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STMicro Ramps Up Production of Its XRAG2 Chip

The company expects to ship between 20 million and 30 million of its EPC Gen 2 chips in the third quarter of this year.
By Jonathan Collins
Aug 11, 2006More than half a year later than it had planned, STMicroelectronics has begun shipping volume quantities of its XRAG2 EPCglobal Gen 2-certified chips.

"We waited because of market conditions," says Francis Dell'ova, general manager of STMicroelectrics' business unit. "Six months ago, most end users were starting their first Gen 2 trials, but [they] started moving from Gen 1 tags in Q1 and Q2 this year."

Francis Dell'ova
Based in Geneva, Switzerland, STMicroelectronics first announced its XRAG2 chip for use in EPC UHF Class 1 Gen 2 RFID tags in September 2005 (see STMicroelectronics Unveils Gen 2 Chip), with commercial production slated for December of the same year. However, the company held off shipping in volume until mid-June 2006. Now, it says it expects to ship between 20 million and 30 million chips in the third quarter this year.

As STMicroelectronics had indicated in September, the XRAG2 chips are priced at $0.07 each for 100,000 units, and can be ordered in unprocessed wafers, or as wafers that have been bumped (fitted with metal pads for attachment to an antenna) and sawn, or scored. The company says it is planning a version with straps for sale to label manufacturers by the end of the year.

"There will be an additional cost for the chips with straps, but they should lead to cheaper finished labels as they can be attached directly to printed antennas by label manufacturers," says Dell'ova.

According to STMicroelectronics, the XRAG2 can execute all of the functions and features described in the Gen 2 protocol—including dense-reader mode operation, password protection and kill commands. The XRAG2 has 432 bits of memory, available in two possible configurations, either with three memory banks (64 bits for a tag identifier, or TID; 304 bits for EPC code; and 64 bits reserved) or four memory banks (128 bits of user memory; 64 bits for TID; 176 bits for EPC code and 64 bits reserved). This allows the tag to store dedicated industrial codes.

The company claims its chip has 40-year data retention and can be used for more than 10,000 write-erase cycles. "A 40-year data retention promise may seem of little use in the retail market, but end users in avionics and auto manufacturing are already looking for 20-year data-retention rates," Dell'ova explains.

Last year, STMicroelectronics says it sold 400 million EPC Gen 1 chips, but that sales of Gen 1 chips are now down to around just 25 percent of its UHF chip sales.
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