- Note Printing Australia
Note Printing Australia (NPA), which is located in Craigieburn, Melbourne, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia and was corporatised in July 1998. NPA has its origins as a subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank and was established in 1913 to print banknotes for Australia. After printing paper banknotes for Australia for 75 years NPA introduced the first polymer banknote technology in 1988. Note Printing Australia produces banknotes and passports.
According to a booklet published by the Reserve Bank of Australia, visits to NPA's exhibition and display gallery can be arranged by appointment.
NPA polymer banknotes
When money was originally printed on paper (which is really cotton based) it was common practice to burn money and documents that were removed from circulation, which burned cleanly. This was the preferred method to dispose of security documents because it ensured that the notes were totally destroyed.
When polymer notes were introduced it was soon realised that burning polymer notes would cause air pollution in the form of black smoke, so a workaround was formulated to shred the polymer notes into tiny pieces and have them sent to a plastic recycling plant.
In the 1960s Australia was hit by a major forger of the $10 paper decimal note. These forged notes were of a high quality and difficult to identify. In response, the Reserve Bank of Australia and Note Printing Australia commissioned the CSIRO to find better ways to secure the Australian currency. They came up with the polymer note. It was reasoned that it would be harder to print on a plastic note because the technology didn't exist.
Polymer notes provided a smoother, reduced-texture surface compared to paper notes allowing for the introduction of micro security printing. The writing can just be made out in bright sunlight or with magnification. Every note ever printed using polymer substrate has included micro printing.
Most people are familiar with the watermark feature of paper note, which was also incorporated into the polymer notes. The introduction of the polymer substrate allowed for the addition of extra security features, including a clear window with a picture in it and a registration star. A special printer called a super simultan prints both sides of the note simultaneously, to register the multicoloured print perfectly from front to back. Commercial printers typically print one side at a time and find it difficult to keep both sides perfectly aligned over time.
Other features include windows which can incorporate security devices such as vignettes and embossing (which cannot be copied on regular banknotes).
Life expectancy of polymer notes
In tropical countries paper banknotes deteriorate quickly because of humidity and microbe activity. A benefit of using a polymer note is that most microbes don't attack the substrate, hence the longer life in circulation. In less tropical climates the life expectancy of paper banknotes improves. On the other hand, polymer notes can deteriorate in the presence of solvents and ultraviolet light.
When New Zealand moved to polymer notes a New Zealand Bank press release stated that "plastic bank notes cost twice as much to produce but they last four times longer, which will save about $1 million annually".
Printing equipment at NPA
Note Printing Australia is a security printing facility, that uses a number of special printers not available to the general printing industry. These include printing presses manufactured by Koebau
- Super Simultan
- Standard Simultan
- Super Intagliocolour
- Super Numerota
- Note Printing in Australia (RBA) (~1988) Published by Nucolorve Productions Pty Ltd, ISBN 0858580977
- Australia's New $5 Note (RBA) - leaflet.
- Australian Currency Notes - How they are made (RBA) Leaflet.
Australian currency Topics Mints Coins Banknotes Historic
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