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Label-Making Advance Touted
Blackstone Technology says its reel-to reel process is 10 times faster than conventional machines.
Dec 10, 2002—Dec. 10, 2002 - Blackstone Technology Corp., a Boston-based startup, announced today that it has developed a process for manufacturing smart labels that is ten times faster than current machines. The company says its SpeedBond process takes the microchip from the wafer, connects the antenna and creates the finished label all with one machine.
The process uses a pushpin mechanism that pushes the cut silicon die (microchip) off of the wafer. The antenna is attached to the back (non-adhesive) side of a label and bonded to the microchip using a conductive adhesive. The company says the adhesive dries quickly at room temperature, making it possible to produce smart labels at a higher speed than using current technology.
Dave Eastin, Blackstone's executive vice president, says his company is negotiating with a well-known manufacturer of reel-to-reel equipment to develop a prototype. He expects to announce the partner next month. A prototype could be ready by the third quarter of next year.
Mass-producing RFID tags and labels quickly and inexpensively has become the goal of many companies. Alien Technology, a startup based in Morgan Hill, Calif., has received a lot of press for its fluidic self-assembly process, which enables it to put very small chips into straps that can be attached to antennas. But the company uses partners to attach the antenna and make the label using conventional processes.
Matrics, another startup, recently announced that it is working with KSW Microtec and Mühlbaeur on a high-speed reel-to-reel process (see Matrics to Make Low-Cost RFID Tag). So far, no one has demonstrated an actual working machine that can mass-produce labels at the speed and cost many end users are looking for.
Blackstone's process, if it works as advertised, has two primary advantages. The company says it can work with microchips as small as 300 microns by 300 microns, which is about the size of a grain of pepper. And its machine would eliminate the process of turning an RFID inlay into a finished label. Normally that process adds to the cost of the tag because it involves a separate company that needs to make a profit.
Blackstone is a new company, but Eastin says the founders have been involved in RFID for years. "Dick Estes, our CTO, has numerous patents for conductive adhesives and micro-bonding techniques," he says. "Joe Weldon and I have a background in high-speed labeling. We sat down together and came up with a system that would take it from wafer to finished label. And that's what we've done."
Eastin says the technology can be used to make finished pressure-sensitive smart labels, RFID transponders, or inlays for smart cards. The company is targeting four main markets: companies that make transponders, label converters, systems integrators and smart card makers.
Blackstone has received some initial funding from Northstar Global Partners and is looking to close a round of financing.
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