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Toppan Gears Up for Low-Cost RFID

The Japanese company plans to begin volume production of chips that it says will cost 50 cents and readers that will cost less than $20.
By Bob Violino
Jul 23, 2003July 23, 2003 - Toppan Printing, a $10 billion Japanese printing, electronics and industrial products manufacturer, will begin volume production in December of dual-band RFID tags that it says will cost about 50 cents. The company also plans to sell reader modules that cost less than $20.
The tiny T-Junction chip

The new RFID chip, named T-Junction, will operate at 2.45 GHz, which is the common RFID frequency used in Japan today, as well as 800 to 950MHz, the band used in the US and Europe. Toppan plans to sell both RFID inlays -- the chip and antenna mounted on a substrate -- and finished labels. "We expect that the cost of the label with the chip and antenna will be about 50 cents," says Koichiro Sasai, a spokesperson for Toppan Printing.

Back in January, Toppan announced plans to produce a reader module that costs about 2,000 yen, or US$17. The company declined to provide details on how it could produce a reader that costs about one twentieth of what many others on the market sell for today (see Toppan to Produce $20 RFID Reader). Sasai says that those readers will be ready in December as well.

Because the antenna will be built right into the RFID chip, the tags will have a read range of just 1 to 2 cm (.4 to .8 inch). Sasai says the company could produce tags that are based on the ISO 18000-6 specification or the Auto-ID Center's Electronic Product Code specification, depending on the market's needs.

The T-Junction chips will be manufactured in collaboration with Japan's Brilliant Technologies Co., a division of Macnica, a Japanese semiconductor development company, and Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing, a Singapore foundry. The parties are finalizing the terms of the manufacturing agreement.

Sasai says Toppan plans to offer software, as well as tags and readers, but didn't elaborate on what type of software his company will provide. A statement released by Toppan says the company "is committed to collaborating with customers to provide full systems-integration services, which include RFID hardware and software configuration and integration for the T-Junction chip, as well as full-service turnkey solutions for manufacturing, test, assembly and packaging through its extensive strategic alliances network."

The T-Junction chip was developed by Telemidic of Japan, which holds the design patent and provided Toppan with exclusive rights to manufacture and sell the RFID chip under a technology licensing agreement.

Building the antenna right onto the chip reduces the tag cost because it eliminates the antenna-attachment process. But the small size of the antenna severely restricts the read range. Other UHF tags can be read from 20 feet or more. Toppan plans to market the chip for use in amusement park, micro-payments, and security applications. It also plans to go after the supply chain and customer relationship management markets.

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