According to ABI Research (www.abiresearch.com) printed electronics have the potential to transform the RFID industry if and when they gain sufficient market acceptance and find appropriate applications. But their impact—contrary to some expectations—will not be significant for some years to come.
The technologies the applications and the time frames for their introduction are examined in the study Printed Electronics in the RFID Tag Industry.
“Printed electronics—antennas transistors and batteries—could eventually change the dynamics of the RFID industry” says industry analyst Sara Shah. “Applied directly to materials such as corrugated cardboard they would allow manufacturers and distributors to create their own ‘smart packaging’ and bypass the whole long RFID tag production chain.”
Printed antennas that operate in the HF and UHF bands are available now and eventually a large proportion of UHF RFID antennas could be produced by printing. But their ideal market UHF supply-chain management is itself growing more slowly than originally expected.
“Printed electronics—antennas transistors and batteries—could eventually change the dynamics of the RFID industry.”
Printed transistors on the other hand which only operate with quite low performance in the low-frequency band and conform to no standard aren’t available yet.
“When printed transistors arrive in 2008 they won’t be able to compete with silicon transistors” says Shah. “With their low frequency operation and incompatibility with existing readers they will not be suitable for open loop supply chains until standards emerge for item-level LF tagging. They should however carve out their own market for tagging very low-cost non-critical objects in the meantime.”
Printed transistors might find a role in closed-loop asset management solutions. That sector ABI Research believes could produce viable levels of demand especially since end-users have seen much success in this application with conventional tags. Cheaper tags have the potential to speed a return on investment.
Printed batteries will eventually become part of the RFID market as well enabling the addition of temperature humidity and light sensors to RFID tags. But this market will not develop until later in the study’s forecast period of 2015.