Based on its recent research on the passive radio frequency identification (RFID) antenna production market, Frost & Sullivan presents Walki Group with the 2012 European Frost & Sullivan Award for Technology Innovation for developing a unique manufacturing technology that lowers material costs and speeds up manufacturing process in an environment friendly manner. The Walki 4E technology involves a dry process of laser patterning paper and aluminum laminate, which drastically reduces the cost factor involved in RFID manufacturing.
The conventional method deployed by competitors produces RFID antennas through wet etching using wet chemicals. However, Walki Group's pioneering technology is characterized by computer to antenna manufacturing and laser cutting of the antenna. The company uses paper – considered to be one of the best candidates for organic substrates for RFID/sensing applications – as a substrate for its RFID antenna tags. After the laser cuts out patterns from the laminate made of aluminum and paper substrate, the aluminum residue is recycled.
The Walki 4E technology is ten times faster than the benchmark set by its competitors in manufacturing. The digital process also allows each antenna to be different, resulting in very short response time and a considerably higher development cycle. Further, the laser to antenna manufacturing creates accurate geometries. Having good dimensional stability increases repeatability, resulting in increased process yield and production speed.
The computer to antenna production enables small, extremely accurate pattern attainable with laser technology. Walki has a very tight integration with the IC supply chain enabling them to develop small integrated chips (ICs). Having smaller components can help in integrating with even compact devices and gives more flexibility on the design options. The highest frequency obtainable with Walki's antennas is 5.8 GHz, which in effect covers the whole range from low frequency (LF), high frequency (HF), ultra high frequency (UHF), and microwave.
"Walki Group's competitors lack the technology advantage to produce RFID tags at such a low cost and high volume platform," notes Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Saju John Mathew. "The company's unique technology, coupled with its global production and distribution network address every need in mainstream RFID applications with major price reductions."
RFID can have a huge impact in near field communication (NFC) and barcodes, which put together, can be a highly lucrative market. Walki 4E technology can greatly facilitate penetration of NFC antennas into the market on a large scale, primarily because of the low cost. The unique dry process technique enables combining fiber, polymer, plastics, and creating the substrate of the client's choice with up to nine different polymers. This variety of options – not available with Walki Group's competitors – can enable other exploratory applications, where the polymers best fitting the need can be chosen."
Apart from RFID tag antennas, this technology can greatly benefit other applications such as photovoltaics, flexible batteries, flexible circuit boards, heat elements, and mobile handset antennas. Using Walki 4E technology, Walki Group has developed the Walki Pantenna, which is the first UHF RFID antenna that offers extensive possibilities for converting. It can be made of paper or even fabric and printed directly on a label or a hang tag. This easy conversion allows for high volumes delivering extremely efficient and economical production to the end users in applications such as labels, hang tags, and single trip tickets.
Walki 4E technology is an environment friendly process, as there are no chemicals used during its manufacture, and the process residue (metallic aluminum) is directly recyclable. The overall dry, low cost manufacturing process can encourage deploying the technology in markets previously unexplored.
"The low-cost parameter being manifold with Walki Group's technology is definitely a boost to end users, especially in single trip ticketing, tags for library books, ready size labelling and apparel item level tracking," says Mathew. "The Walki Group is able to rapidly provide any number of customised tag antennae, online quality control, and a high level of interactivity that ensures customer satisfaction."
The potential for RFID in existing and emerging applications and replacement for barcodes is quite high; the market potential can be enhanced with wide scale adoption that is enabled by Walki's customer-centric technology. The company, which employs over 1000 people, already has a combined annual net sale exceeding $398 million with production facilities in Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, UK, Russia and China, which enables it to easily penetrate major geographies around the world.
Based on all these factors, Frost & Sullivan is pleased to present Walki Group with the 2012 Frost & Sullivan Technology Innovation Award. Each year, Frost & Sullivan presents this award to a company that has demonstrated uniqueness in developing a technology, which significantly impacts both the functionality and the customer value of new products and applications. The award lauds the relevance of the innovation to the industry.
Frost & Sullivan's Best Practices Awards recognize companies in a variety of regional and global markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service, and strategic product development. Industry analysts compare market participants and measure performance through in-depth interviews, analysis, and extensive secondary research in order to identify best practices in the industry.
About Walki Group
Walki Group Oy, based out of Espoo, Finland is a manufacturer of packaging for metal and paper industries. They have developed a unique technology, Walki 4E, which is able to create passive RFID tags at ten times the conventional benchmark set by industry players. Walk 4E will be able to cater to the RFID market bringing about cost effectiveness and an environment friendly manufacturing process. Walki employs over 1000 people with a combined annual net sale exceeding $398 million. Walki Group has operations in Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, UK, China, with their recent foothold established in Russia.
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