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Note developments

The new plastic £5 banknote entering circulation reinforces how innovative applications with new developments in technology, continue to push the boundaries for currency security holograms, writes Dr Mark Deakes, pictured, general secretary of the International Hologram Manufacturers Association (IHMA).

Today, holographic technology remains to the fore as an integral part of an array of overt features that appear on banknotes, providing a highly effective weapon in the battle to thwart counterfeiters, and continually evolving as an effective first line of defence security feature. The new £5 polymer note is a great example of this evolutionary process, and illustrates some of the best and most technically innovative holograms on banknotes, which combine with other features to deliver value added solutions.

Polymer substrates, like their paper counterparts, are now benefitting from this type of technology, and the Bank of England is together with the central banks of New Zealand and Canada as well as others, leading the way with new notes that combine improved durability and the best in modern hologram technology. The success of holograms for both polymer and paper banknotes has been down to their role as a level one security feature that’s instantly recognisable – the technology remains pre-eminent among an integrated collection of overt features. These make it easy for not only the general public but also cashiers and those operating cash tills in stores, to recognise whether or not a banknote is real or fake.

The back of the new £5 note features a KINEGRAM COLORS (KC) single foil stripe in the window area supplied by Kurz – indeed, the first banknote, issued by a central bank, to incorporate this feature. The stripe is in three sections and incorporates two different metallic colours (silver and gold) in a perfect front to back register. The feature is applied over a clear window in the polymer substrate, making it visible from the front and the back of the note where the colours green and silver are also used.

On the front of the note, a finely-detailed, bright metallic image of Big Ben is positioned inside the window. The tower is see-through via demetallisation – gold on the front of the note and silver on the back, again in perfect register. When the note is tilted, colours are seen to radiate in and out from a point near the centre of the tower. Above the window, a silver patch containing an image of the coronation crown in 3D can be seen where multi-coloured rainbow colours distinctly move up and down when the note is tilted. Below the window, a second silver patch shows an image flip between the words ‘Five’ and ‘Pounds’ together with a multi-coloured rainbow effect. On the back of the note, behind the coronation crown on the front, can be found a circular green foil block that appears in the shape of the maze at Blenheim Palace with the word ‘Blenheim’ spelt out in the segments of the maze.

Growing adoption

Increasing adoption of holography on banknotes reinforces the hologram’s position as a pre-eminent security feature in the global anti-counterfeiting fight. The second generation ‘Europa’ banknote series, for example, shows how currency incorporates holographic stripes but with a difference.

In the new €and €10 banknotes, the hologram stripe on their predecessors has been replaced with one that includes a number of images, including a portrait that matches the watermark, and that is registered so that these images are always in the same position. The inclusion of ‘portrait windows’ in the new 20 and 50 euro notes, meanwhile, has added another dimension in that the hologram is laid over a window cut in the paper.

In both cases, authentication requires no special tools – only the human eye that can be used to validate the hologram portrait in the same way as the long established watermark feature.

In the case of the €20 and €50, the added dimension is that the hologram becomes transparent when seen against the light and reveals the portrait (of Europa, the figure from Greek mythology and the ‘face’ of the new series), which is visible on both sides of the note. When viewed in normal light from the front and tilted, the Europa image in the hologram displays clearly a ‘20’ value in the centre with prominent, coloured diffractive lines around it. When viewed from the reverse, the hologram displays a number of different coloured ‘20s’. The different diffractive effects on the front and reverse of the note are provided by Kurz’s KINEGRAM REVIEW technology. Meanwhile, the ability to create the window and cover this with a registered foil – at high speeds and without impairing the printing and finishing of a full sheet of banknotes has been achieved through advances in material science and engineering.

Elsewhere, other technology developed by Kurz (the KINEGRAM VOLUME) provides the basis for single colour volume holograms on a banknote in the form of stripes that appeared for the time on Israel’s new 50 Shekel, before being recently added to the 200 Shekel. The foil stripe on the latter note features holographic images of the note denomination ‘200’ and the Israeli state symbol, a menorah (seven branched candlestick), while development work involved collaboration and cooperation between the Bank of Israel, Kurz and supply chain partners to secure the project’s success.

