24th November 2023
Intense Liquid-Kinetic Movement at the Micron Level
THE FUTURE OF BANKNOTE SECURITY
RAPID® Vision – the latest innovative micro-optic security thread for banknotes – has brought high-contrast color movement to a new level. But the technology is not new. The innovation behind RAPID Vision has been years in the making. Like many technology breakthroughs, Vision benefitted hugely from prior work. In this case by a micro-optics team of designers, software engineers and scientists who were involved with the creation of the very first RAPID security thread launched in 2014.
One of these pioneers is Sam Cape, a Crane Currency Research Fellow. When working as the R&D Manager at Crane Currency, he was intensely involved in the launch of what would become a globally acknowledged industry-leading security feature for modern banknotes.
“We had questions about whether RAPID effects were in fact too simple, but in making actual samples of RAPID it was hard to argue with its intense, liquid-kinetic movement,” recalls Sam Cape.
TECHNICAL COMPLEXITY AND EASE OF USE
RAPID struck a balance between technical complexity and ease of use, and the team that developed it was soon experimenting and pushing the boundary of technical complexity and user simplicity.
The desire for more and multiple colors would often be expressed by banknote designers. While the security advantage of multicolor movement was unclear, increasing the aesthetic appeal of any product is compelling. The R&D team conducted many experiments pioneering the use of ultra-microprinting and color in new ways. The result, RAPID Vision, launched during Crane Currency’s Public First event in March.
Sam Cape (left) and Ben Bleiman, Director of Innovation, (right) going into the details of the innovative technology that has created RAPID Vision and MOTION SURFACE® at this year’s Public First event in Malta.
But what had the R&D team achieved? At its core, the innovation aligns micron stroke widths of different colors with perfect precision. From a visual standpoint, this seamless multicolor placement achieves unbroken, synchronized colors and movement effects, that perception studies show are easier, faster for the public to verify.
“We always prioritized the movement of RAPID, so anything that degraded that was abandoned. That commitment forced us to find a way to include multicolor options that actually enhance the visual sense of RAPID’s best quality – obvious, fast movement,” Sam Cape explains.
MICRO-OPTICS DESIGN SOFTWARE WITH HALF MILLION LINES OF CODE
Crane’s answer to creating RAPID Vision and the capability to provide the fastest movement effects yet developed, use the best attributes of RAPID HD (high-definition RAPID released in 2020) and Crane’s Micro-Optics Design (MOD) software to create the Vision technology.
MOD is a proprietary software suite that lets Crane’s global designers create endless variations of complex movement and 3D effects for all of its security features. The software consists of more than a half million lines of code and used to create features customized and unique for each central bank.
The MOD software allows designers to explore the technology to the fullest because they have confidence that whatever they create in the software, the physical manifestation of it is written into production. As a result, accounting for the additional complexity of multicolor movement effects in RAPID Vision are accomplished just as easily as if designing for RAPID HD.
Importantly, the process is unchanged for the central bank customer and the mathematical precision that is computed into the design process is the same used to create the production tooling used in full-scale production.
Kara Zona, Head of Micro-Optic Design. To be able to create more complex security features such as RAPID HD and RAPID Vision, Crane’s designers and engineers have had to develop new tools and softwares that can handle the technical challenges.
TALENTED DESIGN, PRODUCTION AND INNOVATION TEAMS
But it is the talent, skillset and design perspective that allows the team using the MOD software to channel customer input into customized security features.
Kara Zona, Crane Currency’s Head of Micro-Optic Design, notes that most of Crane’s designers have strong backgrounds in digital animation.
“When I joined Crane, I was pleased to be working with fellow micro-optic designer Jason Van Gumster. Jason is a thought leader and regular speaker in the digital animation community, and he literally wrote the book on the animation software Blender,” says Kara Zona.
It’s the expertise of these teams spanning both the materials and production processes for Crane’s micro-optics and its customization software that laid the groundwork for Vision.
“I think RAPID HD impresses us because of its color stability,” says Ben Bleiman, Crane’s Director of Innovation. “It allows for dozens of unique, high-contrast colors, that are stable, from prototype to thread production, through papermaking and in circulation. So no matter the lighting, the secure effects that the public sees are visually consistent.” This was an important consideration for the Crane R&D team working towards what would ultimately become RAPID Vision, i.e., an understanding of how to manage pigmentation at the micron level.
NEW PROCESS FOR DIGITAL DESIGN AND PHYSICAL REALITY
To achieve the new multicolor effects of RAPID Vision, the proven and seamless connection between digital design and physical reality required a new process. The specially engineered pigments used in Crane’s micro-optics are married to a proprietary process of ultra-microprinting. Color separation and placement required an intermediate step, an innovation that Crane keeps a trade secret.
“We call it Intermediate Secure Ultra-Microprinting, or ISUP, but we pronounce it ‘Eyes-Up’,” says Sam Cape.
Kara Zona’s team of designers has for years used the MOD software to transpose central bank input into functional, secure and attractive micro-optic designs. The MOD software underwent upgrades to accommodate the added complexity of the multicolor designs enabled by the ISUP technology.
“The name ISUP works for all our teams because the innovation is augmentative to our very well known, proven micro-optics technology and software so it is very stable, and very secure. And ‘eyes-up’ is what this innovation delivers – movement effects that are even more eye-catching than what was previously possible, and that is the name of the game”, says Kara Zona.
“NO, IT’S NOT LENTICULAR”
The MOD software developed by Crane is in large part what has enabled RAPID Vision to take on ever more complexity, while ensuring its movement effects remain clean, fluid and never made to appear ‘lenticular.’
Sam Cape remembers the early days, especially when the current $100 banknote was introduced in 2013 when an industry unfamiliar with the micro-optics suggested that MOTION® Switch used lenticular lenses.
“Just a few people had ever seen anything like MOTION and they grappled with ways to describe it even when it was clearly not lenticular.”
Lenticular has a well-deserved reputation for being synonymous with ‘low security’. Novelty cups, pens, greeting cards, all those are examples of why security features want distance from looking ‘lenticular.’
“By the time we launched RAPID, we never heard mention of lenticular again,” Sam Cape recalls.