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Polymer Electronics Consortium Inches Closer to Its Goal

By the end of 2007, European consortium PolyApply expects to finish the working prototype of a semi-printed polymer RFID tag.
By Rhea Wessel
Tags: Labeling
Jan 14, 2007For the past two years, several European organizations have been working together to establish and support the manufacture of reel-to-reel, low-cost organic electronic circuits from plastic polymers. After laboring to create the components needed to produce an RFID tag made of printed polymers, the consortium—known as PolyApply—now says it's in the process of integrating these parts to create a prototype semi-printed RFID tag. Such a development, some analysts say, will lead to widespread RFID applications.

PolyApply is funded with €20 million ($25.8 million), including €12 million ($15.5 million) from the European Union. The remaining €8 million ($10.3 million) comes from the consortium's nearly 20 members, including STMicroelectronics and PolyIC. The partners have chosen to focus initially on the use of plastic electronics for RFID, and eventually hope to develop reel-to-reel production of RFID tags that will substantially drive down costs.

"RFID is an application that is useful for demonstrations because it poses a number of challenges such as high-frequency rectifiers, ring oscillators, logic circuits and memory. All have to be achieved individually and integrated together to make an all-organic RFID tag," says Donald Lupo, an industry analyst and nanotechnology consultant. The European Commission has contracted Lupo to review the project's work.

In September, PolyIC announced it had printed passive 13.56 MHz RF tags using a roll-to-roll process (see PolyIC Announces Printed 13.56 MHz RF Tags). The startup calls the tags "RF tags" since they emit an RF signal when interrogated but do not communicate an ID number.

PolyIC has been a member of PolyApply since September 2006. The company is currently trying to bring the competencies of all its members together to develop the rudiments of a printed RFID tag, according to project coordinator Salvatore Coffa of STMicroelectronics. So far, the consortium has printed and demonstrated several parts of a tag. The demonstrated elements— some of which are printed, while others are print-compatible, hence the description "semi-printed"—include an antenna, an oscillator circuit that generates the RF signal transmitted by the antenna, and memory.

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