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NDSU Researchers Develop Method for Embedding RFID in Paper
The North Dakota State University group claims that its laser-based RFID inlay assembly method can be used to inexpensively incorporate tags into paper items, such as tickets and banknotes.
Marinov estimates that the cost of producing each piece of RFID-enabled paper could be just a few cents, due to the need for less material (a smaller chip), as well as due to the faster manufacturing process (thanks to the parallel transfer of chips onto substrates) and the reduced cost of equipment used during this process (as opposed to equipment utilized during pick-and-place assembly).
The group spent approximately the past four years researching the RFID industry, the need for RFID-enabled paper for counterfeit prevention and existing assembly methods, Marinov says—and, in so doing, proved LEAP's feasibility and built a prototype to accomplish the LEAP assembly method. "We spent quite a bit of time understanding the problem," he states.
The researchers first demonstrated the technology in 2011. Now, the group is seeking commercial partners to help bring the technology to market. Such partners might be RFID tag manufacturers or equipment makers for the actual chip-packaging process. "We're open to all kinds of collaborations," Marinov says, adding that while there are a few RFID chips commercially available that are small enough to be embedded in paper, none are as thin as 20 microns, while the LEAP method would enable manufacturers to etch silicon wafers down to a thinner size.
The market for RFID-enabled paper may be broad, Marinov says, but it is also difficult to measure. Because such a solution isn't readily available, he adds, it isn't being used at present. Use cases might exist, however, such as building RFID technology into concert or transportation tickets, to be read when a ticket is redeemed, in order to prove its authenticity. If the RFID-enabled paper were used to produce banknotes, the tags could be employed to prove a note's authenticity. Legal documents could also enable users to capture or store data via an RFID reader that would prove the document was not counterfeit.
According to Marinov, the LEAP method also works for assembling other types of ICs and small components, in addition to RFID chips. For example, LEAP could be used to assemble light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and micro-electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) components.
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