RFID Analyst: IDTechEx

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RFID Analyst

November 2004

Show All Description Contents, Table & Figures List Pricing Related Content
  • RFID Developments in Korea
  • Which frequency will win for item level tagging?
  • Inkjet Printing Electronics
  • Lack of development on production of polymer electronics
  • IDTechEx Events Calendar
  • The Convergence of Printing and Electronics
  • The IDTechEx Reports
Key Markets in Korea
Existing markets for RFID include asset management (such as libraries), warehousing and by far the largest - transportation ticketing and epurse. Inline with global developments extensive trials are being carried out which include airline baggage tagging, pallet and case tagging and cargo tagging.
RFID suppliers and users in Korea felt that a mandate from retailers is unlikely, as in Japan. Retailers are more fragmented compared to those in the US or Europe, such that brands have more power and would be unlikely to accept additional costs by retailers. However, in 2005 supply chain management (SCM) is expected to become one of the fastest growing applications in Korea for two reasons. This first is the need to tag pallets and cases that Korea exports to countries where retailers have set a mandate; and second is the natural use of RFID for SCM as brands and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies identify the rich paybacks and lessons of success from their experience of meeting mandates in other countries.
A key market emerging in Korea is the use of RFID and other wireless sensors and communications such as Zigbee and Ultra Wide Band (UWB) tags for consumer facing applications, such as cashless payments, smart houses and smart cities. A large fraction of the GDP of Korea is invested in construction - a phenomenal amount - required to cope with the speed of growth of South Korea. Dr Geunho Lee, a leading consultant on RFID in Korea, told IDTechEx that there is a huge interest to embed RFID functionality into new city constructions and consumer appliances. The payback is added value for consumers which they are prepared to pay for. Indeed, the Korean government wholly support this drive; in March 2004 the Korean government opened "Ubiquitous Dream", a museum in Seoul with a mock up "smart home". This includes an internet refrigerator which tells you what items are in the fridge, when they expire and can automatically order more; contactless security systems and wireless sensors (e.g. the movement of a human causes the lights to turn on etc) and smart laundry machines which read the tags on clothing to automatically set the type of wash required for that clothing. Among other exhibits, the museum also includes a mini supermarket where all products are tagged and are read by gates on checkout.
Which frequency best for item level RFID?
First the facts. Item level tagging is a term that is not officially defined. Most people in the RFID industry take it to mean the tagging of small inanimate things in their millions or more. Those small things are the smallest unit of that product that is ever likely to be RFID tagged. Conveyances, vehicles and animals are not unusually included but that does not leave consumer goods supply chains and retail and nothing else. For example, tagging of sheets of paper in archives, books in libraries and apparel in laundries would be included. Indeed, about 150 million of these have already been tagged.
Item level has the biggest potential
What is indisputable is that item level tagging will involve the largest numbers of RFID tags of any market. The potential is in trillions of units yearly - maybe as much as ten trillion. Accordingly, this is the biggest opportunity in monetary value for tag makers in due course, even though prices must drop to record low values to achieve this. Delays in making it happen can theoretically come from legal considerations such as new privacy laws, insufficient production capacity, tag systems not working satisfactorily and other factors such as the purchasers not being convinced of the business case or simply not having the money available to invest.
The experts speak
At IDTechEx we believe that tag price and the technical performance of the system are the key impediments. Production constraints will occur from time to time but many companies are capable of financing and installing capacity of at least one billion tags yearly.
Volume production being installed rapidly
Alien Technology, with the most ambitious production expansion program declared to date, says, "There is no capacity problem in this industry". Excluding mismatches between orders and supply from time and occasional chip famines (before chipless versions become popular), we would agree. You don't have giants like Texas Instruments, Dai Nippon Printing, Avery Dennison, Symbol Technologies, Samsung and many others piling in to make RFID tags and then have an ongoing shortage.
Which frequency?
There is intense interest in which frequency will win. To examine this we now oversimplify the arguments in order to see the wood for the trees. In the longer term that could involve many frequencies to choose from because, to take just two examples, very low cost tags such as electromagnetic chipless tags at a few kilohertz may be made adequate in performance or Surface Acoustic Wave tags at 2.45 GHz may come our cheapest and best. Both are far simpler to make than silicon chips.
