Substrate Developments for RFID Labels

A look at substrates from AWA's new AWAreness Report , RFID Tag and Label Market—A Review of Global Opportunities.

While the technology emerged as long ago as the early 1980s, RFID (radio frequency identification) has been slow to take hold of the market — despite its enormous potential. Cost, the intensity of the implementation process, and the lack of established operating protocols have been limiting factors.

However, advances in manufacturing technology, which are claimed to be reducing tag costs significantly, are accelerating acceptance of these so-called “smart” labels — driven, in particular, by major initiatives on asset and supply chain management introduced by retailers, government departments, and trade associations. Expect to see implementation of RFID at case and pallet level by major retailers by 2006 and at item level by major retailers by 2009.

While the cost of software, consultancy, and management services is substantial, it is the cost of the tags themselves that has been the major issue with potential system users. Whether “passive” (read only) or “active” (read/write), they need to be affordable: Current estimates suggest that for full retail implementation, a unit price per tag of no more than $0.05 would be necessary.

RFID circuitry must be included as part of the label substrate, and while the label material does not contribute to RFID performance, it can play an important role in optimizing that performance in the operating environment. Substrates for RFID tags need to be engineered to provide dissipation of static buildup, a smooth printing surface, durability under specified operating conditions, and mechanical protection for chip and connections. With the North American RFID market currently representing some 44% of global usage, and an annualized global growth rate for the technology of 17%-20%, achieving the price-per-tag goal coupled to the technical excellence of the RFID label substrate can be a key factor in future success for coaters, laminators, and converters alike.

For more information on the RFID Tag & Label Market AWAreness Report, visit

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