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Does Inlay Thickness Affect Reliability for Smart Cards With External Magnetic Stripes?

Posted By RFID Journal, 03.23.2009
Does inlay thickness—including the antenna and chip—contribute to the reliability of a smart card if there is an external magnetic stripe on it? I have heard that a 180-micrometer inlay is more reliable than a 330-micrometer inlay when used with an external magnetic stripe. How true is that, and by what percent is the thinner inlay more reliable and more durable?

—Ody, Manila, Philippines

Dear Ody,

I have never heard that a thinner inlay is necessarily more reliable in smart cards. But I have turned once more to Steve Halliday, founder of High-Tech Aid, to see if he has ever heard this. Steve is a consultant with many years in the RFID industry. Here is his response:

"If the magnetic stripe is applied [after the smart card has been created], then I cannot see any difference in the inlay thickness. If the inlay is an overlay on top of the magnetic stripe, then thinner will always be better. Magnetic-stripe technology requires contact between the magnetic read head and the magnetic material. Assuming the stripe meets the standards to begin with (for amplitude and so forth), then even a thin overlay will cause amplitude loss and reduce the stripe's readability. Many stripe manufacturers already put a protective layer over the stripe during the manufacturing process, having adjusted the properties to account for the extra gap. By placing another layer over this, the gap will be bigger and the performance will be reduced. I hope this answers the question. If not, have the reader provide a bit more detail."

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