There are many RFID chips, inlays and tags on the market and new ones are being introduced on an almost daily basis. Some of these chips, notably high-memory chips, are specifically designed to meet the challenges of complex applications.
This blog is meant to introduce you to high-memory chips, explain how they differ from standard chips or chips with less memory capacity, commodity type chips, and offer some insights as to when you might use a high-memory chip.
Standard RFID Chips
Let’s talk about the most common and widely used chips for RAIN RFID. Standard chips are affordable and typically store 96 or 128 bytes in the EPC/UII memory bank. These chips tend to offer limited or no user memory. These low-memory chips serve to store a simple EPC number (or UII, if you are using the ISO standard), which then acts as a pointer to the item’s digital twin in the Cloud or on a host system. Information about the item is not stored on the chip itself, rather the data is stored elsewhere in a database. You may hear this type of chip referred to as low-memory, commodity or even utility chip. The idea is all the same: A simple EPC/UII number stored in EPC memory acts only as the item’s license plate or identifier. The advantages of such chips include low-cost and the inherent benefits of having a remote digital twin.
High-Memory RFID Chips
High-memory chips have been around for a number of years. They faded from the spotlight as the digital twin approach garnered a larger share of attention – primarily due to cost and read/write speed. However, high-memory chips are now re-emerging as an alternative. When product data should be stored directly with the item rather than in a remote database, high-memory chips make sense.
High-memory chips differ from standard chips primarily in the amount of available user memory. High-memory chips normally have between 1 K to 8 K bytes available, but there are even a few with 64 K bytes in user memory. In addition, high-memory chips may support advanced RFID commands that can be used with the additional memory, such as permalocking and setting the write depth of a specific range of user memory.
Typical applications for high-memory chips are usually based on one of three principles:
- The connection to a remote database (digital twin approach) may not be reliable enough or even possible. Imagine trying to service an aircraft at a remote airfield in the Amazon rainforest, or accessing maintenance records for a high-value drill bit at an oil field in the Arctic.
- The connection to a remote database may not be fast enough to keep pace with automation processes. Imagine an automotive production line where speed is critical. With the memory directly on the chip, data can be read – and written to – more quickly than going through a connection to a database.
- A particular industry and/or application issues a mandate or guideline- that calls for the use of high-memory chips. The classic example here is ATA Spec 2000 for marking parts in the aviation industry. High-memory chips are not actually required with ATA Spec 2000, but they are presented as an alternative.
Common Applications and Industries for High-memory Chips
Probably the most visible is the previously mentioned aviation parts marking, but there are others. Factory automation (FA), where production speed is critical, is a growing market for high-memory chips. Anywhere you have high-value assets that are subject to lifecycle records, high-memory chips may make more sense.
You may hear the terms single-, dual- and multi-record in connection with high-memory chips. These terms roughly equate to the number of data records one might write to the chip during its life. A single-record chip might, for example, only record the birth record of the product. A dual-record chip could be used to track the birth record and an activation date (when the product first gets used). Finally, a multi-record chip could be used to track a product’s maintenance history throughout the life of the product.
Which Chip is the Way Forward?
Standard RFID chips fulfill most application requirements and are more economical. So, they most certainly have their place. However, high-memory chips have their place too. It comes down to the specific application needs and any possible mandates. In short, if maintaining data records directly on the chip makes sense, then you will want to investigate high-memory chips.
Printronix Auto ID RFID Printers
Printronix Auto ID RFID printers support both standard and high-memory chips. Whether you only need to encode a simple EPC number or encode more complex data to user memory, such as a birth record, our printers can work with most RAIN-compatible chips. Many advanced commands such as permalocking and setting write depth a specific range of memory are also supported.
Printronix Auto ID RFID Printer and Label Validation Lab
Working with tags that have high-memory chips and a thermal printer can be complex. You might be concerned about compatibility between your label and printer. Printronix Auto ID can work with you to test your specific label in our RFID Label and Verification Lab. The lab tests common RFID labels and inlays from most major RFID manufacturers, but we also work with individual customers to assure compatibility and functionality for their specific label.