The convergence of printing and electronics
The ability to print electronics as quickly and cheaply as coloured ink will bring massive improvements to fields as diverse as aerospace, medicine and consumer packaging, not only providing additional functionality to existing products, but opening the way to produce things that have never before been possible where conventional electronics are too expensive, fragile or bulky. This technology will enable a ubiquitous electronic world tackling many errors and inefficiencies and dramatically improving lives.
Our "Printed Electronics 2004" conference in New Orleans on December 6-8 2004 has a programme packed with information on developments in this emerging industry. The conference covers the full range of technologies - not just displays and circuits but also sensors, power, sound and, importantly, applications. The first commercial printed electronics products are explored, showing how new markets can be created.
A worldwide cast of 27 keynote speakers, includes NASA, Plastic Logic (UK), Cypak AB (Sweden), T-ink (USA), PAPRICAN, PolyIC (Germany), Infineon Technologies (Germany), Motorola (USA), OrganicID (USA), University of Illinois (USA), IBM (USA), Graphic Solutions, Inc. (USA), Rochester Institute of Technology (USA), VTT Information Technology (Finland), elumin8 Systems (UK), Pelikon (UK), Gyricon LLC (USA), Cambridge Display Technology (UK), US Display Consortium, USA, NXT Sound (UK), Xerox Research Centre of Canada, Cabot Superior MicroPowders, USA, Symmorphix Inc. (USA), Spectra Inc (USA), Patterning Technologies Ltd (UK), and Xaar plc (UK)
The conference is attracting interest from a diverse audience - from companies developing innovative technology - to major consumer brands looking to use advanced technology to promote their products, as well as enhance and protect their brands.
Learn where, why, how and what next at Printed Electronics 2004.
This conference and Introductory Masterclass takes place at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New Orleans from December 6-8, 2004.
For further information please email c.odonnelly@idtechex.com, call
+ 44-1223-813703
Or visit our conference website at www.printelec.com External Link
Inkjet Printing Electronics
Drop on demand printing (inkjet printing applied to industrial processes) utilises the piezo electric effect to deliver precise and consistent quantities of fluids. Typically, current printheads are designed with 100 plus nozzles on a single printhead. Each nozzle is able to independently deliver 30 pico-litres of fluid at a frequency of up to 20,000 drops per second (20 KHz). Such a printhead would have a natural resolution of the order of 50 dpi and therefore grouped in an offset bank of 8 heads can generate a 400dpi resolution. Multiple print passes allow higher resolutions.
Printing onto absorbent surfaces such as paper, where the substrate acts as a brake to fluid flow is relatively straightforward and sustains the resolution. However, fixing the image on less friendly surfaces is an important factor in achieving the desired end product. The core of Patterning Technologies Ltd's know-how resides in this area and it has successfully demonstrated its capability to achieve industrial scale applications.
What does this mean in practical terms? Although dependent on the print fluid and print surface characteristics, the above design at 400 dpi resolution would enable feature sizes in the region of 100 micron track and gap, without further post printing treatment. The printing time for a 600mm x 800mm substrate would be of the order of 1 minute.
Digital inkjet printing is a binary process. The image to be printed is broken down in to a matrix of squares with an on-off print signal to the nozzle. Therefore printing diagonal lines at low resolution can suffer the potential of a saw tooth effect which is seen as a challenge for some applications. Introduction of 'grey scale' in the soon to be released new generation printhead (a process where the printer fills in the saw tooth steps by addressing 1600dpi) reduces this problem significantly.
In addition to 'greyscale' these new printheads will deliver smaller drop volumes allowing smaller feature sizes that are expected to be in the region of 50 micron track and gap. Although this may not be the limit of printhead design, it does mean that without post print treatment these feature sizes limit the direct write capability. For example, in the displays sector screen sizes of 40 inches and above.
Finer feature definition either requires pre-treatment of the substrate surface to influence the flow of material on contact with the surface or post print ablation with laser or other techniques. There are ongoing novel technological developments in all these areas.
Finally, having fixed the image on the surface, it is crucial to be able to control the pattern with a reliable and consistent delivery system. This is the domain of the print platform and the integration of mechanical design with software programming. Ink companies therefore tend to work closely with machine manufacturers such as Xaar, Xennia and Spectra to bring fluid and printhead technology together. with the total manufacturing process to produce an industrial scale integrated solution.
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