US 20060187063 A1
A method for selectively removing metal from a metallized substrate (e.g., a metallized polymer film) and the formation of devices thereby are provided. The method involves selectively exposing the metallized surface to a demetallizing (i.e., an oxidizing) chemical solution. The metallized layer can be selectively exposed to the demetallizing solution using a flexographic printing process wherein printing rollers are used to transfer the demetallizing solution to the metallized surface. An identification device including, for example, a holographic, retro-reflective, or other metallized material and a radio-frequency transponder are also provided. The radio-frequency transponder includes an RF chip and an antenna in electrical communication with the chip. The identification device including the holographic image allows both electronic identification through the reading of identification data stored in the chip and optical identification via the holographic image.
1. An identification device, comprising:
a base layer;
a radio-frequency (RF) transponder comprising an RF chip and an antenna disposed on the base layer, wherein the antenna is in electrical communication with the chip; and
a metallized region;
wherein the metallized region has been selectively demetallized, such that the RF transponder is able to transmit and receive information.
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24. A method of forming a pattern in a metallized region, the method comprising:
transferring a metal etching solution to portions of an exposed surface of the metallized region using a printing process;
allowing the etching solution to react with the metallized region to selectively demetallize the surface; and
washing the selectively demetallized surface.
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This application is a continuation application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/118,092 filed on Apr. 9, 2002 including the specification, claims, drawings and summary. The disclosure of the above patent applications is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
The present invention relates generally to a process for selectively removing metallic material from a metallized film and, in particular, to the removal of metallic material from a metallized polymeric film using a printing method such as flexographic printing. The film can be a reflective film (e.g., a retro-reflective film) or a holographic film that can be used, for example, in an identification device comprising a radio frequency (RF) transponder.
Retro-reflective materials can reflect and re-emit incident light in a direction that is parallel to that of the source of the incident light. In other words, retro-reflective materials reflect light directly back toward the source of the light. Such materials and devices are widely used in the areas of nighttime transportation and safety. For example, retro-reflective materials are used to identify highway lanes and road signs using the light emitted from vehicle headlights. Retro-reflective materials are also used for the production of car plates, decals and distinctives for all kinds of vehicles and for truck containers, tractors and other applications. Retro-reflective materials have a bright effect under direct light without disturbing human sight.
Holographic materials have also been used for identification purposes. Since holograms are all but impossible to counterfeit, they are being increasingly used on all types of identification, including driver's licenses, credit cards, bus passes, etc., to increase security.
Both retro-reflective and holographic materials typically contain a very high level of metal such as aluminum. Holograms, for example, are typically stamped from metal foils. It is known that metal blocks the transmission and reception of radio frequency (RF) signals because the RF signal is absorbed or distorted by the metal content in the material. As a result, the signal cannot be received by an antenna blocked by metal. Such a blocked signal cannot be used, for example, to activate a connected device. This same blocking effect can occur whether the device is positioned on top of or underneath the metallic material because the distortion and absorption of the RF signal will be affected in either case. Thus, there is a problem in the prior art with regard to using retro-reflective and holographic materials, as well as other materials containing metals, on the surface of devices for receiving RF signals.
It would be desirable to incorporate an RF transponder into an identification device comprising a retro-reflective material, a holographic image, or other material containing a metal. The RF transponder could be used for electronic identification.
According to a first aspect of the invention, an identification device is provided that includes retro-reflective or holographic materials, or other materials containing metal, and a usable antenna for receiving radio frequency (RF) signals. The identification device comprises: a base layer; an RF transponder comprising a mounted RF chip and an antenna disposed on the base layer; and a metallized region. The metallized region can comprise a holographic image or a retro-reflective layer. The antenna is in electrical communication with the chip. According to this aspect of the invention, the metallized region has been selectively demetallized such that the RF transponder can transmit and receive information.
According to a second aspect of the invention, a method of forming a pattern in a metallized layer is provided. The method comprises: transferring a metal etching solution to portions of an exposed surface of the metallized layer using a printing process; allowing the etching solution to react with the metallized layer to selectively demetallize the surface; and washing the selectively demetallized surface.
According to a third aspect of the invention, a method of making an identification device comprising a base layer and at least one metal region disposed thereon is provided. The method comprises: selectively demetallizing a first metal region of the device; forming a holographic image in the first metal region; forming an antenna on the base layer; and mounting an RF chip on the base layer in electrical communication with the antenna to form an RF transponder. According to this aspect of the invention, the selective demetallization of the first metal region allows the RF transponder to transmit and receive information.
