Paper Money

Bundesbank using digital recovery system on damaged notes

A digital recovery assistance system is used by Germany’s central bank to piece together bank note fragments for redemption.

Images courtesy of Bundesbank.

A digital recovery assistance system called ePuzzler is about to change how the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, handles damaged euro and old Deutsche mark bank notes.

By law, the bank is required to replace damaged notes if more than half of it is present, or if it can be proven that the missing part of the bank note, if larger, has been destroyed. This is done at the National Analysis Center in Mainz, where 30,000 reimbursement requests are received every year. The bank says €42 million worth of such cash was replaced in 2019 alone.

The reconstruction job is similar to putting together a complicated jigsaw puzzle. Johannes Beermann, who is in charge of cash on the Bundesbank’s board of directors, said, “Checking the torn, shredded or cut banknotes is a time-consuming ‘puzzle work’ for the employees, in which they have to put the individual pieces together”

The ePuzzler is used for complex cases with a large number of small pieces of different notes. It is a digital recovery assistance system developed by the Bundesbank together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology IPK. The system consists of a large format scanner, a server with high computing power, reconstruction software and an associated computer workstation. Bank specialists scan the banknote fragments with the device and the digital assistant calculates the probabilities that the different parts belong together. Using these results, the employees put together the pieces on a computer screen.

Beermann says, “It is a globally unique technology that can be used in particularly difficult cases.”

The procedure has been in use at the Bundesbank for about a year. Submitters of damaged notes also benefit: the time saved in identification and reconstruction means that the value of the replaced bank notes can be paid out more quickly.

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