A Trip to the Money Factory

The ugly new $100 bill has a slew of advanced security features to keep people from counterfeiting it. CNET was granted access to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, AKA the Money Factory, to see how they're made.

Over a week of rigorous printing goes into every dollar bill, and CNET's Daniel Terdiman got the privilege of seeing (and photographing) the whole process from beginning to tender, starting with large, unprinted sheets of special paper and ending up with stacks upon stacks of cash money. Looking at Terdiman's photos will either give you a fresh perspective on the fundamental emptiness of capitalism or they'll make your eyeballs turn into dollar signs like Scrooge McDuck.

A Trip to the Money Factory

Of course, the process of printing money is entirely dependent on technology. This description of the elaborate three-camera system for separating the circulation-worthy bills from the duds gives some sense of how many tiny mechanical processes go into making our greenbacks:

The sheets are fed into the machine, where a stream of air lifts them individually, and a vacuum picks them up so they can be guided along a series of bearings. A camera takes a picture of the front of the sheets, which then hit "the knives," where the tops and bottoms get about half an inch of excess paper trimmed off. Then the sheets execute a nifty maneuver where they are flipped over in a 90-degree turn, without creasing them in any way. Then a second camera takes a picture of the back of the sheets before sending them to a second set of knives, where the sides are trimmed. Here, as well, the sheets are cut in half, down the middle, splitting sheets that were four bills by eight into two sheets of two bills by eight.

And then one more camera, which takes a final picture that is used to ensure that the front side of the bills matches the back, and that they are not off-center to each other.

After passing under the third camera, the sheets are sent to a separation point. The "good work" go up a ramp, and the defects go straight through, ending up in a bin appropriately marked "mutts."

Check out CNET's full report (and gallery) to get a better sense of just how many machines manhandle your money before it makes its way down to you. [CNET]

Image credit Daniel Terdiman