According to a fourth aspect of the invention, a method of making an identification device comprising a base layer and a metallized retro-reflective layer is provided. The method comprises: forming a selectively demetallized retro-reflective layer on the base layer; forming an antenna on the base layer; and mounting an RF chip on the base layer in electrical communication with the antenna to form an RF transponder. According to this aspect of the invention, the selective demetallization of the retro-reflective layer retains the retro-reflective properties of the retro-reflective layer while allowing the RF transponder to transmit and receive information.
Additional advantages and novel features of the invention will be set forth in part in the description that follows, and in part will become more apparent to those skilled in the art upon examination of the following or upon learning by practice of the invention.
The invention will be described with reference to the accompanying figures, wherein:
The present inventors have discovered a method by which a radio frequency (RF) device can be integrated into an identification device comprising a metallized reflective (e.g., a retro-reflective) or holographic material. In particular, the present inventors have discovered that, by selectively removing metal from the metallized layer, the conductivity of the metallized layer can be broken and the effect of absorption and distortion of the radio waves that an RF device uses as a power source can be reduced. In this manner, a radio frequency device can be incorporated into a retro-reflective or holographic material, such as a license plate, a decal (e.g., for a car license plate) or an identification card.
According to the invention, a demetallizing solution, such as a solution of sodium hydroxide (NaOH), can be used in place of ink in a printing process to selectively demetallize a metal layer. In particular, the demetallizing solution can be poured into the stainless steel trays of a printing apparatus. The demetallizing solution can then be applied to the metallized surface using a printing process. For example, the solution can be applied to a printing plate having a raised pattern. The plate can then be contacted with the metallized surface such that the solution on the raised areas is transferred to the metallized surface. The application of the demetallizing solution to the metallized surface can be controlled by the inking rollers of a printing apparatus (e.g., by the pressure applied to the inking rollers).
According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the demetallizing solution is applied to the metallized layer using a flexographic printing process. The flexographic printing process is a rotary in-line printing method that uses flexible resilient plates with raised images to apply inks to a substrate. According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the flexographic printing process can be performed using laser-engraved anilox rolls to allow for high resolutions.
By using a printing process, such as a flexographic printing process, the sodium hydroxide solution can be transferred to selective portions of the metallized film. In this manner, metal can be selectively removed from those areas. According to the invention, the exposure time of the metallized layer to the sodium hydroxide solution can be controlled to ensure that the resulting chemical reaction sufficiently removes metal from the desired areas.
According to the invention, after the demetallization process is complete, the selectively demetallized film can be transferred to a washing unit where any excess or remaining chemical solution can be removed. According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, washing of the demetallized surface can be accomplished using fine sprinklers.
The metallized film, which has been moistened by the previous wash, can then be subjected to a residue evaporation process. Residue evaporation can be accomplished using a set of two rolls (e.g., one made of rubber, one made of steel), as well as by such processes as use of air-cleaning filters, sponges and/or blown air. The residue evaporation process can be used as a preparation step preliminary to a heat-driven drying stage. During the heat-driven drying stage, the heat can be generated, for example, by electrical resistance.
The metal removal process according to the invention can be used to produce a metallized material that is non-blocking to radio frequency transmissions. Therefore, a radio frequency device can be incorporated into an identification device (e.g. a card or plate) having a metallized (i.e., a retro-reflective or holographic) layer. As a result of the demetallization process, the radio-frequency device can transmit or receive information while in close proximity to the metallized layer. Additionally, by using a selective demetallization process according to the invention, the metallized film can be made translucent. Therefore, a visible seal can be incorporated beneath the metallized layer according to the invention.
Features of the present invention directed to a metal-removal process for a metallized material (e.g., a metallized polymer film) will now be described in greater detail. According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the method comprises subjecting the metallized material to a flexographic printing process, wherein the inks are replaced by a metal etching solution. According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the metal etching solution is an oxidizing solution. For example, an oxidizing solution can be poured into the stainless steel ink trays of a standard flexographic printing station. The oxidizing solution according to the invention preferably comprises sodium hydroxide (NaOH), water (H2O), and, optionally, ethylene-glycol. The ethylene glycol can be used as a density-reduction agent.
According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the oxidizing solution can be transferred to the inking rollers through a second roller (i.e., an “anilox” roller). The oxidizing solution can then be transferred to a third roller, which conveys the solution to the metallized surface.
The exposure time of the metallized surface to the demetallizing solution can be controlled to ensure that the resulting chemical reaction removes the metal properly from the desired areas.
As set forth above, the demetallizing solution according to the invention can be an aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide (NaOH). When NaOH contacts the metallic surface, the metal is converted into a metallic oxide via an oxidative chemical reaction. To stop this oxidative process, the metallized surface can be washed with water. For example, the metallized surface can be washed using fine sprinklers to cover the entire metallized surface to ensure the removal of any residue and/or excess of the demetallizing solution.
