Plastic 12-bit RFID tag and read-out system with screen-printed antenna

June 06, 2017 //By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Quad Industries, Agfa, imec and TNO have demonstrated a plastic 12-bit RFID tag and read-out system with screen-printed circuitry. The system integrates, for the first time, a screen-printed antenna and printed touch-based user interface, allowing implementation of the reader on curved surfaces.

The demonstrator has been designed for badge security applications, but holds promises for many other applications, including smart packages, wearables and interactive games.

RFID tags made of plastics electronics offer specific advantages over silicon (Si)-based identification devices, such as the ability to be affixed to curved packaging, or incorporated seamlessly in every-day objects and offer inexpensive manufacturing. Typical applications include item-level identification, smart food packaging, brand protection and badge security. RFID tags need to be scanned by a dedicated RFID reader which is typically within two centimeters of the tag. To fully exploit the benefits of plastic electronics, the antenna in both the tag and the reader should be flexible as well. Screen-printed antennas have already been successfully implemented on top of RFID tags, but the read-out systems typically use rigid PCB-based antennas. This is mainly due to a poor resistance and Q-factor of the printed antenna.

The integrated screen-printed antenna in both the RFID tag and the read-out system enables the optimal integration of both devices on a variety of surfaces. The antennas have been screen-printed by Quad Industries, using printing inks from Agfa.

The partners have demonstrated the new technology in a badge security application. The access badge combines the credit-card size printed antenna with a plastic 12-bit RFID chip, integrated on a flexible plastic substrate. The RFID tag is manufactured in imec’s metal-oxide thin-film transistor (TFT) technology. This technology uses large-area manufacturing processes that allow for inexpensive production in large quantities. The 12-bit RFID developed for this demonstration contains 438 TFTs.