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Fall 2003

Vol. 04, No. 1


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An alien landing

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held Oct. 13 to celebrate the impending construction of Alien Technology Corporation's manufacturing plant at North Dakota State University's Research and Technology Park.

They'll be making: Radio Frequency Identification tags.

Also known as: RFID tags.

In simple terms: RFID employs an integrated circuit, a small silicon chip, attached to a small, flexible antenna creating a tag. The integrated circuit provides data storage to record and store information. A reader sends a signal to the tag. The tag absorbs the energy from the reader signal and then transmits a return radio signal containing information from its memory. The tags are expected to eventually supplement or replace bar codes that now track inventories of all types of commercial products.

The silicon chips are small: nanotechnology small. The size of a pepper flake..

They'll be employing new ways to make stuff: Alien Technology has developed and holds exclusive patent rights to a manufacturing technology called Fluidic Self Assembly, an efficient way to place and package lots of very small integrated circuits for assembly into RFID tags.

This is how: In fluidic self assembly, specifically shaped integrated circuits ranging in size from 10 microns to several hundred microns are suspended in liquid and flowed over a surface that has correspondingly shaped "holes" or receptors on it and into which the devices settle..

It's not big brother: The tags don't work very well on liquids, and humans are mostly water. Also, there are principles that call for the data to be completely erasable and the tags can be removed from products..

Alien likes North Dakota: The company was already working with the NDSU Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering. In addition, they were impressed with the state's capable and stable workforce and North Dakota's business friendly environment.

They're going to make a whole lot of tags in Fargo: The plant, scheduled to begin production mid-2005, will eventually have two lines with the capacity to produce 10 billion tags a year on each line.

Lots of people will be hired: Estimates are that 300 jobs -- primarily manufacturing jobs along with related support positions -- will be in place by 2006-2007. People may get a jump on the applications by e-mailing a resume to fargojobs@alientechnology.com. Hiring is likely to begin the second half of 2004.

RFID is expected to grow rapidly: It is a brand new industry, and demand will be in the billions of units creating tremendous opportunities. The RFID industry can now provide low cost products that are standardized to enable greater adoption.

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.