The present invention also relates to the manufacture of an identification device created with a metallized material (e.g., a retro-reflective or holographic material), which device includes a chip and an antenna (i.e., a radio frequency device). According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the antenna can be formed from the same metallized layer used to manufacture the reflective or holographic material. When the device is made with a holographic image, an identification device can be provided having a capability of both electronic identification (i.e., via the reading of data stored in the chip) and optical identification (i.e., using the holographic image). For example, the device can be configured as an identification card that allows an electronic identification through the reading of data stored in the chip and the optical identification via a check of the hologram on the device.
For the holographic image on the identification device, metallic films such as aluminum films can be used. The metallic films can be grouped on the device to form the hologram using known techniques. For example, the hologram can be made using conventional techniques, such as forming the hologram by stamping a metal foil with a hologram plate made using an engraving process.
In the case of identification cards or identification stickers, which can allow the transmission of identification data stored in a chip to a reading device, a grouping technique can be used involving coupling a transporting unit with a chip and an antenna. The antenna can be made by placing a wire conductor on the device or by etching the antenna in the metallic film.
A purpose of the invention is therefore to provide an identification device that allows both optical identification via a holographic image on the device and electronic identification via an RF chip mounted on the device. The metallized layer can be used to prepare both the antenna for the RF device as well as to prepare the optical image on the device. The fact that the antenna and the image can be made from the same metallized layer represents an advantage since only a single metallized layer is required. As a result, the manufacturing process can be simplified and the cost of manufacturing the device can be reduced.
Additionally, the antenna and the image device can be formed on opposite sides of a substrate material. It may also be advantageous to build the antenna on the device in several parts (i.e., by making one part of the antenna on the same side as the image device and the other part of the antenna on the side opposite the optical image). In this case, a high power antenna can be made on a relatively small identification device.
Depending specifically of the desired frequency of the oscillating circuit made by the chip and the antenna, the antenna may be produced as a coil or as a dipole. To influence the oscillating chip frequency behavior, it may be advantageous to use the image material at least partially to make an electronic commutation element. For example, the image material may be used for making a part of the antenna. This is particularly advantageous when the antenna is made as an antenna coil. It is also possible to use the image material to make a capacitor element. To prevent the creation of metallic layers that may negatively affect the antenna's electromagnetic field, it may be useful to superimpose the image structure with a superficial structure to separate the metallic surface from the hologram support, thereby creating electrically isolated partial metallic layers.
Turning to the figures,
The identification device 10 shown in
In addition, it should be noted that the identification device 10 shown in
As shown in
For the construction of the antenna coil 22 shown in
The antenna coil 22 and the chip 31 of the identification device 10 shown in FIGS. 1 to 3 forms a transponder unit 34 which enables, by means of a reader unit, contact-free access to the data on the chip 31 for purposes of electronic identification. At the same time, the hologram 20 mounted on the upper side of the identification unit 10 enables optical identification to be made.
In the identification unit 40 shown in
In the hologram or other metallized area 57 of metal foil 56, a hologram or other image 65 is formed in the metallic layer in the manner previously described. As shown in
As shown in
In conjunction with the production of the antenna coil 22 in the antenna area 17 of the metal foil strip 25, the metallized layer in the holographic or other metallized field 16 can be selectively demetallized as shown in
In order to construct the identification device 10 shown in
A demetallizing process according to the invention will now be described in more detail.
Once the areas to be demetallized have been determined (e.g., using graphical design) a rubber engraving (e.g., flexographic plate) can be made to cover the printing roller that is going to be used to deposit the demetallizing solution (e.g., an aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide) on the metallized surface of the film. The sodium hydroxide solution can, for example, be placed in one of the printing stations of a conventional flexographic printing apparatus. For example, the demetallizing solution can be placed in a stainless steel tray typically used for holding ink. The demetallizing solution can then be applied to the metallized surface by means of the printing roller such that the demetallizing solution is selectively transferred to areas of the metallized surface which are going to be demetallized. The volume of sodium hydroxide that is “printed” on the metallized film can be controlled, as with printing using ink, by, for example, the structure (i.e., the resolution) of the printing roller (i.e., the anilox roller) and the inking rollers and by the pressure that is exerted on the printing roller.
Although the demetallizing effect is practically immediate once the demetallizing solution is applied to the metallized surface, it may be desirable to allow the demetallizing solution to remain a certain amount of time in contact with the metallized surface so that the chemical reaction is completed in those areas in contact with the solution.
To stop the oxidizing effect of the solution, the metallized surface can be washed with water (preferably non-recycled). For example, the metallized surface (previously printed) can be passed through a washing area where the residual sodium hydroxide and the oxidized metal (i.e., aluminum oxide) can be removed. In a preferred embodiment, the water will wet the entire printed area of the metallized surface. For example, fine sprinklers can be used to cover the entire printed area. In order to make the washing process more efficient and to completely remove the residuals of the chemical process, washing may be repeated one or more times using fresh water each time.
