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Walki Markets Its Laser-Patterned Booster Tag Antenna to Retail Sector

The Finnish packaging materials company says its Pantenna booster antenna can reduce costs for apparel companies that need to RFID-tag only some of their goods.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 31, 2013

The uneven adoption of item-level radio frequency identification technology within the retail sector has led to a complex environment in which some goods, such as apparel, are tracked using RFID readers, while others are scanned via bar codes. For apparel manufacturers or brands, this means they must either create two different types of labels—one with built-in RFID tags, the other with only a printed bar code—or simply attach RFID tags to all products.

Finnish packaging materials company Walki Group is currently in discussions with several customers regarding the company's new external RFID tag antenna, known as the Pantenna Booster Antenna. The new antenna is designed to be built into labels or packaging, enabling companies, such as retailers or manufacturers, to print a uniform label for all customers with an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) booster tag antenna built in, and to select which labels should be RFID-enabled, by adding a "kernel tag"—an EPC Gen 2 RFID chip bonded to a small antenna. The booster antenna was released in April 2013, says Sami Liponkoski, Walki Group's business line manager, and the company has since been discussing the solution with customers in the retail sector.

Walki's Pantenna booster antenna (left) and kernel tag
The solution is intended to save businesses the cost of printing RFID-enabled labels for use on products destined for retailers that will not be utilizing the RFID functionality. Walki would build the aluminum antenna directly into product packaging or a label for the customer, while its converter partners would glue on a kernel tag—a microchip and antenna—to create a fully functioning RFID label or inlay. The kernel tag would then couple with the booster antenna, via a contactless interface, in order to provide a read range similar to that of a standard UHF tag.

Alternatively, apparel manufacturers and other users could acquire a label-dispensing device that would apply a kernel tag to each label, prior to the label's encoding and printing.

Walki's first offering, released in 2012 under the brand name of Pantenna, was its lamination and laser-patterning system, known as 4E Technology, for creating antennas that replaced traditional etching—which, the company reports, offers greater flexibility in designs and faster production (see Walki Launches Service Using Lasers to Make Tag Antennas). The Pantenna booster antenna is an addition to this offering, and is made with Walki's same 4E laser-patterning process. As such, Liponkoski says, the booster antenna could be incorporated in some sort of inlay, such as plastic film, but it could also be built into cardboard, recyclable material or fabric.

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