Holograms--30 Years on Banknotes and Still Going Strong.
Q: Can you give some background to the IHMA--formation, mission, membership, benefits etc.
A: IHMA was formed in 1992, just as the holography industry was beginning to make its impact felt. It was formed to provide a platform for the early developers of the technology to come together, foster a healthy interaction to help the growth of the industry, and also to regulate the industry to ensure that Its potential as a formidable optical security feature was truly realised.
IHMA has over 100 members from 32 countries from all parts of the world.
The IHMA instituted its 'crown jewel'--the Hologram Image Register--in 1993 to introduce a never-before initiative, which was to maintain a record of security holograms produced by its members to ensure that a member did not even inadvertently produce a hologram similar to the one made by another member. No other security feature is able to offer such a registry for the benefits of the Industry at large.
Q: Can you give some background to yourself and your part in the holography industry?
A: Way back in 1991, I was looking around for a new business idea in the printing and packaging line, and learnt about holography, which seemed like the best bet to tackle the growing menace of counterfeiting.
After the initial due diligence I was convinced of its relevance particularly in India, and co-promoted Holoflex Limited. Holoflex has since then evolved Into one of the leading providers of hologram and authentication solutions.
The profession soon turned to passion and I began to closely interact with the other industry colleagues, both within India and also at the international level. This led to my stint as a Board Member of IHMA, and also as a Governing Body member of the Hologram Manufacturers Association of India (HoMAI).
I was also fortunate to be elected as the president of HoMAI in 2012, and led the team that brought about its transition to the Authentication Solution Providers Association (ASPA).
It is a great honour for me to be elected as the Chairman of IHMA last year and I am fully committed to put in my 100% to the IHMA cause.
Q: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the invention of the hologram. Next year will be the 30th anniversary of the first holographic feature on a circulating banknote. It has grown to be one of the most enduring and successful public security features for banknotes. To what do you think this success can be attributed?
A: The industry owes its very existence to its inventor, Dennis Gabor, who I am sure never imagined the extent of positive disruption his invention back in 1947 would cause.
Holography has brought about an entirely new dimension to the way goods and documents, and banknotes in particular, are protected against counterfeiting. Holograms now appear on more than 300 denominations in 97 currencies.
There are several factors that have led to the success of this technology:
* First, it is a remarkably easy to identify and difficult to copy feature.
* Second, a hologram invariably engages the viewer, which is the pre-requisite for any effective security feature. This is why the hologram is the second most noticed feature on banknotes, second only to the watermark.
* Third, the technology is flexible as it lends itself to easy integration with other known printing and conversion technologies.
* And fourth, this industry has kept innovating to stay far ahead of the counterfeiters.
The innovations can be observed in the way the hologram has evolved on banknotes since it was first introduced in 1988. The images and effects are sharper and brighter, the placement of holograms is now registered to the printing in the banknote.
Whatever the substrate--paper, polymer or hybrid--the hologram clearly stands out with registered demetallisation, distinct animations and colour shifting effects, and has reinforced its position as a formidable security feature on banknotes.
Q: Can you describe the different ways that holographic features are incorporated into banknotes, and the relative benefits of each?
A: Holograms are Incorporated into banknotes as security threads, stripes, patches and latterly as window features.
While the thread is woven into the banknote paper, the patch and the stripe hologram are hot stamped or laminated onto the substrate, which causes the hologram image to transfer from the carrier film and be impregnated into the substrate.
Banknotes are easily the most demanding application for holograms. Besides security, a lot of technology also goes into ensuring the durability of the hologram on the banknote. The image must retain its brightness and visibility right through the lifecycle of the banknote.
It must comply with the stringent specifications laid down by central banks all over the world to ensure that it will withstand the daily handling, attacks from moisture, water, commonly used chemicals, natural elements etc.
