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Smart Packaging: Printed RFID tags in test

Direct-print RFID technology in pilot in Europe uses no silicon or transistor.

Pw 11452 4 Nl Pi Ph Smart Mreal

This month’s Smart Packaging from the experts at IDTechEx is on “radio bar codes”—what those in the U.S. refer to as radio-frequency identification tags—printed directly on packaging materials. IDTechEx chairman Peter Harrop files the following report.

Scandinavian packaging giant Mreal, with technology developer VTT Technology and Panipol, are collaborating in trials in Finland of their process of printing an RFID pattern directly onto packaging, with no silicon chip, or even transistor, being used.

Details are secret, other than the fact that the electronic pattern is printed using the conductive polymer polyaniline, which produces a memory element. This ink is used by Panipol to make antistatic and RF shielding packaging materials. Dubbed “HIDE,” this “hidden printable memory for consumer packaging” is claimed to be compliant within EPC and ISO standards. Notably, it can be “manufactured with industry standard production processes”.

Disadvantages are that the smart packages currently being tested at Mreal Tako Carton subsidiary in Tampere, Finland, had only a few bits of data, not enough for Wal-Mart and other requirements for pallet, case or item-level tagging. Another shortcoming is that the package or reader has to be moved—currently, it cannot remain stationary—for the data to be captured, and the range is only a few centimeters.

However, it is a sign of the future. Remember when bar-coded labels gave way to bar codes printed as a part of the regular printing of graphics? RFID is heading in the same direction. During 2005, a “production scale-up pilot” will be completed and the product will be available for industry assessment in 2006.

For more information on this kind of leading-edge packaging, attend Smart Labels Europe at Cambridge in the United Kingdom Sep. 20-21. Or check out the IDTEchEx reports The Future of Chipless Smart Labels or RFID Forecasts, Players, Opportunities, contact information in the United States is below.

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