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Startup to Help Companies Make Tags

A new Finnish company plans to help the printing, packaging and labeling industries develop the ability to manufacture RFID tags for their own customers.
By Jonathan Collins
Sep 13, 2005A new Finnish company, Confidex, has formed with the goal of helping the printing, packaging and labeling industries develop the ability to manufacture RFID tags.

With funding by Essa Invest (a local VC firm in Finland) and its founders, Confidex was launched in August by a group of former executives from UPM-Kymmene's UPM Rafsec. One of Europe's leading tag manufacturers, UPM Rafsec has been designing and manufacturing RFID inlays since 1997. Timo Lindström, partner and CEO at Confidex, previously served as Rafsec's president.

Based in the town of Nokia, Confidex will focus on providing RFID tag production system design and implementation services to help label converters and printing and packaging companies add RFID tag manufacturing to their capabilities.

Timo Lindström, Confidex
"Our core competencies are in RF design and reel-to-reel manufacturing," Lindström says. "We will act as an outsourced R&D unit for developing RFID tag production systems, as well as an integrator to put tag manufacturing capabilities in place."

"We will also be the people to call when, for some reason, tag quality is low or when tags are not performing well in an application," adds Lindström. The company plans to provide troubleshooting services, using its expertise to improve the tag production process, raise tag quality or redesign a tag.

An RFID label, or smart label, is made up of an inlay (the chip and antenna joined together on a substrate), sandwiched between a paper label and an adhesive layer. So far, the bulk of RFID labels have been produced by label makers (also known as label converters) using complete inlays outsourced from inlay manufacturers. Because antennas are increasingly expected to be printed directly on labels and packaging, the printing and packaging industries will also move to deliver RFID tag manufacturing capabilities to meet customer requirements.

"We regard label converters as [an] integral part of [the] packaging and printing industries. They will have a growing role as suppliers of RFID labels. Having said that, our firm belief is also that we will see strong development of RFID-enabled packages offered by package manufacturers," says Lindström.

Confidex intends to work closely with its customers and network of partners, the company explains, to achieve the quality and cost objectives end users expect from tag suppliers and converters. The firm says it is still building a strategic partner network to create its offering and cannot yet disclose the names of its technology partners or initial customers. However, it will have partners for raw materials, including antennas, IC and adhesives, and for hardware, including reader modules, converting equipment and strap/direct flip-chip assembly technology.

Aside from professional services, Confidex is also developing its own UHF EPC Gen 2 tag designs. "Later this year, we will launch a low-cost, reusable EPC Gen 2 tag and related testing equipment for tag manufacturing and converting," says Lindström.

The tags are being designed for supply chain applications using reusable equipment such as trays, totes and dollies. They are also being devised for applications requiring physical protection for the tag or enhanced RF performance to operate in high humidity or around metal, where RF signals can be distorted or weakened.

Confidex says it expects to deliver its services globally and has plans to open offices in the United States and Asia.
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