Toppan, a longstanding AIPIA member with interests globally in communication, security, packaging, décor materials, and electronics solutions, has developed a near-field communication (NFC) tag label that uses paper material as the substrate for the antenna instead of conventional PET film.

Global sales of the new tag label were launched in January with Europe expected to be a promising market due to the high level of environmental awareness.

In addition to reducing plastic consumption to zero by switching to paper, a new circuit fabrication technology ensures sufficient communication performance as an NFC device, says the company. Taking advantage of the properties of paper as a substrate, the NFC tag label is designed to break when it is removed, making communication impossible which prevents fraudulent use through the reattachment of labels.

According to Toppan the value of the global NFC tag market hit US$3.8 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach US$15.5 billion by 2030.1 In addition to increased use in contactless payment systems and supply chain management, growth has been driven by factors including more social distancing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it believes.

NFC tag labels are predominantly produced by using metal foil to form an antenna on a plastic substrate, such as PET film. As governments and businesses advance activities to move away from the use of plastic, the market for NFC tags is seeing growing demand for replacing plastic with paper materials that have a lower environmental impact.

However, achieving sufficient communication performance has been challenging because the electrical resistance of circuits increases when printing methods employing conductive inks, such as widely-used silver nanoparticles, are used to form antennas on paper.

“Toppan’s new NFC tag label meets growing demand for more eco-friendly solutions as the NFC market expands globally,” said Takamitsu Nakabayashi, general manager of RFID/IoT and security development in Toppan’s DX Design Division. “We will expand sales globally, focusing particularly on the European market, where measures focused on reducing environmental impact are gathering pace.”

Aluminium foil, with low electrical resistance, is used to form an antenna on a paper substrate via a new circuit fabrication technology combining laser edge technology with a roll-to-roll web handling process.

This eliminates plastic from the NFC tag while maintaining the required communication performance, says Toppan. If a paper substrate is used instead of a PET film substrate for a million standard-size NFC tag labels (80 mm x 45 mm), the consumption of plastic resin can be reduced by approximately 110 kilograms.

Due to a layer structure in which the paper substrate doubles as the surface layer material, the new eco-friendly NFC tag label is 30% thinner than Toppan’s existing products with PET film substrates. This means that documents or package to which NFC tag labels have been attached do not become bulky when stacked. Lamination of a separate printed layer is required when applying colour printing to the label surface.

This article was created in collaboration with AIPIA (the Active and Intelligent Packaging Industry Association). Packaging Europe and AIPIA are joining forces to bring news and commentary about the active and intelligent packaging landscape to a larger audience. To learn more about this partnership, click here.