Ruhlamat: New Challenges in Producing RFID Inlays

Articles | By ruhlamat | 06 December 2016

RFID inlays are manufactured throughout the world for many purposes: for biometric passports, the contactless smart card market (e-ID, electronic healthcare cards, payment cards, public transportation) and for dual interface applications. At the same time, wire-embedded HF-RFID antennas are available and offer a number of advantages over printed, etched or galvanized variations. Among others, the ability to freely select shapes is enticing for card and passport manufacturers, since this can lead to competitive advantages. Further benefits such as environmental friendliness, durability and improved product quality should also be mentioned.

The 3 x 8 standard for antennas per sheet

Up until now the standard format for processing inlay sheets as well as for the production of the inlays for the previously mentioned wire-embedding applications was 3 x 8. For card manufacturers, this means that 24 wire-mounted antennas per sheet could normally be produced. Depending on the process speed of the wire-embedding machines, modest throughput amounts could be achieved. A means to increase the throughput without adding a second line of production was needed.

RFID inlay production in large format for optimum throughput

By processing sheets in a larger format, the throughput can be significantly increased. For example, using so-called double-sheet sizes (formats up to 730 x 660 mm) the wire-embedding machine WCE2000 from the engineers at ruhlamat in Germany can place 6 x 8 (or 6 x 10) antennas per sheet. Through fully automated, high-speed ultrasonic wire embedding, throughputs can be decisively optimized even at a low substrate thickness of 100 - 400 μm. Both varying substrate material (such as PC and PVC) and wire thickness (80-150 μm) can be processed using up to 12 wire-embedding heads on this machine. Therefore, throughputs of 4,400 antennas per hour are now a thing of the past.

Maximum freedom through layout-independent substrate suction

Furthermore, card and passport manufacturers worldwide are also capable of improving their production speeds and throughput numbers using a new design feature which allows layout-independent substrate suction. Universal mounting plates enable for fast, tool-free set-up for other substrate qualities without affecting precise antenna geometry. Risks such as deformation or severing of the wire through holes in the mounting plate are decisively minimized.

Especially with regard to the introduction of new passports, this manufacturing step alone can greatly reduce production times to complete government projects faster.

Radio technology instead of direct contact between module and antenna

Another innovation in RFID inlay production comes from Infineon. Known as "coil on module", it enables communication between the antenna and chip module without a mechanical connection. Using two antennas—one on the module itself and one on the card inlay—communication takes place via electromagnetic waves, which is comparable to the information exchange between the antenna and reading device for contactless cards. This results in new freedom for card manufacturers.

Even more freedom for antenna embedding

Antenna layouts, which previously depended on the position of the chip, can now be produced and placed freely and independently. Production steps such as cutting the antenna free for producing an electrically conductive connection between the module and antenna, as was previously required for the production of dual interface cards, are no longer necessary. Since the mechanical-electrical connection is no longer needed, the cards are much more durable.

The challenges? Quality and precision!

The most basic prerequisite for the function of this technology is the embedding of the antennas with consistent quality and uniform frequency even when using 12 wire-embedding heads. Particularly when embedding antennas with very small winding distances, high precision is a must. This challenge has been successfully met by the engineers at ruhlamat and their know-how has now gone into the construction of the newest WCE series.

Last modified on Tuesday, 06 December 2016 14:11
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