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Stick-on tags reduce the cost of industrial RFID

Thu, 05/24/2012 - 2:17pm
Helge Hornis, Ph. D., Pepperl+Fuchs, www.pepperl-fuchs.com

Industrial RFID solutions used to be very expensive. About 10 years ago the cost of a typical RFID tag was about $50.00 and simple RS232 readers could easily cost upwards of $1000.  

A lot has changed as far as readers and controllers are concerned; prices have come down while functionality and performance have gone up significantly. Industrial RFID electronics are still costly, mainly because industrial users require — and demand — industrially tough housings and designs. Short-circuit and overload protection are a must. And modern controllers need to be able to deal with electro-magnetic noise levels that are higher than ever before. Additionally, users now insist on quick disconnects where simple and less costly screw terminals used to be fine.  

Mounting requirements have also changed. RFID electronics used to be mounted inside of junction boxes and control cabinets, allowing suppliers to design their products with IP20 in mind; reducing material cost and making the design much simpler where heat dissipation, for example, was not an issue. Today, industrial RFID solutions need to be at least IP65, a much tougher and more costly task.  

Although today's industrial RFID electronics offer a lot more, they still cost 20 to 30 percent less than older solutions. In addition, simpler and faster installation in the field, an approximate 50 percent savings is certainly possible.

While the cost of a typical RFID tag has come down, today's industrial RFID tags can provide even more cost-saving opportunities. A tag that used to cost $50.00 now sells for $5.00. But in addition to a lower purchasing price, reducing the cost and complexity of mounting industrial RFID tags can contribute significantly to a lower price point. Consider this. A medium size RFID system uses 10 to 15 read/write points. That same system may have to deal with 500 pallets, hangers, or carriers. In the past, these tags were typically screw mounted; using one or two mounting holes integrated into the tag design.  

Drilling these holes into a metal pallet easily required at least one minute per hole, translating mounting times into days rather than hours. Today, many installation challenges can be solved reliably using an RFID tag with an adhesive backing, reducing the installation time per tag to a few seconds. Before selecting a stick-on tag, it's important for users to consider the mounting surface.  While any tag can be directly mounted onto plastic and other non-metallic materials, only specially designed tags can be placed onto metal surfaces. Using a variety of methods, from employing ferrite cores to including a thin layer of metal and then correcting for the detuning effects, manufacturers of stick-on tags are now offering inexpensive stick-on solutions for most applications.
    
Clearly, stick-on tags are not the solution for every application, but considering that helicopter blades are held together with glue, users may feel a lot more confident that a stick-on tag is a viable and reliable alternative to screw mounting industrial RFID tags, further reducing the implementation cost of a modern industrial RFID system.

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