A way to print Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags right onto paper has been discovered by a team of scientists from University of Montpellier.
The technology is called “thermal evaporation process” and it allows for the depositing of thin aluminium coil antennas on sheets of paper which can later be used to create packaging or printed material. Researchers claim that this works out to be cheaper than any other method of RFID tagging, and in the future could replace both barcodes and QR codes.
RFID tags are an essential component of modern shopping and logistics and are found in everything from DVD cases to casino chips and even passports. They are used to prevent shoplifting, track pets and, if you live in London, your Oyster card has one at its core.
RFID chips can both store information and provide a way to track the item to which the tag is attached. Unlike barcodes, they don’t require direct contact between the tag and the reader device.
The signal is carried by radio waves, and just being near the reader allows the chip to deliver the data. RFID tags are relatively expensive when compared to barcodes, and as a result, their use is not as widespread. The ability to produce tags at a fraction of the present cost could change that.
According to the article published in International Journal of Radio Frequency Identification Technology and Applications, the thermal evaporation process makes the RFID tagging more accessible, as it requires less metal than conventional designs. The scientists involved said using aluminium might reduce the costs of tagging with an RFID chip by as much as 80 percent.
Aluminium is a lot less expensive than copper or silver, which are used in some types of RFID tag. This is good news for inventory users operating millions of RFID tags in their systems.
“Prototypes are functional and easily detected by the reader; the next step is to optimize the design for each family of RFID chips,” said Camille Ramade, spokeswoman for the research team. ”This will significantly improve performance while maintaining the same low-cost technology on paper.”