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French company weaves RFID chips, antennas into yarn

Posted: 03 Jul 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Primo1D? RFID? antenna? wearable? E-Thread?

For more than ten years, the tagging of garments via RFID-based labels has been the norm. Now, a startup based in Grenoble, France has effectively pushed the concept of "wearables" to new extremes. Primo1D, an E-Thread company, was founded in August 2013 and is a spinoff of the CEA-Leti. It has developed a technology that allows electronic components to be threaded into the very fabric of clothes and can even survive the washing machine.

RFID chips and antennas are woven into a yarn

RFID chips and antennas are woven into a yarn

Instead of wearable devices typically housed in an external electronics package that can be inserted into (or removed from) a slot in clothing, Primo1D developed a microelectronic package that allows an RFID chip to be directly connected to a set of two conductive wires (that function as antennas) and woven into a yarn. Within the E-Thread is a passive RFID tag that requires no power supply and can be read by any standard UHF RFID reader.

Emmanuel Arene, Primo1D CEO, said he expects his company to generate its first revenue in 2016. The initial applications of E-Thread technology will be in linens and textile products used by hospitals and hotels, which need to be professionally laundered and whose inventories need to be managed.

Technology

Primo1D isn't a chip company. Primo1D's innovation lies in the development of a special technique and process applied to microelectronic packaging. The supplier of RFID chips for Primo1D is Impinj. "We buy 8in wafer-level chips from Impinj. Then we add process steps on wafers so that we can make these packages durable," explained Arene. That process technology was originally developed in a clean room by CEA-Leti.

RFID tag and E-Thread

In the conventional RFID tag solution (top), the connection to an external conductor is made in two stages: an internal connection to a housing (bonding), and a connection of the housing to the outer conductors. In the E-Thread technology (bottom), a new microelectronics packaging, developed in one step, allows direct connection of a chip to a set of two conductors behaving as an antenna, a power and/or a data bus. NOT TO SCALE (bottom is 10x smaller) (Source: Primo 1D)

Primo 1D's E-Thread solution is protected by 20 patents covering the assembly itself, the manufacturing process and some fields of application. Primo 1D has the exclusive right to use the technology, while CEA-Leti owns and manages the patents.

Primo1D has textile partners working with them.

Once RFID chips and antennas are integrated into a thread (i.e. cotton, polyester, wool or plastic), textile companies can weave them into garments, linens, luxury items or industrial products, using standard manufacturing machines, according to Arene.

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