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Design and Fabrication of RFID Tags

  • Abhishek Shukla
  • Jan 15, 2024
  • RFID
Design and Fabrication of RFID Tags: Manufacturing an RFID Tag

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology has revolutionized various industries, enabling seamless tracking and identification of objects. The technology has become a trendy option in retail item-level tagging, healthcare, manufacturing and supply chains, and logistics automation. Over the last decade, the technology has grown tremendously, with a global market size of over 18B USD in 2023 which is only going to increase in the upcoming year. Of this high global RFID market, a significant part is related to RFID tags and inlays. Central to this technology, RFID tags play a vital role in transmitting and receiving information. RFID tags are smart labels that come with a dedicated microchip to store valuable information about the asset they are being attached to. 

In the last few years, the price of RFID tags and RFID technology implementation cost as a whole has come down significantly. The cost of an RFID label, which was earlier around 40-50 US Cents (INR 35-45), has now come down to 4-5 US cents (INR 3-5). This decline in RFID tag cost has led to increased demand and growth in the RFID sector, with various businesses increasingly being dependent on RFID technology for asset tracking and supply chain automation.  

The declining cost of RFID tags can also be ascribed to the RFID tag manufacturing process itself as well as simple and easy-to-follow global RFID standards, all thanks to ISO and EPCglobal. 

Apart from chipped RFID tags, we are also witnessing a new type of chipless RFID tags that don’t contain microchips. With easy chipless RFID fabrication and encoding, which also results in the lowest RFID tag cost, below 1 cent (less than a rupee) when purchased in bulk, these chipless RFID tags are now replacing UPC-12 barcodes.

Let’s delve further into the intriguing world of RFID tags, exploring their construction, materials, antenna design, and the unique features of dual inlay and dual-frequency IC tags.

RFID Tags and Materials 

RFID tags consist of three main components, an antenna, a microchip, and a substrate. The antenna, often made of copper or aluminum, is responsible for transmitting and receiving radio waves. The microchip, which stores data and performs necessary processing, is typically made of silicon. The substrate acts as a support structure for the antenna and microchip and is commonly made of materials like paper, plastic, or ceramic.

How RFID tags are manufactured?

Design and Fabrication of RFID Tags

The Microchip

The use of an integrated circuit or a microchip in an RFID tag is essential to chipped RFID tag fabrication. Selecting the right microchip depends upon several factors such as EPC, User memory size, read and write sensitivity of the microchip which is directly responsible for read range, as well as read and write capabilities. The operating frequency of the IC is also very important for the desired RFID tag. 

There are various RFID companies that provide the industry's best RFID chips, including Impinj Inc., NXP Semiconductors, Alien Technology, etc. Impinj’s Monza, NXP’s UCODE, and Alien’s Higgs series UHF RFID tag microchips are some of the most used RFID ICs.

Antenna Design

Antenna design is another important part of an RFID tag design and fabrication. Designing an efficient RFID antenna is crucial for optimal performance. Antenna design considerations include frequency range, gain, polarization, and impedance matching. The shape and size of the antenna are determined by the desired read range and application requirements. Common antenna designs include dipole, loop, and patch antennas, each offering distinct advantages depending on the specific use case. Depending upon the read range requirement, one can go for linear polarization or circular polarization as well as 5.5 dBi, 8.5 dBi, 9 dBi, or 12 dBi antenna gain options. 

Typically High gain results in a higher read range but it also depends upon the polarization of the antenna. 

The Substrate Selection 

Selecting the right substrate is crucial to a useful RFID tag fabrication. The substrate is the material that backs the RFID inlay to form an RFID label. The substrate could be paper, polyester, plastic, or ceramic. Mainly RFID hard tags are encased in a plastic or ceramic casing to allow for outdoor and harsh environment asset tagging needs. 

To a great extent, the cost of the RFID tag also depends upon the substrate being used for tag fabrication. Consequently, an RFID inlay costs the least, and then come the RFID paper tags and polyester tags, and the RFID hard tags cost the most. 

Latest Trends in RFID Tags

RFID Dual Inlay Tags

Dual inlay tags are a specialized type of RFID tags that contain two separate antennas and microchips within a single substrate. These tags enable simultaneous reading of multiple RFID frequencies or protocols, enhancing flexibility and compatibility with different systems. For example, you can have an HF frequency IC/NFC, a UHF frequency IC, and two separate antennas to get an RFID tag that works on two frequencies simultaneously. Typically, such RFID tags have a large form factor as we are using two inlays. 

Dual inlay tags find applications in scenarios where multiple frequencies or protocols are used, such as supply chain management and asset tracking.

RFID Dual-Frequency IC Tags

Dual-frequency IC tags incorporate multiple RFID frequencies into a single microchip, allowing compatibility with different RFID systems. These tags are designed to operate at two distinct frequencies, such as LF (Low Frequency) and HF (High Frequency), or HF/NFC and UHF (Ultra-High Frequency).  For example, EM’s EM4425 RFID microchip supports various UHF, HF, and NFC communication standards and protocols. 

Dual-frequency IC tags are useful in applications that require interoperability across different RFID systems, offering increased versatility and convenience.

Dual frequency RFID tags, with NFC and UHF frequencies, are also used as a brand protection and anti-counterfeiting measure. Popular brands use these labels to allow consumers to authenticate the products they bought instantly, using their smartphones. 

Chipless RFID Tags

The advent of Chipless RFID tags is the latest advancement in RFID technology. Since Chipless RFID tags don’t contain the silicon microchips found in chipped RFID tags, the fabrication of such RFID labels is quite cost-effective. 

Chipless RFID tags can store valuable information about items and can provide wireless scanning with the help of an RFID reader. These tags are now replacing barcodes in retail asset management, offering remote scanning, without a clear line of sight. These tags can be encoded with necessary information using time domain or frequency domain encoding techniques where the tag material is used to encode a small amount of information. 

 To conclude, designing and fabricating RFID tags is a complex process that involves careful consideration of materials, antenna design, and technological advancements. Understanding the construction of RFID tags, the materials used, and the intricacies of antenna design is essential to ensure optimal performance and compatibility with diverse RFID systems. The advent of chipless RFID tags, dual inlay tags, and dual-frequency IC tags has further expanded the capabilities of RFID technology, allowing for enhanced functionality and efficiency in various industries. 

EnCstore is a leading manufacturer and supplier of RFID tags in India, featuring a large catalog of high quality RFID tags, available at competitive prices.

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  • Created on Jan 15, 2024
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