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Imec, Holst Centre and Cartamundi Introduce Plastic Near Field Communication Tag Communicating with Smartphones

SAN FRANCISCO — Feb. 7, 2017— Today, at the 2017 International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, imec, the world-leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, Holst Centre (established by imec and TNO) and Cartamundi demonstrate a world first thin-film tag on plastic, compatible with the near field communication (NFC) Barcode protocol, a subset of ISO14443-A, which is available as standard in many commercial smartphones. The innovative NFC tag is manufactured in a thin-film transistor technology using indium gallium zinc oxide thin-film transistors (IGZO TFT) on a plastic substrate.

Plastic electronics offers an appealing vision of low-cost smart electronic devices in applications where silicon chips were never imagined before. Item-level identification, smart food packaging, brand protection and electronic paper are just a few examples. Such new applications will require a continuous supply of countless disposable devices.  Imec’s IGZO TFT technology uses large-area manufacturing processes that allow for inexpensive production in large quantities – an ideal technology for ubiquitous electronic devices in the Internet-of-Everything.

“Making a plastic electronics device compatible to the ISO standard originally designed for silicon CMOS was a very challenging research and development expedition” stated Kris Myny, senior researcher at imec. “Our collaboration with Cartamundi enabled us to develop a truly industry-relevant solution”.

The researchers developed a self-aligned TFT architecture with scaled devices optimized for low parasitic capacitance and high cut-off frequency. This allowed design of a clock division circuit to convert incoming 13.56 MHz carrier frequency into system clock of the plastic chip. Optimizations at logic gate and system level reduced power consumption down to 7.5mW, enabling readout by commercial smartphones. “These research innovations are the first major achievements of my ERC starting grant”, stated Kris Myny, principal investigator and holder of the prestigious ERC starting grant FLICs (716426).

 “This innovative hardware solution of plastic NFC tags opens up several new possibilities for NFC deployments,” stated Alexander Mityashin, program manager at imec. “Thanks to the nature of thin-film plastics, the new tags can be made much thinner and they are mechanically very robust. Moreover, the self-aligned IGZO TFT technology offers manufacturing of chips in large volumes and at low cost”.

The results were presented in paper 15.2 (“A Flexible ISO14443-A Compliant 7.5mW 128b Metal-Oxide NFC Barcode Tag with Direct Clock Division Circuit from 3.56MHz Carrier”, by K. Myny, Y.-C Lai, N. Papadopoulos, F. De Roose, M. Ameys, M. Willegems, S. Smout, S. Steudel, W. Dehaene, J. Genoe, Feb. 7, 2017).

About imec

Imec is the world-leading research and innovation hub in nano-electronics, energy and digital technologies. The combination of our widely acclaimed leadership in microchip technology and profound software and ICT expertise is what makes us unique. By leveraging our world-class infrastructure and local and global ecosystem of partners across a multitude of industries, we create groundbreaking innovation in application domains such as healthcare, smart cities and mobility, logistics and manufacturing, and energy.

As a trusted partner for companies, start-ups and universities we bring together close to 3,500 brilliant minds from over 70 nationalities. Imec is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium and also has distributed R&D groups at a number of Flemish universities, in the Netherlands, Taiwan, USA, China, and offices in India and Japan. In 2015, imec’s revenue (P&L) totaled 415 million euro and of iMinds which is integrated in imec as of September 21, 2016 52 million euro. Further information on imec can be found at www.imec-int.com

Imec is a partner in EnergyVille (www.energyville.be). EnergyVille is an association of the Flemish research centers KU Leuven, VITO, imec and UHasselt in the field of sustainable energy and intelligent energy systems.
Imec is a registered trademark for the activities of IMEC International (a legal entity set up under Belgian law as a “stichting van openbaar nut”), imec Belgium (IMEC vzw supported by the Flemish Government), imec the Netherlands (Stichting IMEC Nederland, part of Holst Centre which is supported by the Dutch Government), imec Taiwan (IMEC Taiwan Co.) and imec China (IMEC Microelectronics (Shanghai) Co. Ltd.) and imec India (Imec India Private Limited), imec Florida (IMEC USA nanoelectronics design center).

About Cartamundi

Cartamundi is latin for “Cards for the World”. With a history dating back to 1765, today Cartamundi is the world’s leading manufacturer of card- and board games. With a network of owned sales offices, 11 state-of-the-art manufacturing plants and an over 2,200 people strong workforce, Cartamundi is a prominent and growing supplier to the global games industry. In 2016, Cartamundi established a revenue of 387 million euro, marking a revenue growth of 45% compared to 2015
Legendary products such as Monopoly® and Trivial Pursuit® run off the Cartamundi presses, as do many different varieties of playing cards and card games for consumers as well as casino’s.
With its strong Shuffle brand, Cartamundi produces a compelling range of children’s card games and family games which can be found in all major retailers across Europe. All contributing to fulfilling the Cartamundi purpose of “Sharing the Magic of Playing Together”.
Cartamundi headquarters is in Turnhout, Belgium. Cartamundi’s factories are located in Japan, India, Poland, Germany, France, Belgium, United Kingdom, Ireland,  United States of America and Brazil.

About Holst Centre

Holst Centre is an independent R&D center that develops technologies for wireless autonomous sensor technologies and for flexible electronics, in an open innovation setting and in dedicated research trajectories. A key feature of Holst Centre is its partnership model with industry and academia based around shared roadmaps and programs. It is this kind of cross-fertilization that enables Holst Centre to tune its scientific strategy to industrial needs.
Holst Centre was set up in 2005 by imec (Flanders, Belgium) and TNO (The Netherlands) and is supported by local, regional and national governments.
Located on High Tech Campus Eindhoven, Holst Centre benefits from, and contributes to, the state-of-the-art on-site facilities. Holst Centre has over 200 employees from some 28 nations and a commitment from over 50 industrial partners.

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