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Learn the secret making of banknotes

Categories : Cash is efficient
July 26, 2016
Tags : Banknotes, Demand, Security features, Substrates
Banknotes contain a great number of security features that are increasingly sophisticated. Some countries have already replaced the traditional cotton paper with polymer.
Communication Team / Equipo de Comunicación

As electronic payments are booming, many suggested that the end of cash is yet to come, but central banks reported a growth in cash demand in the US, the Eurozone, Australia and the UK, proving that paper money is still in the race.

To escape forgery, banknotes need to be ever more sophisticated. Currency providers strive to introduce increasingly complex security features, from colour-shifting inks to microtext or holograms, each of which appears at different stages of the banknote making process.

Let’s start with the paper itself. 95% of banknotes are made from cotton fibres, the same that are used in the textile industry. Fibres are mixed with water before being filtered, bleached and pressed into sheets. The first security feature – the watermark – is added during this phase by pressing a wet sheet of paper onto an embossed image. The security thread is then built on it via a secret inclusion process before moving to the printing stage.

About 85 different inks are used during the banknote printing process. The four-step procedure starts with offset lithography, forming the background layer of the banknote, followed by holographic features. The portraits that appear on the front side of most banknotes belong to step three. The crafted image – which is either hand or digitally-engraved – is then replicated on the banknote by filling the engraved plate with ink – a process known as intaglio printing. The last step is the letterpress, the unique serial number that brands the note as legal currency. Optically variable devices, fluorescent inks and microlettering are also very popular security features.

A growing number of countries have already replaced their cotton-based banknotes by polymer ones, which are considered more resistant and cleaner. For instance, Bank of England chose to move to polymer for its new £5, which will enter circulation in September. These plastic notes were developed by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in the 1960s by heating hard pellets of polymer until they melt and form massive biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) bubble. The walls of the bubble are then pressed together to create a thin plastic film. Polymer banknotes can contain a see-through section called a “window” as an additional security feature. While traditional banknotes need to be shredded by their central bank, polymer notes are 100% recyclable.

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