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LPKF's Laser Direct Structuring (LDS) technology, the German company reports, can reduce the size of RFID tags, thereby making the tag manufacturing process less expensive, while also making it possible for a tag to be incorporated directly onto an item being tracked"”even if that product's surface is three-dimensional. Initially, says Stephan Krause, LPKF's LDS strategic product manager, the LDS technology is being employed by Swiss electronics firm Harting Mitronics, as well as by at least one mobile phone manufacturer, to print RFID circuit boards and antennas with laser printers.
The LDS process consists of first designing a hard plastic item, such as a hearing aid, automotive part or mobile phone handset; molding that piece of plastic from granulated plastic containing a special additive; and then placing the molded plastic item into a laser machine, which then writes the circuitry onto the part's surface by activating particles of the plastic additive. This can be accomplished on a three-dimensional shape or item, such as a ball, Krause explains. Metalization of the laser-printed structure is performed in a copper or other metal bath, in order to create plating.
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