The Future is Now with RFID

The “future” is now! With electronics being manufactured in a variety of printing processes, now is the time to learn about emerging technologies and discover YOUR niche, and new profit opportunities, in this burgeoning new industry. New technologies are changing RFID and these changes have endless applications to learn more about in Future Print—a special section within the PackPrint Pavilion on the GRAPH EXPO trade show floor.

Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, is a technology used for storing and transmitting information without requiring “line-of-sight” electronic readers. This means that efficient tracking or processing can be achieved on relatively large lots of products. It has the greatest application for retail stores and supply chain management.

“These tags are becoming very pervasive in society, from credit cards and passports to baggage tags and logistics. The cost is still too expensive to be a replacement for product barcodes or everyday use in commercial print, but if some of the research is successful with inkjet we may see this application reach into the commercial print field,” says Steven Schnoll, Managing Director of Schnoll Media Consulting and GRAPH EXPO seminar speaker. “Still, commercial printers can leverage this technology for products that need tracking or to prevent counterfeiting for high-end products. I have seen it being used on sports memorabilia to effectively authenticate the product.”

While package printers can benefit the most from this “future” technol-ogy, others involved in retail products and displays can also take advantage of these advances. “Packages will increasingly incorporate RFID, however, any company involved in supplying materials through retail or business supply chains will likely be using or working with RFID to facilitate the movement and tracking of goods in business,” says Malcolm G. Keif, Graphic Communication Professor at Cal Poly State University and GRAPH EXPO seminar speaker who will present, from 10:30 am to 12:00 noon on September 13, “Pioneering Printed Electronics: The NEXT Breakout Business-Growth Opportunity.”

“Just like barcodes, RFID tags can be printed directly onto a substrate, such as packaging, point of purchase displays, even directly onto a product itself,” adds Terry Mitchell, Director of Marketing for Fujifilm North America, Graphic Systems Division.


Market challenges

While RFID has wide-ranging opportunities, it is still a new production operation. “Specialized equipment, substrates, and conductive inks are required, along with the knowledge to setup, operate, and maintain such equipment,” says Mitchell. “Unless a commercial printer already has a significant volume of work to support such an operation, break-even could be an even greater challenge.”

“Printing an EPC-compliant inlay [RFID] is a ways off. And since offshore sources can produce RFID inlays using conventional silicon fabrication technologies quite inexpensively, the lure to develop RFID printing technologies has waned a bit,” says Keif. However, there are some applications commercial printers can take advantage of now—like printing the RFID antennae, which is common for label and packaging printers.

“For basic, passive RFIDs, all one needs to do is buy paper with a chip in it and then print the antenna with conductive inks,” says Schnoll.

GRAPH EXPO’s Future Print Pavilion offers live demonstrations, free training, and tutorials as well as an opportunity to network and learn from industry experts.