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The Examination of Commercial Printing Defects to Assess Common Origin, Batch Variation, and Error Rate

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The examination of printing defects, or imperfections, found on printed or copied documents has been recognized as a generally accepted approach for linking questioned documents to a common source. This research paper will highlight the results from two mutually exclusive studies. The first involved the examination and characterization of printing defects found in a controlled production run of 500,000 envelopes bearing text and images. It was concluded that printing defects are random occurrences and that morphological differences can be used to identify variations within the same production batch. The second part incorporated a blind study to assess the error rate of associating randomly selected envelopes from different retail locations to a known source. The examination was based on the comparison of printing defects in the security patterns found in some envelopes. The results demonstrated that it is possible to associate envelopes to a common origin with a 0% error rate.

Keywords: batch variation; common source; envelopes; error rate; flexography; forensic document examination; forensic science; printing defects; printing processes; questioned documents

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Chief Forensic Chemist, United States Secret Service, Forensic Services Division, Washington, DC, USA. 2: Document Analyst, United States Secret Service, Forensic Services Division, Washington, DC, USA.

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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