is that as this technology advances it will enable qualified suppliers to more reliably track and handle test results, process administrative actions such as ink orders and maintain training documents. “We envision it as more like a one-stop shopping option for companies which will improve efficiencies and supply chain visibility,” Meraglia explained.

“We have a great working relationship with DLA and are totally committed to providing improved capabilities to help DLA and other DoD agencies complete their mission.”