The Japanese printing giant Toppan is also working at the forefront of new holographic technology for currency applications, with several developments including creative concepts in with its new set of sample banknotes called the ‘Japan’ series. The ten denominations in the series carry a new version of Toppan’s Crystagram technology called Crystagram Evolved and combine ultra-high resolution with a variety of optical effects such as moving lines, true photo-like colours, 3D effects and colour-shifting. The featured images are composed of RGB cells, the size of which are controlled and varied in order to deliver a highly detailed image. All effects can be integrated into a single foil format. From France’s SURYS, we have also seen the expansion of the DID (Diffractive Identification Device) technology in the form of DID Wave and DID Virtual that’s appeared on the recent Polish commemorative 20 Zloty banknote, building on the DID family of products that are also included on the Philippines Piso banknotes. The zloty note incorporates colour permutation and animation motion effects, while DID Virtual incorporates colour permutation and surface relief 3D effects to deliver exceptional brightness, resistance to counterfeiting, ease of authentication by the public, and ease of integration into the secure document.

The note’s security features also include a multitoned watermark that has the same motif as the hologram (a stag surrounded with floral motifs) and the denomination, a latent image, an intaglio raster feature, a raised embossed feature for the visually impaired, see through register, SICPA’s Spark Live (an optically variable magnetic ink feature) and making its appearance for the first time in a banknote, De La Rue’s new Active windowed security thread.

The world’s largest commercial currency printer and papermaker, De La Rue, continues to innovate and push the boundaries for security holograms for banknotes in other areas with their latest development of holographic foil in the clear window of the company’s polymer substrate (Safeguard), providing further levels of security. The eye-catching new Barn Owl house polymer note has been designed to showcase innovation within both Safeguard and holographic design. Using advanced image plane holography, the Depth Image hologram on the house note illustrates all the clarity, colour, movement and true depth achievable on a polymer substrate while the foil placed in the curved window delivers a highly aesthetic design that is clearly visible from both sides of the note.

German firm Louisenthal is another evolving new technology designed to improve banknote security. Its RollingStar LEAD transfer foil combines holographic, micro-mirrors and colour shift into a single product, which appears to move on slight tilting and features in the lower part of the stripe, holographic effects. On increased tilting the micro-mirror flames change from a red to a green/yellow colour. As an additional security feature, five individual coordinates of the RollingStar thread or transfer foil can be used to authenticate the banknote using a smartphone.

And it is not just paper based banknotes where holographic/OVD developments are enjoying a renaissance. The Swiss National Bank has in recent times unveiled its new Swiss 50 franc that uses Landqart’s Durasafe paper/polymer composite, which incorporates Kurz’s KV stripe, only this time rather than one colour, it has been enhanced with two colours.

Other notable developments in the sector also include Zhongchao Special Security Technology (ZSST), a subsidiary of the China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation (CBPM), which saw its patented ColorDance security thread feature for banknotes win the Innovation and Holographic Technology category at the Excellence in Holography Awards 2015. The product incorporates optical micro nanostructures, with precisely controlled profiles, originated with specially developed origination equipment that are then replicated for mass production using advanced micro replication process; and when finished works by combining both interference and diffraction to provide a highly overt feature that is easy to authenticate and difficult to copy.

Future success

One way or another, it seems that the high performance, advanced technology now available to printers of banknotes is seeing the sector forge ahead, opening up myriad opportunities for innovative applications and improved levels of security. Once the opportunity is presented to allow holograms to be seen by transmission, as in a window, the opportunities for an optical tour de force are increased. This renders the note more visually attractive to inspectors and consumers and more difficult to simulate by counterfeiters.

However, we must offer a word of caution. Any trend towards simplification must be seen as a move in the right direction and run hand in hand with artists’ and graphic designers’ abilities to make good use of the media, or of the public’s ability to appreciate and evaluate the security benefits offered by the latest technology. After all, it’s not as though holograms represent the only security feature on a banknote. They are often one of many – for example, the 1000 Tenge note for Kazakhstan has at least 16 features including one to help the blind or partially sighted. So, it isn’t necessary to fill the hologram with every conceivable feature but rather remember why the hologram was originally introduced: it provides a feature that cannot be photocopied or scanned. Holograms provide this, so there’s no reason to suppose that the technology will not continue to be an integral security feature on future generations of banknotes.

About the International Hologram Manufacturers Association

The IHMA – – is made up of 100 hologram companies. IHMA members are producers and converters of holograms for banknote security, anti-counterfeiting, brand protection, packaging, graphics and other commercial applications.


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