Company Boosts Sensitivity and Shortens Length of Its RFID Yarn

By Claire Swedberg

Primo1D's E-Thread is being tested by industrial and textile companies to track parts and products that do not lend themselves well to an affixed RFID tag.

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French technology company PrimoiD is commercially scaling its passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID yarn for textile manufacturers, as well as the industrial market, to enable the embedding or RFID tags directly into garments or materials. The technology is not only intended for use in apparel and retail, but is also being trialed on industrial products that do not lend themselves well to the attachment of an adhesive or hanging tag.

Since the technology was introduced, the company has further developed it to create improved impedance-matching techniques. This means that the E-Thread can be read at twice the distance, from 7 meters (23 feet) to 12 meters (39.4 feet). It can also be shorter than its predecessor, depending on the application.

Primo1D’s E-Thread

The E-Thread is an RFID yarn for which the antenna is built into the yarn strand itself (see E-Thread Provides Discrete Anti-Counterfeiting or Tracking Solutions). The company uses standard RFID chips which typically measure 445 micrometers (0.018 inch) by 490 micrometers (0.019 inch) or smaller.

The company—which launched in Grenoble, France, in 2013—says it has reached a throughput of 5 million units with the launching of its new production equipment. “This is largely due to investments over the last two years in the industrial phase of ramping the manufacturing and production technology and related equipment,” says Alain Papanti, Primo1D’s chief sales and marketing officer.

The company is a spinoff from the efforts of French institute CEA-Leti CEA-Leti. At that institute, researchers developed the RFID-enabled thread or yarn as part of a European project known as Platform for Advanced Smart Textile Applications (PASTA), to develop intelligence in textiles.

The technology is intended to remove several obstacles to RFID deployments in the retail sector. First, the ability to be integrated directly into a garment makes the E-Thread an alternative to labels that need to be attached and are then removed from an article of clothing or other textile item.

Based on some engineering improvement as well, Papanti says, the E-Thread “outperforms most of the current solutions in stacking conditions since the sensitivity has been improved.” This means that, for instance, if multiple pairs of jeans are stacked on a shelf, an RFID interrogator can still reliably read the tags—and do so more quickly than traditional labels, he claims. Further to this, Papanti says, “We have shortened the tag length which is facilitating the physical integration into the product.” The RFID yarn can be 12 centimeters (4.7 inches) or 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) in length, depending on the application. The RFID yarn is sold to customers, either by the segment or on bobbins. The earlier version was only available in 20-centimeter (7.9-inch) lengths, with one 10-centimeter-long (3.9-inch-long) antenna on each side of a chip).

Primo1D’s Alain Papanti

The E-Thread, Papanti says, can enable what the company called a connected garment. He adds that the improved sensitivity allows users to read tags with 40 percent more packing density.

E-Thread provides a solution for industrial customers as well. “In the industrial market segments,” Papanti states, “the need for traceability and authentication is getting stronger every day, and that concerns parts for which shape, size, flexibility and elasticity require a yarn type of tag.” He says the E-Thread has been tested in the industrial market on rubber gaskets, flexible composite materials, optic fibers protection tubes, tires, textile fabric, fiber glass composite materials and medical products.

Primo1D is demonstrating the technology at this week’s RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, being held in Phoenix, Az.