Fractal Shares RFID Design Facility

By Bob Violino

The antenna specialist has opened its RFID tag design facilities to developers and manufacturers.

  • TAGS

April 1, 2003 - Fractal Antenna Systems, a company that specializes in fractal technology, has opened its RFID antenna/tag design facilities to other RFID developers and manufacturers. Fractal says these companies will be able to develop a new range of smaller, custom-designed tags that operate in broad frequency bands.

"There's a tendency at RFID firms to do in-house engineering, but that approach is not versatile enough for developing a range of different tags," said Nathan Cohen, Chief Technical Officer at Telecom City, Massachusetts-based Fractal Antenna Systems.

A fractal antenna

Fractal technology is fundamental to the company's designs, which involve the RFID tag/antenna but exclude the RFID chip. Fractals themselves are geometric structures that repeat a "motif" shape over a variety of scales. Fractal antennas/tags use these complex designs to increase the amount of antenna foil or trace material that can be squeezed into any design area. They also require intensive calculations as the planned tag surface is modeled as one or more fractal shapes and then a design developed to meet a customer's requirements.

The new design service, dubbed TagDesigner, uses the Fractal Antenna Systems’ own proprietary computer system, which the company says has been optimized to produce fractal tag/antenna designs at a rate of more than one million a month. That speed could help to dramatically cut the length of the design processes for some tag developers.

"Typical optimization for this type of work is many man-months per antenna/tag design," says Cohen. "Our facility speeds the process to days, even hours, depending on the complexity and how different it is from other designs already devised."

The result is tag/antenna designs that are two to four times smaller than those using rival technologies are. They can also have wider frequency support than existing rival designs, according to the company. "Most tags are narrow-band but fractal tags can be designed meet all frequencies between 850MHz to 930MHz," Cohen says. That means one design could be used in all accepted UHF frequencies for RFID around the world.

In return for using its TagDesigner facilities, the company says it will license the final patent-protected proprietary tag designs back to its customers. The fee will be based on the numbers of tags produced with the design.

The small, privately held company maintains that its existing undisclosed RFID customers have verified its claims for the performance and capabilities of its designs. It also maintains that it is in talks with several more regarding their use of Fractal Antenna's designs and its design facility.

Fractal Antenna Systems insists that it's not worried about competitors potentially using fractal technology on their own. "They can not use fractal designs," says Cohen. "We own all the patents."

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