Organic Growth: Conference Tries Printed RFID Tags

This article was originally published by RFID Update.

September 28, 2007—The recently concluded Organic Electronics Conference in Germany successfully trialed a new line of printed RFID tags on its event tickets. The 4-bit, high frequency (13.56 MHz) tags were supplied by PolyIC, which announced that two printed RFID products are now available for pilot projects in quantities up to about 100,000.

Printed RFID, also referred to as “organic” or “plastic” RFID, is a method of producing tags by printing electronic inks that have characteristics similar to those found in the standard silicon microchips. The electronic ink eliminates the need for a chip, which reduces cost. However it also reduces read range and available memory, two hurdles PolyIC and other developers are working to overcome to create markets for the products. Production methods must also improve to support high-volume manufacturing.

“We do not sell these products as a low-price option for common, standard 13.56 MHz RFID,” PolyIC Managing Director Wolfgang Mildner told RFID Update. “We are trying to address new markets.” He said potential markets and applications include electronic ticketing, brand protection, and interactive marketing.

Attendees to the Organic Electronics Conference in Frankfurt received an event ticket that included a printed RFID tag. The tags were read at various locations throughout the event to monitor the flow of attendees through conference sessions and exhibitor booths. The application was considered a trial and was organized with PRISMA, a government-funded German consortium developed to research low-cost electronic technologies.

Mildner said PolyIC’s currently available products have range up to 5 centimeters (2 inches) and memory up to 4 bits. The company hopes to have them available in production quantities of a billion or more in about a year. Several companies are planning trials, but their identities and applications cannot be disclosed, Mildner said.

PolyIC has successfully developed 32- and 64-bit memory products in its labs but they are a long way from being commercialized, according to Mildner. Market development is impacted by the pace of developments in production techniques, substrates, product engineering, and market demand.

U.S.-based market research firm NanoMarkets has noted that RFID is currently a “negligible” portion of the printed electronics market but will grow to more than 30 percent of the market by 2014. The firm recently predicted the entire printed and organic sensor market will be worth $2.3 billion at that time.

See the Organic Electronics Conference’s announcement