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Tageos Makes RFID Inlays on Paper, Eliminating Plastic Substrate

The company's passive RFID labels will be 10 to 30 percent cheaper than traditional ones, and more sustainable, Tageos says, due to a manufacturing process that creates an RFID inlay directly on the label itself.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 14, 2011Four years after French passive RFID hardware manufacturer Tageos was launched to develop a printable EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID label made without a plastic inlay—thereby reducing the cost and environmental impact of traditional tags—the company is now ready to market the results of those efforts. Rolls of the labels, designed to be low-cost and sustainable, are expected to become commercially available next month, either wet (backed with a pressure-sensitive adhesive) or dry (sans adhesive). The company intends to display these labels at RFID Journal LIVE! 2011, to be held on Apr. 12-14, in Orlando, Fla.

Tageos, headquartered in Montpellier, France, was founded in 2007 with $1.3 million of research and development money, to develop a new process for label manufacturing that the company predicts will reduce label prices by 10 to 30 percent—which, it believes, will encourage the adoption of RFID technology. RFID labels currently on the market are produced by taking a plain paper label and converting it by embedding an RFID inlay created on a separate plastic substrate. The RFID tag in a Tageos label, however, is created directly on the label itself, and thus has no plastic substrate and less adhesive, since there are no layers to glue together. The tag also has significantly thinner antennas, composed of a smaller amount of metal. According to Tageos, the tag's read range will meet the needs of both logistics and item-level applications, though the company does not indicate the actual read ranges that users can expect.

Tageos' EOS-300 EPC Gen 2 RFID label, designed for the identification of apparel
The new labels come just as the UHF RFID tag market, according to IDTechEx, is expected to grow by as much as 120 percent this year, to $100 million. That growth, the firm indicates, will be the result of item-level tagging of apparel and other goods to meet retailers' requirements. The apparel market, as well as jewelry and logistics, are the targeted end users for Tageos' RFID labels.

The existing manufacturing processes for UHF tags are too expensive, says Lucien Repellin, Tageos' business development VP, and also have a negative impact on the environment since they require a greater amount of material, compared with Tageos' method. They require the etching, stamping, printing or electroplating of an antenna onto a substrate composed of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic. A silicon RFID chip is glued onto the antenna, and an inlay may then be converted to a paper label. If, for example, a customer requires an adhesive printable paper label, such as one used for attachment to pallets, cases, retail apparel or jewelry, a label manufacturer traditionally had to first make or purchase an RFID inlay on a plastic substrate, and then insert that inlay into a paper label, which would also allow human-readable text to be printed on its surface.

The various steps in the process of producing an RFID label are usually accomplished by several companies, including those that manufacture the antennas, those that assemble a chip and an antenna onto a plastic substrate to form an inlay, and those that convert the inlay to a paper label. "What we wondered when the company was formed in 2007," Repellin explains, "was how to remove the waste around the manufacturing of tags." The solution, the company determined, was to eliminate the plastic substrate, which makes an RFID label bulkier than a non-RFID label, increases the cost, and impacts the environment since, the company says, plastic is a non-biodegradable material, adds weight to the transportation of products and is often made from petroleum.

Instead of manufacturing a plastic layer, therefore, the company can build a tag with a very thin aluminum antenna (which is just a fraction of a traditional RFID tag antenna's thickness) manufactured directly onto a paper label. Instead of using etching, stamping, printing or electroplating to create an antenna, Tageos employs a different process that it declines to describe. Two to three years of the company's development work were focused on this proprietary, patented process that enables the manufacturing of an antenna directly onto a label. An RFID chip is then added to the same paper label, and an adhesive layer is attached to the back of it. Because the RFID label manufacturing process is simpler, is accomplished entirely by Tageos and requires fewer raw materials (since there is no plastic substrate and less adhesive), the cost of manufacturing the label is significantly reduced, Repellin reports.

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