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Development of an integrated, high volume manufacturing process for high value smart cards for the european population of sme moulders


Traditional manufacturing methods for transaction cards have remained largely unchanged for nearly three decades and lamination still remains the principal manufacturing process. However, the advent of the smart card has seen the emergence of injection moulded card bodies for low to medium volume applications, where greater flexibility and higher precision are required in the manufacturing process. There are more than 2000 SME injection moulders in the EU. In common with all injection moulders, involved in the supply chains to the big four European smart card system vendors ( Gemplus, Bull, GPT Axxicon and Siemens ), the Prime Proposer currently moulds card bodies for low value, contact operation smart cards, such as 'phone cards'. However, we have identified the urgent need for a new manufacturing process, based on an injection moulded card, in which the antenna, chip module, or even the die itself, is integrated with the card body and it's decoration, within the moulding process, through the use of in-mould labeling (IML). The current low volume and expensive method of manufacture for these cards is based on a sheet laminating process carried out on high capital plant by the system vendors themselves. As the 'Combi Smart Card' becomes dominant in the market, replacing the currently dominant injection moulded 'phone card' type of smart card, European SME moulders within the smart card supply chains will lose their existing business and fail to benefit from the massive market growth predicted for smart cards as a whole. The current smart card market is reported to be around 1 bn units pa, with an annual compound growth rate of between between 30% and 50%. Appendix 1 outlines the various product types and their features. Both SGS Thompson (the leading chip manufacturer) and Gemplus (the leading contact smart card manufacturer) predict the market in the year 2000 to be almost 4 billion cards pa. (Ref. 1). Siemens estimate the current value of the market to be worth $ 360m with almost 75% of smart card business to date being concentrated in Europe. By the year 2000, Siemens predicts the market to be worth $1 620m, with Europe, Asia and the USA accounting for 30% each. (Ref. 2). If an injection moulded manufacturing solution can be developed to meet the requirements of the Contactless and Combi Smart Cards as well as the existing Contact Phone Cards, the current card body moulding market of $11 5m could potentially grow by a factor of 10 as the market expands and the value added content of the output from the moulding process dramatically increases from blank card body to decorated and operational systems. However, the size, compactness and weight of product provides no barrier to protect the domestic market from imports form the other two major markets, should a non-European manufacturing solution be generated more rapidly. Bull predict that whilst the 'Combi Smart Card' accounts for around only 5% of the current market, applicational developments in telecommunication systems, banking, travel permits and digital indentity cards will create a massive trend for market demand towards the Combi Smart Card, increasing it to around 60% of the larger market, predicted for the millennium. This will result in a potential market of $1 OOOm pa for the Combi-Card. The Core group of Proposers, led by ourselves, P.d.F.I. a current supplier of card bodies to the 'contact' phone card market, also includes an IML moulder from the plastic packaging sector, as well as an IML equipment supplier, a moulding robot supplier and a conductive ink printing machine supplier. Each hoping to be involved in the manufacture of equipment and product for this rapidly expanding market. The proposed RTD is in response to the urgent industrial need to develop a European manufacturing solution for Combi Smart cardproduction, based on the injection moulding process, helping to protect existing SME moulder markets from imported cards and provide a significant opportunity for the 150 SME moulders operating in this, and related in-mould labeled ( IML ) packaging sectors.

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Plastiques de France Industries S.A.
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845,Avenue du Pic de Bertagne 845
13881 Gemenos

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