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September 20, 2016

The 69 Rules of Punctuation

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[via RealityCarnival, ElectricLiterature, and Curtis Newbold]

September 20, 2016 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

New Australia $5 Bill — To call it tricked-out would be the understatement of the year

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From fastcodesign:

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Australia has a new $5 banknote.

It's a psychedelic trip to the bank, layered in metallic foils and a seemingly endless array of color shifting inks that glisten like an oil slick.

Bend the note, and a printed bird flaps its wings.

The ink has texture.

It even has nubs.

Part of the bill has been carefully primed like paper, while part has been kept relatively pristine and pure, pushing printing technologies to their limits.

And perhaps most notably, the center of the note isn't printed at all.

It's a clear window, revealing the note's greatest coup: This bill wasn't printed on paper, even though the texture feels that way.

It's a magic trick of plastic.

In a world full of smartphone payments and cryptocurrency, 85% of all transactions are still done in cash.

"What you're trying to do is create a banknote that's very difficult to forge, either in being costly, or in effort. If someone has to go through a huge amount of effort to reproduce these to pass it, it's not going to be a cost-effective proposition," said [James] Holloway [deputy head of note issue at Reserve Bank of Australia].

Australia's $5 note has been in development for a decade.

It began with three concept designers reimagining the existing currency with royalty, flora, fauna, and more than 200 proposed security measures.

That was only step one.

Most of the real work happened when the winning design was taken to the country's banknote printing industry, and over years, engineers figured out how they could actually produce the most complicated bill they could imagine.

Because in a world where our off-the-shelf ink-jet printers can seemingly print anything, currency has to be designed to be as unprintable as possible.

Even today, smearing and bleeding are real issues at the industrial scale, and the modern Australian banknote continues to exploit this fact in several ways, pushing printing to its technical limits.

They feature microprint — tiny text that’s difficult for machines to handle.

Then they squeeze "security features"—those complex printed foils are embedded with holograms, while color-shifting inks seem to spontaneously catch light in a predictable rainbow — very close to one another.

"We're trying to cram a lot of different things in a limited space, and printing to tight tolerances so colors don't bleed from one part to another," says Holloway.

Any graphic designer would find the results fairly hideous, and yet, they're very hard to reproduce.

As for the image of the queen, that's been rendered like an engraving, with long, spindly, and swirly lines.

It's a throwback to an older aesthetic we expect in currency, but this linear graphic approach is also "very difficult for most printers to reproduce," says Holloway.

"Most printers are dot matrix, so if you look under a microscope, they're just a lot of dots put together. So it's actually part of the security printing process."

In other words, older print graphics are actually harder to counterfeit.

Printing is just part of the moneymaking process, however.

There are 13 different production processes in all, and machines are also set up with specialized tools to further alter that plastic to feel just right.

This means foils are stamped onto plastic, sure, but the physical security goes much further than that.

After some layers of the banknote are printed, they're placed under high pressure, pressing the inks further into the plastic.

The effect creates micro valleys on the surface called Intaglio, creating that distinctive rough feel you get when you rub your hand across some print.

Along the same lines, the new notes feature a nub at the top and bottom edge.

It's just a bump — what’s the big deal?

"The issue is, if you put a tactile feature on a banknote, you need it to be durable. It's not much use if it wears down on circulation," says Holloway.

Indeed, if the bump were to wear down, it would essentially make real money look like it was counterfeit.

The solution was an assembly line tool which pokes into the note, bending the plastic and embossing the cash.

The Reserve Bank says that it can produce 300,000 bills an hour, and many of these different treatments to the banknote come off the line very quickly.

But that stat is a bit misleading, because the entire process is still painfully slow.

Each note takes months to produce, mostly because the print needs to be able to dry or cure between all these different steps — again, reinforcing that an investment in counterfeiting would be a big one.

Finally, the bank had to overcome issues in scaling the note's pièce de résistance — that clear window, which was so hard to print, so hard to duplicate.

Think about it — every other part of that note is covered in a base coat of primer, and all these inks.

And here is this clear window that lets light right through.

The problem was, it was actually too clear.

This break in the note was registering to money collection and distribution machines as a bill being fed in two separate pieces.

"[Machines] see it as, the banknote stops," says Holloway. "So we had to find a way for the machinery to see this clear thing and keep processing it. We've done quite a bit of work with the industry to find technical solutions so they read that as one banknote."

How exactly they solved it?

Holloway won't say. Just like he won't list every way that the banknote has been designed to spot counterfeiting.

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Why don't you waste even more time?

Here's a video to amuse and distract from whatever it is you're avoiding.

Worked for me.

You can too: $6.66 (USD).

September 20, 2016 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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