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Walki Launches Service Using Lasers to Make Tag Antennas

The company claims that its Pantenna UHF antennas are less expensive than most others on the market, with a lower environmental impact.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 16, 2012Finnish packaging goods firm Walki (pronounced val-i-kee) has commercially released a service that manufactures passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag antennas, by means of its patented Walki-4E technology—a process that employs a laser to cut away parts of an aluminum-paper laminate in order to create a tag antenna. The company does not design antennas itself, but produces them to order, according to its customers' designs, with the antennas measuring anywhere from 6 microns to 50 microns (0.0002 inch to 0.002 inch) in thickness

The Walki-4E process is intended to enable tag manufacturing that is less expensive and more flexible than that of traditional tag antennas, which involves an etching method utilizing wet chemicals. The Walki-4E UHF Pantenna is the company's first RFID antenna-manufacturing service.

By using lamination and laser patterning on aluminum rather than traditional etching to create the antennas, the firm can offer greater flexibility in antenna designs, faster production speed (since the antennas can be produced ten times faster than traditional antennas) and lower cost, according to Sami Liponkoski, Walki Group's business line manager of 4E technology. Liponkoski described the technology at this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, held in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month.

The Walki Group has been making packaging materials for several decades, including laminates, paper and packaging, for such products as frozen foods. Last month, it launched its 4E antenna-manufacturing service.

RFID antennas are typically produced using a wet chemical process that includes the etching of aluminum or copper. The etching procedure, however, can make the process slower than the Walki-4E method that uses pattern lamination and laser cutting; according to Liponkoski, it is 10 times faster than etching. Walki employs a laminate of aluminum and paper substrate, then cuts patterns into the aluminum via a laser, after which the aluminum residue is recycled.

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