I’ll Take 650,000 Micro-Lenses for $100, Bob.

Very cool article on the Associated Press wire tonight:

AP :$100 bill to get high-tech face lift

I was just expecting the new $5 bill news.  As you know, the US started re-designing all of the major bills a few years ago.  We’ve seen the new $100, new $50, new $20, and in 2006, the new $10.  The new $5 bill is due in early 2008, and the US Bureau of Engraving has scheduled a media event on September 20th to reveal the new $5.

Well, listen to the technology planned for the next version of the $100 bill:

A new security thread has been approved for the $100 bill, The Associated Press has learned, and the change will cause double-takes…

The operation of the new security thread looks like something straight out of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This magic, however, relies on innovations produced from decades of development.

It combines micro-printing with tiny lenses — 650,000 for a single $100 bill. The lenses magnify the micro-printing in a truly remarkable way.

Move the bill side to side and the image appears to move up and down. Move the bill up and down and the image appears to move from side to side.

“It is a really complex optical structure on a microscopic scale. It makes for a very compelling high security device,” said Douglas Crane, a vice president at Crane & Co. The Dalton, Mass-based company has a $46 million contract to produce the new security threads.

Let’s review some of the cool points in those short paragraphs:

  1. 650,000 micro-lenses per bill.  My guess is they are using some inkjet-adapted technology to deposit these lenses on each bill.  Technology for paper-thin displays has been in development for almost a decade.  Still, the volume for currency production here, however, is amazing.
  2. Hogwarts?  For me, any article with a Harry Potter reference is the better for it.  Then again, I am a big geek that way.
  3. Next year.  The new bill will be available by the end of 2008?  Very cool.

Maybe we’ll learn more about this with the debut of the new $5 on September 20th.