NFC Transponders for secure NFC applications

Secure NFC transponders with the MIFARE DESFire chip

03. September 2021
Are you designing NFC applications for micro payments or other applications which require secure transactions and you need secure transponders?  

Do you want to know more about the most popular NFC Type 4 chip MIFARE DESFire and what kind of transponders are available?  

With this article, we will present you various transponders with the MIFARE DESFire chip and you can check the differences between the three generations of the MIFARE DESFire chip – the versions EV1, EV2, and EV3.

Microchips MIFARE® DESFire® are made by trusted chip manufacturer NXP Semiconductors and they are the most popular NFC Type 4 chips. They are compatible with standard ISO/IEC 14443-4A/B, have a 7-byte long chip Unique ID number (UID) which is encoded by the chip manufacturer, and an EEPROM memory for 2–8 kBytes of data. Mifare DESFire chips use a 3DES or AES hardware cryptographic engine for confidentiality and integrity protection of the transmission data, which makes them suitable for applications that require secure transactions.  The data retention time for these chips is 25 years.

There are already three generations of the MIFARE DESFire chips which are separated by a label EV1, EV2, or EV3. 

MIFARE DESFire EV3 is the successor of MIFARE DESFire EV2 and offers even more advanced hardware and software implementation on a brand-new IC. MIFARE DESFire EV3 covers all well-known commands and features from MIFARE DESFire EV2, and also adds some new features like a Transaction Timer and Secure Dynamic Messaging as well.

The technical comparison and compatibility are described in detail in the document:

MIFARE DESFire operate on a frequency of 13.56 MHz and can be referred as RFID chips or NFC chips, as well. The term ‘RFID’ stands for a wider range of products, and NFC products are a subset of those compatible with NFC standards.

MIFARE DESFire chips are typically used for:
-    Secure access control
-    Public transportation
-    Cashless vending
-    Ticketing
-    Micro Payments.

MIFARE DESFire transponders

The main parts of the MIFARE DESFire transponder are the MIFARE DESFire chip and the antenna. When the two are built in different kinds of housing, we can refer to it as a ‘transponder.’

MIFARE DESFire stickers or labels have a microchip and antenna between thin paper or plastic layers. The basic version of the sticker is a ‘wet inlay’ which contains the chip and antenna on a very thin, self-adhesive layer. Printed MIFARE DESFire stickers have usually a white PET foil on top, which is printed with color logos or background artwork. They can also contain variable data like serial numbers, chip ID numbers, etc. For a color print, we usually use offset digital printing with CMYK colors and combine the process with silk screen printing when there is a need for Pantone colors or metallic effects (golden colors, silver, glitter, etc.). A printed MIFARE DESFire sticker can contain an additional transparent layer which protects the artwork form scratching and wearing.

MIFARE DESFire tags have a chip and antenna inside a thicker die-cut plastic. They are usually made from more rigid PVC material and can be printed and personalized as well. When the tag is exposed to high temperatures, pressure, or other rough conditions we make the tags from PPS material (Polyphenylene sulfide) which is designed to withstand heat, pressure, and chemicals. Such tags are ideal to track the laundry (laundry tags), warehouse assets, for tracking production objects, pallets, tools, etc. These tags can be printed as well, but the printing requires special printing technology and the options are limited.

MIFARE DESFire cards are made similarly to tags but the die-cut plastic has the dimensions as a credit card and they contain coated top layers for subsequent printing with thermal printers. The dimensions are 86 x 54 x 0.85 mm and defined by standard ISO/IEC 7810:2003 ID-1.

For printing smaller quantities (1–500 pcs), we usually use high quality thermal retransfer printers which print each card separately and uses CMYK colors. Such cards can have different artwork variations or personalized data as well. 

When producing more than 500 cards we use offset printing technology and other professional manufacturing equipment which offers us the opportunity to print the gold, silver, or other background colors with metallic effect or glitter, we can print Pantone colors, we can do matt or glossy finish. These cards can be later on personalized with thermal printers as well.

MIFARE DESFire key fobs come in the form of a keychain and are convenient to use for people identification in many applications. There are many different shapes of plastic housings and some of them can be personalized with serial numbers or printed as well. Printed MIFARE DESFire key fobs are custom made from die-cut plastic and they can be domed with epoxy (polyurethane) resin. The dome provides a hard-wearing, scratch-resistant coating to protect the printed logos and serial number and displaying them clearly. They are water proof and suitable for use in harsh conditions. Domed RFID key fobs look very fancy and professional.

MIFARE DESFire wristbands are usually made of a silicone material which is very comfortable to wear, and they are available in various shapes. Such wristbands are especially useful where we do not carry a wallet (swimming pools, saunas, etc.) or where we must always have it on hand (waiters to enter the cash register, open the door, etc.).

MIFARE DESFire COB tag (Chip on Board) is very simple kind of tag where there is only a small rectangular tie containing the MIFARE DESFire chip and the copper winding. This product is usually built-in other products from plastics, wood, or other non-metallic materials.  

MIFARE DESFire tags with anti-metal protection are used when you need to place a tag on a metallic surface. If you place a tag on a metallic surface without a proper protection, the magnetic fluxes of the reader will induce eddy currents within the conductor and they will cause the chip to not work.

For a quotation, please send the inquiry to

Let us know what kind of MIFARE DESFire transponders do you need, the quantity, the chip type, and other specifications and we will send you an offer. 
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