It is estimated that 400 bar codes are printed every day in the world. In the future, most of the bar codes may be replaced by more intelligent identification schemes. RFID systems can store and trace more and more important information. With this technique, we can retrieve relevant data without visual contact.
This seems to be an ideal direction for many industries, but there is still a major hurdle to overcome. Current RFID systems are generally pre-manufactured in the form of tags and are relatively expensive. Therefore, its use in mass production of folding cartons is limited. In addition, the potential impact on the overall graphic design of the carton also hinders the application of RFID technology to the carton.
This is why Manroland has to work with a number of companies to research technologies for the local printing of RFID systems on printing presses. In the early stages of his research, Manroland was exploring whether it would be possible to print the transceiver's antenna directly on the substrate and then embed the chip. Studies have shown that using offset or other printing methods, suitable conductive inks or adhesives based on metal or conductive polymers can be printed directly. In drupa in 2004, Manroland demonstrated the practical application of RFID - using metal ink printing RFID antenna. We can believe that foil-transfer printing will be a viable technology. The conductivity test on the Laborman machine at Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany confirmed that the conductive polymer structure can be directly printed.
Printing the antenna directly on the substrate of the end product has many advantages. The antenna is tightly integrated with the substrate and can only be removed by breaking it. Printing with special inks on the press is as effective as spot colors or varnish. We can overprint it with color inks/lubricants to create a perfect overall visual effect for the transceiver and folding carton design. In addition, we can not only embed the chip in a pre-printed antenna off-line, but also can operate in a modular printing system.
An important prerequisite for direct printing of conductive structures is the ability to perform functional tests downstream of the supply chain. Obviously, the printing industry has a wealth of experience and skills in visual quality control. However, the function of the printed circuit can not only be estimated visually, but must be checked by metrics. Therefore, Manroland regards this as a prerequisite for the development of direct printed RFID antennas and considers the characteristics of light and direct printing on the wire. What we must pay attention to is that the conductivity of the printed antenna changes during the drying process of the ink, which will be the key point of RFID direct printing technology. RFID direct printing technology can effectively prevent counterfeiting and minimize the number of counterfeit products, but the cassettes with embedded transceivers are much more expensive than current cartons.
Carton printing is closely linked with the logistics system. The logistics system includes: material distribution, printing plants, point of sale, and material management systems. Therefore, the new identification technology can not cause major impact on the original logistics system, nor can it require significant investment to complete the technological transformation. It is of great significance to closely link the production of RFID with the existing systems in carton printing and postpress processing. From this point of view, different printing methods can be combined into modular printers as needed to achieve wired production. In addition, we can equip the printing press with other auxiliary equipment, print one or several circuits, and combine it with traditional four-color printing.
Source: "Global Box Industry"
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