New banknotes: Design & production

We started the research and development process
for the upgrade with an extensive list of
nearly 200 features that we’d gathered from
all sources around the world: industry, research
institutes, suppliers to the industry and
started with that and then cut it back.
We can’t put 200 features on the note, we don’t
want to, so we cut it back to a very short
list that we took forward into design.
In the design process we have two distinct
parts, there’s the concept design and the
‘banknotisation’ design. The concept design
is where we look at the artwork, how we want
it to look more general aspects; the ‘banknotisation’
design is where we actually integrate all
the features into that and get the banknote
to a level where its functional, has security
and durability.
So the process starts with a plastic film,
which is essentially some polypropylene that
we melt, stretch, blow into a big bubble and
then squash it back down to get a film.
So on top of that clear film we apply white coatings
on both sides, obviously leaving out the bits
where we want to have a window and that produces
for us a banknote substrate sheet we can then
put into the rest of the printing processes.
So on top of that, the white layers on the
banknote sheet, we apply strong colours on
both sides of the note, and this is done in
very fine detailed print. It gives it the
bold, vivid colours, it has built in security
in terms of the fine detail and microprint
that goes within that.
Within the top-to-bottom window, which is
new on the series for us, we integrate a number
of features in there, particularly stuff that
goes in the foil that’s transferred across.
It’s a very complicated process that involves
transferring that foil across with heat and
pressure, somewhat akin to ironing it on,
and that transfers those across to the banknote
and you have them in the top-to-bottom window.
The next process we apply is the rolling colour
effect. Again, this done partly across the
window and across some of the coloured areas
where we apply a thick layer of a coloured ink.
And then we structure the way the pigments
sit within that ink to get the coloured effects
that you see on both sides of the note.
The way we structure the pigments within that
rolling colour effect to give the artwork
is that we apply a series of magnets on to
the ink while it’s still wet and that magnetic
fields rotate the pigments within the ink
and then we lock it in place with the UV lamp
to cure that, and then we get the rolling
colour effect in the design that we’re after.
The intaglio print comes after that, which
is a very traditional process used for many,
many years all around the world in banknotes.
Applied on both sides of the note, it gives
the note texture, gives the note body, something
that really helps with the way people authenticate
the note. They will often feel the difference
between the note with or without intaglio.
On the new five dollar banknote, space was
really a constraint. We were after a lot of
security and one of the things that had to
go was the second serial number. So we’ve
still got one, consistent with the same sort
of numbering formats we’ve used in the past
so you can see the year of print that comes
out of that, and we’ve also matched that against
an invisible year of print which you can see
when you hold the note under a UV lamp.
One of the last printing processes is to apply
an overcoat over the whole note. This adds
both durability and it helps with the slip
characteristics of the note. So how it feels
when you’re counting it, the way the notes
can slide against each other.
One of the final processes then is the tactile
feature, the tactile dot, where we’re not
printing anything in this case. We’re just
actually hitting the film with an embossing
stamp, it actually deforms it and pushes it
out and you get the tactile dot that you then
can feel on the note for the vision impaired.
So in finishing, we take everything up to
this stage and have banknote sheets.
Then we have to cut it into the individual banknotes
and making sure that’s done consistently so
you get the right height, the right length,
the image in the right position and then it’s
put through a high speed machine inspection
system that does quality checking on all the
Once the notes have been through processing
they get bundled into you know bundles of
a hundred and bigger bundles of a thousand
and they all get packed into containers with
a sort of automated robotic system so then
those containers have some 100,000 notes that
get sent out to banks.
To replace all the notes in circulation we’ve
needed to print around 170 million of the
five dollar banknote. Normally we’d not print
that many in each year but it’s the volume
that we need to replace everything.
Coming to the end of the process, we’ve got
to the stage now where we’ve incorporated
a large number of new security features, some
of the most advanced in the world, on to this
new design. And you know where once we led
the world in polymer banknotes, our view is
certainly, this new design with the embedded
features and the way we’ve designed it together,
certainly puts us back at the forefront of
polymer note technology in the world.

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