Easier reconstruction of damaged banknotes using ePuzzler

In accordance with its statutory mandate, the Bundesbank replaces damaged euro and Deutsche Mark banknotes if more than half the note is presented, or if it can be proven that the other half was destroyed. For this purpose, each banknote must be checked at the National Analysis Centre in Mainz. Every year, the Analysis Centre receives around 30,000 reimbursement requests, and in 2019 damaged cash in the amount of €42 million was replaced. “The inspection of the torn, shredded or cut banknotes is time-consuming ‘puzzle work’ for staff, who have to put together the individual pieces,” explains Johannes Beermann, the Bundesbank Executive Board member whose remit includes cash management. To assist with particularly complex cases involving a multitude of small pieces of different banknotes, the Bundesbank joined forces with the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology (Fraunhofer IPK) to develop a digital assistance system for reconstructing badly damaged euro banknotes. The system is based on Fraunhofer IPK’s “ePuzzler” technology, which has already been used for the reconstruction of torn Stasi files, amongst other things.

Johannes Beermann presenting ePuzzler ©Oliver Rüther
The Bundesbank’s new assistance system consists of a large-format scanner, a high-performance server, reconstruction software and the corresponding display screen. Bundesbank experts use the device to scan banknote fragments and the digital assistant calculates the probabilities that the various pieces belong together. Based on these results, staff members virtually piece the banknotes back together. “It is a globally unique technology that can be used in particularly difficult cases,” Mr Beermann adds. The procedure has been in use at the Bundesbank for around a year. Submitters of damaged banknotes also benefit from the new digital tool, with the time saved during inspection allowing the value of the replaced banknotes to be paid out more quickly.