A prints among tag technology

BASF is claiming a breakthrough in the development of fully-printed organic electronics which it claims could pave the way for competitively-priced, mass-manufactured RFID tags.

The German multinational’s Future Business division worked with partners Lucent Technologies, Bell Labs and Printed Systems to produce what is said to be the world’s first ring oscillator made using mass-manufacturing printing processes.

Ring oscillators, which are circuits of transistors, are fundamental components of more complex electronic systems, where they are often used as internal clocks.

According to Dr. Peter Eckerle, project manager at BASF Future Business, producing a ring oscillator using mass-production methods proves that both the processes and the materials are working well.

‘When you are working in printed electronics, you need to be able to prove that your systems are reliable enough to print out entire circuits, not just single transistors,’ he said.

The circuit was produced using established mass-manufacturing offset and gravure-based printing technologies, instead of more expensive inkjet printing. The breakthrough means that the mass-production of RFID tags at a cost of no more than 1p each is now within reach, something that has not been possible until now, according to Eckerle.

The printing technology can now be used to produce other electronic applications such as flexible displays, electronic labels or large-area sensors.

According to BASF, the printed electronics market could be worth more than 20bn Euros in the next seven to 10 years.

Eckerle said: ‘Printed organic electronics will never replace silicon-based circuits in high-end applications, but there is a wide range of cost-effective applications for it, ranging from RFID tags through to toys or smart labels.’