Giesecke & Devrient has become one of the most trusted names in high-volume cash processing for casinos, banks and other cash-intensive enterprises. It all started from the company’s passion for banknotes, fostered over its 160-year history of manufacturing them.
Munich-based Giesecke & Devrient is a leader in large-scale cash-processing technologies, providing fast, reliable, fully-automated, highsecurity systems designed to meet the needs of organizations including central and commercial banks and cash-transit enterprises as well as casinos.
G&D’s cash-processing technologies are a natural complement to its other big segments — manufacturing banknotes as well as the production of substrates and foils. G&D is one of the world’s leading suppliers of both banknotes and the paper used to print them. It has printed more than 125 billion banknotes for various currency zones and exports banknote paper and high-security foil to more than 100 countries. In 2014 alone, it produced 22,500 tons of banknote paper and 15 million square meters of security foil.
G&D began as a printing business founded in Leipzig, Germany in 1852 by Hermann Giesecke and Alphonse Devrient, who set out to establish new technological standards for the banknote printing industry. Through the acquisition of Papierfabrik Louisenthal in 1964, the company eventually became involved in the production of banknote paper and security foil.
Earlier this year, Inside Asian Gaming was privileged to attend a special media event hosted by G&D in Munich that included a tour of its Louisenthal paper mill and foil plant and a half-day seminar covering topics ranging from the future of payments to the challenges of banknote design.
The Louisenthal facility is nestled in the Bavarian countryside an hour’s drive south of Munich, and it would be putting it mildly to say security in and out of the building is tight. In contrast to the impression given by its rustic surroundings, the inside of the plant is decidedly high-tech, dominated by special-purpose machines churning out bobbins of security foil and reams of banknote paper in a multitude of hues for various nations.
Cash Still King
Banknotes have proven resilient in maintaining their position as the most secure and flexible means of payment worldwide.
Despite strong growth in the adoption of electronic payments, G&D expects no fall-off in the demand for banknotes, with banknote circulation volumes forecast to rise 5% a year for the foreseeable future. Even in an advanced economy like Germany, more than half of payments are still made in cash, while globally the figure is about 80%.
“Cash is 100% reliable in times of crisis. It’s in periods of panic where a solid financial system has to prove itself,” said Ralf Wintergerst, a G&D board member. “In a crisis situation, the demand for cash typically rises sharply. The reason for this is trust in real currency.”
The magic of modern banknotes is that the average person can quickly distinguish between a genuine and fake one using just their eyes and hands — it either “feels” real or it doesn’t. Acceptance by people and machines ultimately determines the success of banknotes. It’s a testament to the tireless innovation of companies like G&D that the immediately apparent security features are easily identifiable yet resistant to counterfeiting. Of course, banknotes also incorporate further levels of security features that require tools for verification. There are even concealed security features known only to central banks.
A particularly memorable seminar session – featuring Marc Mittelstaedt, G&D’s head of banknote design – provided a layer-bylayer exposition of the creation of a new banknote. As G&D points out in its promotional literature, banknotes are an expression of the identity of a nation, serving in a way as calling cards. The creation of banknotes is therefore a complex art, melding aesthetics and the latest advances in security technology. To illustrate the various steps in the process, Mr Mittelstaedt’s team designed and produced a colorful sample banknote — after the Bauhaus-style, the influential art school that played an important role in Western architecture in the 20th century — incorporating all the latest security features.
The base layer consists of the banknote substrate. Banknote substrates incorporate several embedded components such as watermarks, which have been an important security feature for over 100 years, as well as security threads.
Adjusting for differing climactic and circulation conditions across countries, G&D treats substrates with special coatings before and after printing to maximize the durability of banknotes within their given environment, while ensuring the security features are not compromised in the process.
The next step involves printing of the background using a simultaneous offset method that makes possible security features such as see-through registers and intricate, multi-colored designs. Tech Talk Additional invisible but multicolor luminescent motifs, which appear under UV light, may also be included.
Then comes a layer of intaglio printing, a technique whereby an image is engraved into a metallic printing plate, and the incised line or sunken area holds the ink. This gives banknotes their unique strong colors and contrasts, the tactile texture and high-quality appearance.
The final stages involve screen printing and numbering. Screen printing is used to apply layers of newly developed functional pigments that can produce striking dynamic effects. Furthermore, the thickness of the coating involved in screen printing produces a substantial optical brilliance along with a high level of resistance to wear and tear during circulation.
The all-important sequential serial numbers are added using letterpress printing. There are various options when it comes to serial numbers. They can be encrypted or designed to be additionally machine-readable, using magnetic pigment, for example. In addition to traditional numbering, G&D has also introduced the laser as a printing tool, making it possible to integrate the serial number into the banknote in whole or in part, possibly as a color motif within the area of the watermark, or a hologram — providing yet another line of defense against would-be counterfeiters. In the last step of the cash cycle, banknote processing systems, equipped with high-tech features such as very sensitive sensors, immediately detect and reject all counterfeits or banknotes with defects.