Before the film enters the drying station, it may be desirable to remove excess water from the metallized surface in order to facilitate the evaporation of and remaining residual water. In order to remove the water, it is recommendable to use a pair of rollers (e.g., one of rubber and another metallic), air cleaners, sponges and/or air sprinklers. Finally the film is passed through the drying unit through for a heat dry (e.g., using electrical resistance heating) to completely remove the water from the material.
As a complement to the method of selective demetallizing, it is possible to include in the same line of production an overprinting process with ink. In this manner, the effects of demetallizing and printing can be obtained on the same material.
Compared with solvent based inks, water based inks are very manageable, clean and highly resistant to ultraviolet (UV) light. For these reasons, water based inks are desirable. Nevertheless, because one of the sub-processes of the demetallizing process is washing, it is preferable to print with water based inks after the demetallizing and washing steps have been completed.
In addition, if certain metallized areas are desired not to be printed, it is possible to use a transparent solvent based varnish for print protecting the metallized film. After print protection, the metallized layer can be demetallized. In this manner, higher resolutions can be achieved. This technique can be used in high security applications to produce microtext and/or very fine lines.
A demetallizing process for use with a metallized, such as a retro-reflective material, according to the invention is described below in reference to
As a second step, a fine line demetallizing process can be performed over the remaining metal surface using the same demetallizing process to break the conductivity of the metal layer and the absorption or distortion of radio waves. This allows the RF energy to be captured by the antenna of the radio frequency device. This process is preferably done at a high resolution to maintain the retro-reflective (or, for example, holographic) properties of the remaining metal layer while, at the same time, interrupting the conductivity of the metal to allow RF reception and transmission.
According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the metallized layer is demetallized in a square grid pattern comprising a first set of parallel lines of demetallized material oriented at right angels to a second set of parallel lines or demetallized material. According to a further embodiment of the invention, the squares of metallized material in the square grid pattern will have dimensions of 5 mm×5 mm or less, more preferably 3 mm×3 mm or less. It has been found that, when the squares of metallized material have dimensions of about 5 mm or less, shielding (i.e., distorion and/or absorption) is reduced to about 5% or less and when the squares of metallized material have dimensions of about 3 mm or less, shielding (i.e., distorion and/or absorption) is reduced to about 1% or less.
Although a square grid demetallized pattern is preferred, other patterns can be employed according to the invention. When other patterns are employed, it is preferred that the longest straight line that can be drawn on any metallized area is about 5 mm or less, more preferably about 3 mm or less.
A schematic of an apparatus for selective demetallization of a roll of metallized material is shown in
After exposing the material to the demetallizing agent, the demetallizing process can be terminated by washing the surface with water and immediately drying. Afterward, a design can be over-printed on the identification device using a fixed or variable printing process.
Once the metal is removed from an area of the device, it is possible to mount a radio frequency device in the demetallized area. The radio-frequency device can be used as a label or as an identification tag, such as a car license plate.
In one example application, labels according to the invention can, for example, be used for all types of vehicle control. The labels can be provided in auto-adhesive form for use with a car license plate, a tractor platform or for container information, vehicle control applications, etc. The labels can be provided with read and write capabilities and can include biometric data, such as fingerprints, iris recognition data, facial recognition data, voice recognition data, picture data and traffic violation data for drivers.
Car license plates are typically made from metal, acrylic or polycarbonate. Regardless of the material, the process of applying an RF device will usually be similar. This process is described below with reference to
The resulting license plate is shown in
An alternative process of forming the antenna comprises producing a thin polymer layer (e.g., polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyethylene terephthalate) having an antenna (preferably a copper antenna) embedded therein. Structures of this type are commonly referred to as inlays. A method of manufacturing an inlaid antenna according to the invention is shown in
An alternative way of obtaining a retro-reflective or other metallized material on a metal plate or sticker can be employed wherein the carrier or base layer is a polymer such as PVC or PET. In this embodiment, the antenna can be embedded directly in the carrier using ultrasonic energy as set forth above. The retro-reflective or other metallized layer can then be applied onto the carrier. Portions of the retro-reflective or other metallized layer overlying the antenna should be demetallized to avoid any contact of the antenna with the metal content of the retro-reflective or other metallized material. A fine line demetallization process can be used as describe above over the remainder of the retro-reflective or other metallized material to minimize RF distortion or absorption that can interfere with the radio frequency device. Afterward, an acrylic or epoxy resin can be applied to transform the identification device into a label.
These and other modifications and variations to the present invention may be practiced by those of ordinary skill in the art, without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. Furthermore, those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that the foregoing description is by way of example only, and is not intended to limit the invention.