Holst Centre, set up by the Belgian nanoelectronics research center imec and the Dutch research institute TNO, and Cartamundi NV have announced a collaboration to develop ultra-thin flexible near field communication (NFC) tags. The partners will develop these new NFC tags using metal-oxide (IGZO) thin-film transistor (TFT) technology on plastic film. The flexible chips will be integrated into game cards as a part of Cartamundi’s larger strategy of developing game cards for the connected generation.
Holst Centre, imec and Cartamundi engineers will look into NFC circuit design and TFT processing options, and will investigate routes for up-scaling of the production. By realizing the NFC tags using chips based on IGZO TFT technology on plastic film, the manufacturing cost can be kept low. Moreover, the ultra-thin and flexible form factor required for paper-embedded NFC applications can be realized.
Currently, Cartamundi NV embeds silicon-based NFC chips in their game cards, connecting traditional game play with electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets. The advanced IGZO TFT technology that will be used addresses the game card industry call for much thinner, more flexible and virtually unbreakable NFC chips. Such chips are essential to improve and broaden the applicability of interactive technology for game cards, compared to the currently-used silicon based NFC chips. Next to technical specifications, this next-generation of NFC tags will better balance manufacturing cost and additional functionalities.
Chris Van Doorslaer, CEO of Cartamundi, explains: “Cartamundi is committed to creating products that connect families and friends of every generation to enhance the valuable quality time they share during the day. With Holst Centre’s and imec’s thin-film and nano-electronics expertise, we’re connecting the physical with the digital which will enable lightweight smart devices with additional value and content for consumers.”
“Not only will Cartamundi be working on the NFC chip of the future, but it will also reinvent the industry’s standards in assembly process and the conversion into game cards,” says Steven Nietvelt, chief innovation and marketing officer at Cartamundi. “All of this is part of an ongoing process of technological innovation inside Cartamundi. I am glad our innovation engineers will collaborate with the strongest technological researchers and developers in the field at imec and Holst Centre. We are going to need all expertise on board. Because basically what we are creating is game-changing technology.”
“Imec and Holst Centre aim to shape the future and our collaboration with Cartamundi will do so for the future of gaming technology and connected devices,” says Paul Heremans, Department Director Thin Film Electronics at imec and Technology Director at the Holst Centre. “Chip technology has penetrated society’s daily life right down to game cards. We are excited to work with Cartamundi to improve the personal experience that gaming delivers.”