Your Top 10 RFID Label Questions: The Automotive Industry Edition
The automotive experts answer your top 10 questions about all things RFID labels.
As you scroll through the web searching for information on RFID technology in the automotive industry, you will find multiple articles discussing the many RFID benefits.
Not only are automotive RFID systems disrupting the supply chain, but connected, autonomous, shared, and electric (C.A.S.E.) mobility services are on the rise. Adopting a flexible, future-focused mindset around these technologies allows for companies to get ahead of the curve.
Despite all of the clear benefits, RFID can still be confusing.
How exactly does it work?
Are there RFID standards?
Is RFID durable?
We get asked these questions a lot from our customers, so we thought we will share our expertise, from both ALT and one of our trusted RFID manufacturers, Avery Dennison. These answers can help you make the right decisions for your automotive plant and company.
These answers focus on Ultra High Frequency (UHF) passive RFIDs, also known as RAIN RFIDs.
Because frequency standards vary from country to country, how are shipments tracked on a global level?
Each country defines its frequency standards; however, most RFIDs are designed for global use. The RFID readers are set to the frequency, therefore making them applicable to the region. Only some particular RFID designs, such as the on-metal tags, can be tuned for regional frequencies.
What kind of limitations are there for RFIDs in certain environments? Could metal surroundings or other radio waves affect the RFID reading (distance)?
The RFIDs are passive, and they will reflect (backscatter) the radio waves they receive from an automotive RFID reader. Metal, concrete walls or other radio waves will affect or even block the signal from the reader or RFID and have an influence on readability and read-distance. Despite these, the automotive RFID benefits still far outweigh the limitations mentioned above.
And in most cases we can find workarounds that allow the tags to work appropriately. For example, by carefully positioning and tuning the reader’s signal, you can ensure it is not blocked or is in any way interfered with. By using flagtags or foam tags on a metal surface, we make sure that the tags can backscatter without signal disturbance.
Is it possible to overwrite previously encoded data on an RFID tag?
Normally, anyone can encode information on the chip by adding to or overwriting previous data. But some chips also offer the possibility of lock memory banks and digital signature creation. However, the unique tag ID number, which is stored in the TID (tag ID) memory block, cannot be changed by anyone.
For example, NXP is offering three different security versions of the Ucode7XM (7XM, 7XM+ and DNA). This series of secure RFIDs are best suited for applications which require high read range and that demand an extended user memory to store data. OEMs can encrypt the information, but they have standard formats on how they save data.
You can read more about how RFID labels work in this article.
Can a batch of RFID labels be read together?
In most situations, the RFID reader will read all RFID tags within a specific range or area as one batch. The reader will recognise all individual unique ID codes in a split second.
The tag uses the reader signal to power up and respond to a request for the data. The tag then modulates, or regulates, the carrier signal from the reader and reflects (backscatters) the signal. This low amplitude signal is detected and decoded by the reader.
Most RFIDs have a read range of approximately 10 meters, provided nothing interferes with the radio signals.
The maximum read range for smaller antennas is as follows: a 70mm wide antenna has a read range of approximately 10 meters, while a 40mm wide antenna has a read range of about 8 meters. Antennas with a width of around 20mm will have a read range of approximately 2-4 meters.
Do RFID readers need to be positioned in each area, and what is the reading range of each RFID reader? Also does ALT supply these readers?
You will need a separate reader in each area in your facility where you would like to create a reading point. Most readers will have a range of 10 meters or more, but for every reading point, you must fine-tune the reader to the most optimum settings. Sometimes this involves reducing the power and the reading range.
ALT does not supply the hardware and software required for RFID implementation, but we have partnerships with companies that do, such as printer suppliers and integrators. Because of this, we can always bring you into contact with the right people.
Can RFID labels be used at varying temperature degrees?
The typical operating temperature range for an RFID inlay inside a label is from -40C to +85°C. However, most RFID labels with their adhesives can withstand -40°C to +150°C, which are the usual temperatures that the labels are subjected to during testing. RFID inlays might not be readable at these temperatures, but they will survive and can be read when back to operating temperature.
Are there any differences between the OEM RFID specifications?
OEM’s are selecting the RFIDs to best suit their process. There are a number of variables that need to be assessed; the tag design, memory and antenna design are just a few of the variables.
We’ve been working with so many customers and OEM’s that we know which direction to take and can advise you on the right solutions. For example, ALT can convert the different RFIDs into a standard label with predefined materials and a predefined size to fit your custom solutions. Now that OEMs are also applying RFID in their processes in many ways beyond label solutions, RFID is only becoming more integral to our businesses.
How are RFIDs printed?
Just like you print your current barcode labels. There is no need to change your process; just use a printer with RFID encoding enabled.
The RFID is encoded and printed at the same time. Almost all printer manufacturers have RFID-enabled printers for this which look exactly the same as your current barcode printers. They work in a similar way to barcode printing. Depending on the database location, these processes can be both online and offline.
Learn more about RFID encoding printers in our article on this topic.
Do we need specific printers with RFID encoding capabilities?
Yes. Almost all printer brands have RFID modules or printers. The printers and readers are suited to work with any RFIDs, although settings might need to be adjusted. This means you can cover all customers with one type of printer and reader.
ALT can help you choose the correct printer for your RFID solutions.
Is there a scenario where RFID could replace bar code labels altogether?
We believe that barcode and RFID will always be combined. This way, you not only create a redundancy system in case one of them fails, but you also ensure that facilities that do not have RFID readers installed (yet) can still function.
The Next Revolution Is Here; Industry 4.0
RFID integration does not only cater to a service for the OEM, but can create even more transparent processes within your company due to its vast potential. Preparing your logistical and supplier processes now will ready you for tackling any future challenges you will face due to Industry 4.0’s digital transformations.
ALT Technologies has been working together with Tier 1 suppliers in the automotive industry and RFID manufacturers for over 20 years. We have the experience and partners to create a streamlined solution that best suits your needs.
If you would like more information on RFID process integration, our RFID label converting solutions or customer-specific engineering process, please do not hesitate to contact us.