The European Central Bank has said that the number of counterfeit euro banknotes hit an all-time low in 2021. It stated that counterfeits are “easy to detect because they have no security features, or only very poor imitations of them.”1 There is no doubt that security features play a critical role in preventing forgery, and this applies to any currency. However, there is no one thing, such as a watermark, that carries all of the responsibility for security. In a well-designed banknote, there are a multitude of security features, and these come together in an optimal way when research, development, and production work together to make a banknote difficult to forge.
Banknote security hangs by much more than a thread
When the paper and thread in banknotes join, the result is about more than security, it is about overcoming technical challenges – and about design too. It is an interdisciplinary endeavor with many different facets.
Security every day, and every night
The security features of any currency need to work in a wide range of conditions. As Patrick Engelmann, Project Manager Technologies, Threads & Foils, at Giesecke+Devrients subsidiary Papierfabrik Louisenthal notes, they have to work “not just in a laboratory, but in the evening in a restaurant, in a bar, at sunset, or in full sun. There are plenty of counterexamples that look beautiful in a perfectly illuminated meeting room, but in difficult lighting conditions or when folded and creased, nothing can be seen.” And not only do the security features need to be visible in a range of settings and on different denominations, but they also have to contribute to the aesthetics of the banknotes.
Security threads are a critical part of the answer to the problem of how to create security features that enhance the appeal of banknotes of different denominations. However, the push to make security threads an ever more appealing part of banknotes’ design is also creating challenging technical issues. Thread width is increasing not only because it is more pleasing to the eye but also so that the threads themselves can carry more security features. New features offer unmatched security from within such as the ability to individualize code embedded in the security thread using MultiCode™ authentication technology.
However, security threads also need to be firmly attached to the paper, and it should not be possible to tear them out. This is a challenge because the art of paper making is to create something as “pure” as possible, but security threads mean introducing a deliberately disruptive element. “Our task is to combine the two opposing worlds, to marry paper and threads,” explains Stephan Morgenstern, Head of Paper Production at Louisenthal.
As such, he says, it’s advantageous that the teams responsible for design, development, and production at Louisenthal work in close physical proximity to one another, as it means being able to develop effective solutions to technical challenges as they arise. “Security needs that proximity, to reduce any frictional losses,” continues Morgenstern. “This means that as soon as you have both technologies in one location at one company, you’re not just more capable of acting on each individual product, but you’re also able to handle, assess, and adapt the entire package – the whole system.”
These days there is so much more to money than printing, watermarks, and ink that any banknote developer has to be able to answer demanding questions such as, “What temperatures can the heat-sealing adhesive tolerate?” or “How do we prevent the adhesive from tarnishing the effect?” and this is best done through on-site collaboration between experts in their respective fields. This sort of knowledge-sharing is driving innovations in banknote security to ever higher levels and putting counterfeiters out of business.
European Central Bank, “Euro banknote counterfeiting at historically low level in 2021,” January 2022
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