The day in which you can pop into our local supermarket armed with your near field communications (NFC) enabled smart phone to make purchases based on your own personal data is one step closer to reality.

The SCOPE Consortia, which includes major international brand names, has been working on developing new processes and applications to enable high-volume manufacturing of printed electronic components and smart labels incorporating NFC. Benefits to consumers include product personalization (your name on products, your requirements e.g. gluten-free), brand enhancement (recipes, health related information, nutrition etc), product security (record of manufacture, product and distribution authenticity) and promotional/brand loyalty benefits (reward codes, free samples).

One of the key challenges faced by the SCOPE Consortia has been scaling up production from hundreds to millions whilst keeping the costs down, a process which involves applying highly automated and high speed integration techniques to eventually meet target costs of <1cent per NFC tag, which is the driving force behind the application. Other barriers to overcome include finding a lower cost alternative to printing in silver, applying the printed electronic labels to metal packaging and the eventual disposal of packaging containing electronics.

To date prototypes have been produced using a combination of conventional and printed electronics, including Labels incorporating LEDs, used for promotional purposes by one of the UK’s major fast moving consumer goods manufacturers. Whilst prototypes demonstrate the potential for printed electronics, the concepts have been predominantly manufactured with conventional electronic components. The consortia are currently working to overcome the challenges of creating created a hybrid label which will be manufactured with both conventional and printed electronics that is able to survive the rigorous application process and post labeling electronic quality control.

The emerging commercial opportunities offered by the ‘Internet of Things’ in which devices or products are embedded with logic, is significant, it is forecast that by 2025 the potential annual global market will be worth between $3.9 trillion and $11.1 trillion, which is a significant economy opportunity.

SCOPE is a £10 million collaborative project involving industry and co-funded by the Government’s Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI).

About AMSCI AMSCI supports manufacturing supply chains in England to restore and improve global competitiveness by encouraging innovative, collaborative projects which established strong, sustainable and balanced growth. Complementing the Regional Growth Fund, AMSCI offered flexible funding support for R&D, skills, training, capital finance and leveraging private sector investment.

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