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Finnish Venture to Make RFID Antennas

Two major Finnish industrials and a government venture fund establish a company to produce hundreds of millions of low-cost RFID antennas a year.
By Jonathan Collins
May 05, 2005Two major Finnish industrial companies and an investment arm of the Finnish government are investing in a new venture to mass-produce low-cost RFID antennas. The goal for the new company, Intune Circuits Ltd., is to have its operation up and running by the end of 2005 and be able to produce several hundred million antennas a year. At present, the venture is still looking for a site in Finland to build its manufacturing plant.

"Speaking with RFID vendors and customers, it became very obvious to us that the industry needs this kind of resource," says Vesa Sorri, technology director at UPM New Ventures, a unit of UPM-Kymmene. One of the world's largest manufacturers of newsprint and magazine paper in the world, UPM-Kymmene will own 38 percent of the new antenna maker. By focusing on high-volume production, Sorri says, Intune Circuits will be able to manufacture antennas that will cost less than those currently being made by competitors.

UPM-Kymmene's UPM Rafsec unit has been designing and building RFID inlays since 1997, and the company hopes to join its RFID experience with the metal production skills of Outokumpu Technology, a Finnish maker of stainless steel coils, wires, rods, and bars. Outokumpu, which is 40 percent owned by the Finnish government, will own 28 percent of Intune Circuits. Finnish Industry Investment Ltd., a government-owned venture capital company administered by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, will also own a 28 percent. Intune Circuits' management will hold the remaining 6 percent.

The new company will specialize in manufacturing antennas for HF and UHF tags, both passive and active, using copper, aluminium and printed inks, with customers deciding which design and materials are used.

"UPM brings market knowledge to the venture, while Outokumpu brings know-how in metallurgy and production manufacturing," says Sorri, adding that Intune Circuits will benefit from Finnish Industry Investment's entrepreneurial experience. The new venture will also draw on the financial resources of its parent companies. The primary amount of money invested in Intune Circuits has not been made public but runs to "millions of euros from each company," according to Sorri.

Later this year, Intune Circuits plans to start working to attract RFID tag manufacturers as customers for its antennas, and Rafsec is an obvious choice to be among the first. "Rafsec manufactures antennas and uses subcontractors to provide antennas, and we do plan to target them," Sorri says.
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