By Ayman S. Ashour
I wanted to give an overview on our recently launched, patent pending-technology SmartCore™:
Identive and its predecessor company Bluehill ID have been true pioneers in the high speed manufacture of high frequency (HF) RFID inlays for many years. Inlays are the electronic elements that are embedded in labels, tags or cards. The use of HF RFID in ID applications has grown significantly over the years due to enhanced security, read / write capabilities, expanded memory as well as ability to operate multiple applications securely on a single transponder, or ultimately a credential.
Our transponder manufacturing technology is based on the use of high quality etched Aluminum antennas of many different designs depending on type and size of IC, or semiconductor microchip, specific application requirements. We use our own proprietary method of combining the antenna and the IC to produce an inlay consisting of what is now a functional transponder, that is still naked, simply mounted on a substrate polyester material. The naked transponder or inlay can then be “converted” or transformed into a ticket, Smartag, a label or a card.
Our manufacturing process has the advantages of being highly automated with a high throughput and we have always believed that this was the optimum process for inlay manufacture. Our process, however, had some limitations, one being inability to convert our inlays to truly hardened PVC or similar cards and it is this basic problem that we set out trying to solve some 4 years ago that resulted in our launch of SmartCore!
My colleague and cofounder of Bluehill ID, Werner Vogt, a renowned Swiss pioneer in RFID with a large portfolio of innovations and patent credits set about working on solving this problem: how can we use our high performance HF inlays to make hardened cards? This is a problem that needed RFID expertise as well as expertise in material sciences, card manufacturing, laminating and printing processes.
After several years of research and collaboration with partner company Lobra the new pioneering invention was born: SmartCore. With specially developed shielding light weight material or film, that significantly permeates and expands with moderate increase in temperature, coupled with, limited application of pressure to keep form the Identive inlays can be made into SmartCore which would then be easily converted into hardened cards using customary card manufacturing methods, but with less added material and temperature and pressure treatment.
The result is unlike virtually all other cards, it is arguably superior in all performance areas that matter:
1. Because the permeability of the material, cards produced from SmartCore have excellent protection for the IC and the all critical point of attachment or contact between the antenna and the IC, this enhances the durability of cards produced with SmartCore technology. So SmartCore offers excellent durability.
2. The Identive inlay technology does not require a separate mounting or encasement for the IC, often known as module or chip module, and allows for direct connection of the antenna to the chip using, what is known in the industry as, flip-chip technology. This approach allows for thinner inlays, because of the protection afforded to the chip under point 1 above, SmartCore can be used to produce thinner cards without compromising durability. So SmartCore offers thinner cards, easier to carry around.
3. With most RFID cards, there is almost always small visible protrusions around the area where the IC is. Just take your access card from your pocket and look at, with good light, around 30 or 45 degree angle and you will see a small indentation or even the outline of the shape of the IC or the module encasing it. This is not the case with cards made from SmartCore, it is virtually impossible to see where the chip is or even if there is a chip at all. The surface is perfectly even, easier to print on and unlikely to degrade overtime the way cards with protrusions normally do. So SmartCore offers great printability and surface feel.
4. The reading range of cards produced with SmartCore technology is the same as that offered by the Identive unique RFID antenna designs, the improved durability minimizes chances for degradation of reading range over time.
5. Finally, cards made with SmartCore use less material to make and also use less heat to laminate, this makes such cards more environmentally responsible, so SmartCore offers a greener solution, too.
So durable, thin, printable, readable and green! This is why we are excited about SmartCore.