New ‘opportunity’ for holography as IHMA welcomes Bank of England polymer banknotes

New polymer banknotes introduced by the Bank of England have been welcomed by the global hologram trade body which sees it as an ‘exciting opportunity’ to showcase the very latest developments in security devices for currency applications.

The International Hologram Manufacturers Association (IHMA) was commenting on the bank’s decision to start phasing-in new £5 polymer notes from 2016 after a period of public consultation.

New £10 notes will follow as the old cotton fibre and linen rag banknotes are removed from circulation and destroyed.

The polymer banknotes will be made from a thin, transparent and flexible film consisting of polypropylene which will be coated with a lacquer layer that enables it to carry the printed design features of the banknote. This will allow the inclusion of windows or clear portions in the design, used to provide enhanced protection and featuring holograms for verification and anti-counterfeiting purposes.

The IHMA says that other countries such as Canada have been using polymer banknotes featuring holograms successfully for many years. If the UK banknotes employ the same technology as the new Canadian ones, it’s another example of how holography continues to evolve as the leading security feature for notes.

Holograms on banknotes: the back story

Holograms have featured successfully on banknotes since 1987, evolving over the last two decades from simple patches to complex stripes as integral design and print features on notes.

Today, the annual global volume of banknotes produced is in excess of 125 billion*, so the reward for hologram producers capable of providing the technology to overcome the technical challenges is potentially highly lucrative.

Ian Lancaster: general secretary at the IHMA

Ian Lancaster: general secretary at the IHMA

The success of holograms for both polymer and paper banknotes has been down to their role as a Level 1 security feature that’s instantly recognisable. The technology remains to the fore as part of an array of overt features which make it quick and 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 bona fide.

Increasing adoption of holography on banknotes reinforces the hologram’s position as a pre-eminent security feature in the global fight against counterfeiting. The use of sophisticated anti-counterfeiting features will mean that the banknotes will be more secure because they will include a larger area for holograms to be featured. New Zealand reported a big fall in counterfeiting after it introduced new hologram banknotes.

In Canada, for instance, the central bank is now producing a suite of five polymer banknotes featuring advanced ‘full-on’ holograms. This success could provide a blueprint for the way forward for the Bank of England’s new polymer notes, says the IHMA.

Effective weapon against the fraudsters

“Holography is an effective weapon in the battle to thwart banknote counterfeiters and fraudsters,” said Ian Lancaster, the IHMA’s general secretary, “and has evolved to become an important feature of modern banknotes.”

Lancaster added: “The Canadian banknotes are a great example of this evolution and illustrate some of the best and most technically innovative holograms on banknotes, which can work specifically with the window the polymer substrate offers to deliver real added value solutions. In fact, this is such an effective feature that paper banknotes are now being developed which have a polymer window.”

In conclusion, Lancaster explained: “Polymer substrates, like their paper counterparts, are now benefiting from this type of technology. We hope that the Bank of England will follow the example of Canada and others to have banknotes that are both potentially more durable and which feature the very best in modern hologram technology.”

*The Holo-pack•Holo-print® Industry Study

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