The security thread is typically a 3-5mm wide strip that is woven Into the paper as a windowed feature. This happens during the manufacture of paper. A lot of banknotes today employ a holographic thread that has the advantage of incorporating several other features besides the features normally available in the (non holographic) metallised windowed thread, although we are seeing a decline recently in this method of use.
The most common form of application is the holographic stripe. The stripe transfer is typically done by the substrate supplier. The banknote printer will then carry out the printing of the banknote on the substrate with the stripe already transferred.
The stripe typically runs down the height of the banknote. The biggest advantage of the stripe is that it provides a large area in the banknote, allowing designers to create some very interactive features.
These days the stripes are generally registered to the banknote design, which means that the imagery contained in the stripe will always be at the same place in every banknote.
The patch hologram is functionally the most difficult to successfully execute. A patch hologram is also hot stamped into the paper, but only as a specific shape circular, oval, elliptical etc,--and is generally used on high denominations of banknotes. Q: What have been the main trends in origination, integration or application in recent years?
A: Recent trends in origination have seen the continuing use of laser techniques, which most people in the industry will be familiar with, but also the use of other origination techniques such as high resolution electron beam lithography (e-beam) that has the ability to produce a range of features.
Lately we have seen the emergence of combined origination methods within a banknote stripe. For example, within the latest Swiss series of banknotes, both a volume holographic feature and a diffractive foil feature are incorporated. Whilst combining origination techniques may be nothing new, this is the first time on a banknote it has been overtly observed.
In terms of integration, there now appears more of a trend to integrate the design of the holographic feature within the design of the banknote itself so that it is not a standalone feature.
You can see this on the second euro series, and also on the latest New Zealand, Australian and UK series of notes too, amongst many others.
And of course, with the use of polymer notes, hologram producers have innovated as now the holographic feature can be observed from both sides of the note and in transmission.
On the application side there has been the increasing use of registered stripes--an example being the latest 20 [euro] and 50 [euro] denominations, where the portrait window is accurately registered to the aperture in the paper.
There have also been innovations in the chemistry to apply holographic features to polymer substrates, requiring lower temperatures to activate the heat seal adhesive so as not to distort the polymer substrate whilst still maintaining banknote durability.
Q: Taking your IHMA hat off for a moment, you represent a holographic company in India. There is currently a proposal to use up to 8 billion foil patches on Indian currency per year. There is also a move to indigenise holographic production. How is the holographic community in India gearing up for this challenge? A: The holographic community in India is very excited at this new opportunity. The Reserve Bank of India has already invited Pre-Qualification Bids for several security features, one of which is the 'foil patch' which is a hologram.
Over the years the Indian holography industry has made great progress, but they were not active in the banknote segment. Under the government's 'Make in India' initiative, the Indian hologram producers sense their opportunity of being a part of the implementation of the largest hologram project in the world.
The Reserve Bank of India is offering some special incentives to the Indian companies to participate in this project--such as 20% price preference--and has also mandated that the winner of this contract must value add at least 50% of this project in India over a three year period.
I am personally aware of several Indian companies who are upgrading their technology in order to make a serious bid for this project.
Q: What do you see at the key milestones in the adoption of holographic features on banknotes over the years?
A: 1988 saw the first use of a hologram (in this case, a Kinegram[R]) on a circulating note--the Austrian 500 schilling. In the same year, another type of hologram (called an Exelgram[R]) featured on a commemorative Australian $10 note, which was also the world's first polymer banknote. In both case, the holograms were patches.
1992 saw the first holographic thread, in Finland, and two years later came the first holographic stripe, on the Bulgarian leva. 2002 was clearly a milestone, with the new euro series going into circulation with a hologram on all seven notes--patches on the higher denominations and stripes on the lower ones.
The next major milestone was in 2011, with Canada's new series on polymer, all the notes in which feature a full length window with hologram. Ironically, it was the hologram that was the catalyst for the development of polymer In the first place, following the issue of the above-mentioned commemorative note in Australia in 1988. But it was to be another quarter of a century before the feature returned to polymer notes.
