Thin Film Electronics ASA, a publicly listed Norwegian developer of organic, ferroelectric, nonvolatile memory technology, has ordered equipment for a pilot production line to be installed at its facility in Linkoping, Sweden. Thin Film, headquartered in Oslo, Norway, has also announced a plan to raise NOK140 million (about US$23 million) via the sale of shares to Invesco Asset Management Ltd.
The pilot production line will make anti-counterfeit, printed plastic, 4-bit memory labels and will be part of a push on offering brand protection technology in 2014, said Davor Sutija, CEO of Thin Film, in a phone interview with EE Times. The line is intended to have a manufacturing capacity of up 200 million units per year and will complement the 100 million units per year capacity that Thin Film has at South Korea's InkTec Co. Ltd.
A 4-bit, organic, non-volatile memory printed on a label provides the basis of a readable identification tag that can detect and deter counterfeit products.
Meanwhile the funding deal is subject to approval expected to be granted at an upcoming shareholder meeting to be held on Oct. 2. As part of the deal, which would give Invesco at 13.3 percent stake in the company, Thin Film intends to issue warrants giving Invesco the option to invest an additional NK140 million after one year and within three years. Invesco is one of the world's largest investment companies with more than $700 billion under management.
Sutija said the money would be used for general corporate purposes, adding that the company is recruiting engineers to help with the transfer of technology that is expected to follow successful brand protection field trials. "It will also help drive our R&D in other system applications such as organic display-drive circuits," said Sutija.
Thin Film has been conducting R&D into ferroelectric memory within organic materials for many years and has more recently moved into developing system-level products that employ its memory technology. The brand protection application is the most advanced, Sutija acknowledged. He said Thin Film can deliver labels that can cost as little as 2 cents per unit and be more effective than holographic labels.
Thin Film's smart labels require a low-cost reader that interrogates the label. Although the label requires only 4 bits, deliberately introduced differences in the thickness of polymer and the area of the memory cells and how they perform during multiple read-writes creates a mixed analog and digital signature that is almost impossible to fake, said Sutija. It also means different identifiers can be used to differentiate between vendors and brands. "We can detect the branching of the polymer and the deviation of the thickness" of the layer, he said. He expects such brand protection to find use in packaged consumer goods in health care and retail.
Thin Film announced an order for brand protection labels with an unnamed customer in March 2013. (See: Plastic memory put to work in brand protection.) Sutija said Thin Film is getting "substantial traction" in systems work but declined to name its lead partner or any other customers. "With the lead customer we are discussing field trials."
Thin Film's strategy is to demonstrate the technology using in-house production before licensing the technology "copy-exact" to customers for high-volume production. Sutija said that a roll-to-roll printer would be installed in Linkoping in October with a view to production before the end of 2013 or in the first quarter of 2014.