Düsseldorf (ots) - Saturday afternoon, and the weekly
family shopping is about to begin. And unlike in earlier times, it is now "mega
easy” in the supermarket or furniture store, in the bookshop or the DIY center.No
whining children, no lines at the cash desks,no unfriendly staff. Wouldn't
work? Many experts are convinced that RFID chips will play a crucial role
in making such wishful thinking a reality. In future, intelligent labels
could be affixed to any kind of item, including milk cartons, paperback books,
T-shirts and CDs – the list is endless. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification.
At the core of this technology are flat chips of varying sizes that use an
antenna to send data by radio to a reader.These data include details such
as price and manufacturer, shelf-life and country of origin. Because radio
transmission is used,data transfer is extremely rapid. This also helps to
significantly speed up shopping – as soon as the customers reach the cash
desk their bill is already waiting. “We regard RFID as one of the key technologies
for the retail trade of the future”, says Zygmunt Mierdorf, the Metro Management
Board member whose responsibilities include IT.
High-tech ink for the label
of the future
RFID chips do still have one drawback however: as long as they are manufactured
using standard silicon technology they are much too expensive for mass
production. Their price is still hovering around the 30 to 50 cent level – a factor of at least 100 too much. The right production
technology is therefore the key to the kind of electronics that would be
produced in quantities of several hundred billion items a year and disposed
of along with the product packaging. “And that's why we are currently working
on making the silicon chip material printable in nanoscale size”, explains
Dr.Ralf Anselmann,Head of Research of the Degussa Science to Business Center
Nanotronics in Marl, where the world's leading specialty chemical company
has combined all of its nanotechnology and electronics activities. For the
RFID revolution to take place, apart from the electrical properties involved
the printing technologies will also need to be further developed. “We already
have the right base material”, confirms Anselmann, brandishing a phial containing
a fluid.This “high tech ink” will be used in future for printing the
chip structures required directly onto labels and for other purposes,
he says.Continued development is ongoing in collaboration with partners
at the Nanotronics Center.
new technology is leading to some fascinating applications: for example,
stocktaking at the start of the year, which absolutely no one enjoys, is
set to become a thing of the past because the stock is permanently up-to-date.
And the yoghurt will signal that its shelf-life is about to expire early
enough for the supermarket manager to be able to get a special purchase
order underway. In future, when a novice to clothes washing is about to
wash white shirts and red socks together, scanners built into the washing
machine will send a kind of Morse code SOS after checking back with the
labels sewn in. So it's no wonder that the future belongs to the clever
label. The consulting firm A.T.Kearney (Chicago) forecasts that using the
chips would allow trade to increase its profits by seven percent. “RFID represents the greatest opportunity
for the self-adhesive products industry in the next ten years”, expects Jules
Lejeune, Managing Director of FINAT (The Hague, Netherlands), the European
association dedicated to the self-adhesive labeling industry. No less than
27 billion m2 of release liners were sold on the world market in 2004 – practically
the size of Belgium or 2.7 million football pitches.
with radio chips printed onto them are still in the conceptual stage,however.
Although it will certainly take several more years of development before
they are available for mass production, even now, constant optimization
by the industry has already made self-adhesive materials significantly
more practicable. This has made our everyday lives easier in many respects:
we don't have to lick envelopes and stamps any more, and adhesive tapes
have made diapers and hygiene items much easier to change. And there is
one less chore for the assistant at the meat counter in the supermarket
to take care of – she
now simply uses the label that her scales print out to seal the bag directly.
chemistry on stamps
these apparently simple everyday things lies some quite sophisticated chemistry
in which Degussa in turn plays a crucial role. The type of system consists
of four different layers. Take the example of a label: it consists of a
medium, a carrier made out of paper or plastic onto which liquid silicone
is first applied, and which is then cured into a firm layer. In the next
stage an adhesive is applied and then the label itself is laminated. And
here is the really clever part: the wafer-thin separating layer of silicone – or to give it its chemically exact name, silicone acrylate
or silicone epoxide – ensures that the adhesive only performs the function
it was designed to do the second time it is used. Although an adhesive address
label sticks very well onto an envelope, it is still very easy to peel it
off from its carrier. “Wafer-thin” still doesn't quite express
how thin the releasing layer actually is. One square meter of surface
area normally requires just one gram of coating that is a mere
thousandth of a millimeter thick.
Degussa Oligomers & Silicones Business Unit (Essen) enjoys a leading
position worldwide in these releasing agents that are in such high demand
in so many areas. Recently the unit enhanced its activities in this field
with the addition of a new technology. “Our aim here in particular is to
continue to encourage the market to adopt UV technology”, explains
Helmut Brus, Global Marketing Manager RC Silicones. In around
90 percent of cases the silicone is still dried nowadays using
heat treatment after it has been applied. However, there are
many advantages to using ultraviolet radiation as opposed to
the thermal alternative, which is why it is making rapid progress.
For instance, it leads to substantial energy savings. In addition,when
the thermal process is used the paper substrates have to be laboriously
re-moisturised.There is no need to do this with UV equipment.
what is more, temperaturesensitive materials can now also be used. And
there is another advantage: the equipment needed for UV cure is much more
compact.With a machine speed of 1,000 meters per minute, the drying ovens
occupy a space of 65 meters in length,whereas the length required by comparable
UV equipment is just 2.5 meters. “Certainly,
what our customers find particularly attractive is that they can use these
methods to produce labels at around 10 percent cheaper, and cause far less
waste in the process, because the medium, the carrier, can be so incredibly
thin”, explains Dr. Philipp Tomuschat, Head of the Labels Project for RC
Silicone in Essen. Over the past few years Degussa has developed a complete“ construction
kit” of silicone acrylates for this purpose, which it can use
to produce many tailor-made combinations.
on the particular application, they can be made to release more easily
or less easily. “What makes our systems
special is their high stability. This ensures that products always have the
same constant properties, so that the adhesive laminates can be used even
over a longer period”, explains Dr. Winfried Hamann, Head
of the new technical center.
Degussa market leader in UV silicones
demands that users place on the release coatings are continuing to multiply.
The latest trend is for printed yet otherwise transparent films for premium
goods such as perfumes, alcoholic drinks or CDs. Form labels – such as those used by mail order companies
and booksellers – are also becoming increasingly more sophisticated. If customers
are not satisfied with their goods they can send them back in no time today – all
the adhesive labels they need to do this are already enclosed
in the package in which their product was sent. These labels
are now even used for carrying advertising messages.
is clearly the market leader in the area of UV curing silicones. Today,
the specialty chemicals group sells UV curing silicones throughout the
world under the brand name TEGO® RC, and increasing
numbers of users are discovering their advantages. This is why Annegret Lange,
who is in charge of selling silicone release coatings, is confident: “We
are convinced that we will significantly expand our market share on a long-term
basis. ”And it is particularly the combination of label and RFID chip, of
print and adhesive, of present and future, that could prove to be a “dream
team” duo within the foreseeable future.
is the global market leader in specialty chemicals. Our innovative products
and system solutions make an indispensable contribution to our customers'
success, which we sum up by our claim "creating essentials". In fiscal
2004 Degussa's 45,000 employees worldwide generated sales of 11.2 billion
euros and operating profits (EBIT) of 965 million euros.
Contact: Hannelore Gantzer Spokeswoman Corporate Communications
T +49-211-65041-368 F +49-211-65041-527 firstname.lastname@example.org