Windows in banknotes have proved to be one of the most successful features in polymer and are now being used in paper notes too. So a breakthrough here was the new series 20 [euro], issued in 2015, which features the so-called 'portrait window' with a see-through hologram that has different effects when viewed from the front and reverse. As does the more recent new 50 [euro].
And last but not last, there is the volume hologram--which is produced on photopolymer and provides fundamentally different visual effects than embossed holograms. This made its first appearance on the new Israel 50 shekel in 2014, and is also being used on the new Swiss series.
Q: Holograms are just one of a number of optically variable and other overt features on banknotes. In other words, there is competition. What can be done with the technology to ensure it retains its preeminence and grows?
A: The biggest USP of the hologram as compared to most other optically variable and other overt features in the banknote is its ability to attract attention. All other features except the watermark do not engage the viewer as does a hologram.
All the leading hologram companies have a strong R&D push, and they are constantly pushing the boundaries to develop features that are beyond the reach of the counterfeiters. The industry has to keep pace with consumer expectations and practices.
Smart phone validation is one such area. Our members have developed technologies where the hologram can be authenticated with smart phones, and I think it is a matter of time before this feature finds its way into the banknote.
Refinements in embossed rainbow holograms, volume holograms, demetallisation, the development of plasmons and app-based authentication are some of the exciting developments, and I get the sense that going forward, there will be a marriage between some of these technologies to produce an even more unique and secure product for banknotes.
I am a strong believer that as long as cash exists there will definitely be some form of hologram (OVD) on the banknote, although of course the definition of a secure hologram (OVD) will change from time to time.
Q: The word hologram is a very broad one, encompassing many technologies and markets. And there is a perception among some that holograms are not secure because they can easily be copied or reoriginated by counterfeiters. What is the IHMA's response to this and how can such views be countered?
A: When I speak of hologram here, I refer to an optically variable image device where the image changes due to a diffractive element. Without getting Into the technicalities I call all such technologies a hologram.
I think the entire security industry will agree with me when I say that there is nothing that is 'copy proof. The question very clearly is whether a counterfeiter can simulate a banknote hologram to a close enough similarity?
A successful anti-counterfeit solution almost always employs multiple technologies, and this is most applicable to banknotes. There are a multitude of very high level security features such as the hologram, watermark, optically variable inks, intaglio print machine readable features etc, and it will take a monumental effort to faithfully replicate all those features. Each feature plays its part, with the hologram being at the forefront.
At a forensic level any hologram can always be verified conclusively to be original or not. There is hardly any other security feature that allows such conclusive forensic examination.
A hologram always performs, and there is no better evidence of this than the fact that nearly 100 countries all over the world employ a hologram to protect their banknotes. Even the euro retained the hologram in its new series that was launched recently.
Q: What is the IHMA doing, as an association, to help advance the case of holograms on banknotes and what can It be doing going forward?
A: In all its interactions at industry events, such as trade shows and conferences, the IHMA is proud to share the success story of the hologram on banknotes, and our members have done a fabulous service to the central banks all over the world by developing a technology that has made their life easier.
The IHMA is happy to support any member with information, facts and figures on the usage of hologram on banknotes. The members can use this information to create awareness amongst their governments that are not currently using holograms.
For example, the IHMA General Secretary made a presentation earlier this year at The Authentication Forum at New Delhi where he gave detailed information on holograms on banknotes. The audience comprised several high level government officials, who I believe definitely took notice of this information.
We are more than happy to undertake presentations and attend meetings on the application of hologram on banknotes in any part of the world. It goes without saying that we will promote all the technologies that we find currently in the market, and will obviously leave it to the judgment of the central banks to decide on the features and the technologies they wish to adopt.
Please Note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.
Caption: IHMA Chairman Manoj Kochar
Caption: The portrait window with foil in the new 20 [euro].