Plasma Joins RFID Chips, Antennas

By Jonathan Collins

Two partnering companies will use plasma deposition technology to bond RFID chips directly to antennas and produce low-cost EPC tags in 2005.

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Nanotechnology specialist Ionic Fusion Corp. (IFC) has partnered with RF systems manufacturer RF Identics to produce low-cost item-level EPC tags ready for shipment by the second quarter of next year. The tags will be manufactured using IFC’s Ionic Plasma Deposition (IPD) technology.


IFC’s Joe Ryan



The IPD technology can be used to deposit ionized metallic atoms and molecules onto a wide variety of materials, including ceramics, polymers, paper, quartz, metals and composites. The process uses a vacuum to remove all contaminants and can run at room temperature, although the process’s operating temperature can be higher or lower, if desired.

IFC says its proprietary technology offers higher efficiency and cost-effectiveness over traditional metallization processes and, by being able to create a metallic layer that penetrates surfaces, provides better adhesion to substrates. The company believes that its high-speed deposition process can be used to bond an RFID chip directly to an antenna to create a complete RFID inlay. IFC claims that it has developed improvements to its IPD technology to bring to the RFID tag and label manufacturing process.

“We have a new material and a new way to manufacture the tag antenna, as well as a new way to attach a chips [to antennas] without using adhesive,” says Joe Ryan, president of IFC, which is based in Longmont, Colo. He maintains that compared with other existing inlay-production techniques, which use an electrically conductive glue to bond an RFID chip to an antenna, his company’s IPD technology produces tags that perform more reliably and cost less.

“Our tags and labels will offer savings from the high yields of working tags that our process makes possible,” Ryan says.

Based in Grand Rapids, Mich., RF IDentics designs systems and assembles RFID tags and labels and will manufacture tags and labels based on IFC’s designs. The partnership will produce a range of Gen 1 and Gen 2 EPCglobal tags and labels starting in volume next year.

“We have working tags now, and we will have tags in the market in the second quarter of 2005 in reasonable quantities, producing in the tens of millions in 2005,” says Ryan.

IFC believes its technology can also be used to manufacture siliconless chips for RFID tags and labels. “We have a technology road map to a low-cost next-generation tag using different materials other than silicon,” Ryan says.

Cutting costs in tag production will be essential for tag producers to stay competitive, according to Ryan. “Tags will become a commoditized market sooner rather than later, and the IPD process gives us a stay-ahead technology road map for RFID. Now we have a clear path to lower RFID costs, increased yields and higher-performance tags,” he says.

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