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Posted on February 1, 2008 by  & 

Printed Electronics: the future of RFID?

Over the next 15 years the money spent on RFID tags will peak then rapidly fall. Perhaps RFID repeats the history again of barcodes - companies today do not pay per barcode - they are printed usually during the package production process and are virtually free - just a tiny bit of printed ink. So to will RFID tags become the same for the highest volume opportunities - fully printed logic and memory circuits using cheap materials, enabling sub one cent tags. The silicon chip, with its huge manufacture and material cost and interconnect challenges will be relegated to tags requiring only the highest performance in terms of memory, speed of operation and sophistication.
Wishful thinking? Tell that to the 1500 organizations developing printed electronics in a major way. Printed electronics is seeing the chemical, electronic and printing industries collaborate as never before. For if one can print transistors, RFID tags will be one of the smallest markets they intend to dominate, given the possibilities for low cost dispersed manufacturing of simple electronic circuits. Indeed, not all are prioritizing RFID. Printed electronics enables low cost bill board displays, transparent flexible solar cells, large area sensors and logic devices and much more.
The investment in printed electronics development grossly exceeds that invested in RFID. See for example Samsung investing $500 Million in 12 months for next generation "organic" displays, or one photovoltaic company raising $200 Million to commercialize non silicon solar cells. All involved agree that this market will be bigger than the $200 Bn silicon industry - by being able to do new things and meet challenges that silicon cannot - such as the sub one cent RFID tag.
Of course, initially there will be compromises - you won't see the UHF EPC gen 2 tag with it's 40,000+ transistors replicated by printed transistors anytime soon because, in the lab at least, current printed electronics can make hundreds, and in one case - Kovio - thousands of transistors, but not tens of thousands. That will change, but so too possibly will the industry, perhaps coming full circle - remember the simple license plate only RFID tag that the MIT Auto ID Center envisaged before industry grossly creeped up the specification? - that specification is possible now with printed electronics.
When, how, who and why? It is all discussed at the MIT Enterprise Forum Special Interest Group on Tuesday February 19, 2008, at the MIT Stata room from 6pm to 8pm. The session is free to attend. Hear and question the leading printed electronics RFID developers in the World.
For more information about the MIT Enterprise Forum RFID Special Interest Group (SIG), please see
To attend this free session, please register at
This session preceeds the two day RFID Smart Labels USA 2008 conference which includes presentations from Coca-Cola, Kovio, LG, FDA and many others. For more details see

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Posted on: February 1, 2008

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