A Beginners’ Guide to On-Metal RFID Tags (And How They Can Help Your Business)

RFID on-metal tags are one of the AIDC industry’s best-kept secrets, but with new advancements in RFID printing technology, they’re now proving to be a viable revenue opportunity for value-added resellers.

Learn more about RFID on-metal tags, why we need them, and how they can help your business in our beginners’ guide to this RFID technology.

What are On-Metal RFID Tags – and Why Do We Need Them?

You’re probably already familiar with traditional RFID smart labels which include a memory chip and an antenna. When most people think of RFID labels, that’s what comes to mind.

Here’s the problem.

Traditional RFID labels work with most RFID applications except when they’re used on metal or liquid products.

Both substances interfere with the radio waves this technology needs to work. In the case of metal, this material reflects and blocks radio waves. As a result, you should not rely on regular RFID labels for tagging metal objects.

Enter the development of on-metal RFID tags.

On-metal RFID tags use a thin layer of insulation which creates a needed distance between the inlay (the antenna and chip) and the metal object. Without this insulator, the radio signal can be completely blocked or reflected, and the RFID technology won’t work reliably.

On-Metal RFID Printing Technology Throughout the Years: Past, Present & Future

Early Years of Commercial RFID Technology

During the early years of commercial RFID technology, on-metal RFID tags were limited to pre-printed, pre-encoded tags.

Recently, however, manufacturers like Avery Dennison, Metalcraft, Confidex, Omni-ID, BoingTech, and Xerafy have started coming out with on-site printable (and encodable) on-metal tags. These RFID on-metal tags are on rolls which you can run through a thermal printer.

Like most aspects of RFID technology, getting these on-metal RFID labels to be a viable, useful commodity product has been a process.

The early iterations tended to be too thick and/or stiff for the RFID printers on the market. Also, there were often problems feeding the on-metal tags through RFID printers, as various edges of the media tended to catch in some of the printers’ mechanisms.

Eventually, on-metal RFID label manufacturers, like the ones listed above, refined their solutions to overcome most of these problems.

But the RFID industry still had a problem – namely, the design of RFID printers, which were made with the encoding antenna positioned under the label’s path.

New RFID Designs

RFID on-metal tags incorporate the insulating layer under the inlay on the back of the tag, but this prevents the signal from the printer’s antenna from communicating reliably with the tag’s antenna.

To solve this problem, some on-metal label manufacturers pursued new designs. Accordingly, today, there are on-metal tags that can work with a conventional RFID printer, but not all on-metal tags are designed in this way. This limits the choice of on-metal tags you can use with a conventional RFID printer – both today and in the future.

The challenge, then, in some ways remains the same. If you don’t use on-metal tags specifically designed for conventional RFID printers, you will not get an acceptable yield (the percentage of tags successfully encoded) when you run rolls of on-metal RFID tags through RFID printers with antennae under the label path.

So, how do you solve this problem?

Easy: The new on-metal RFID printers from Printronix Auto ID.

Printronix Auto ID’s On-Metal RFID Solutions

As we previously mentioned, most on-metal RFID tags include a foam insulator and a metal foil backing which makes them incompatible with most standard RFID printer/encoders.

That’s why we built our T4000 RFID printer and the upcoming T6000e printer from the ground up to include the RFID antenna above the label path.

With this game-changing design, you can communicate directly with the RFID tag without having to worry about insulation material or making sure you have an RFID tag with a wraparound antenna construction.

We designed these printers from the ground up to print and encode on-metal RFID labels, but they still work with traditional smart labels.

Learn more about the T4000 here.

Why You Should Consider Selling RFID Solutions

Most AIDC value-added resellers and integrators specialize in 1D and/or 2D barcode solutions. While that’s all well and good, you’re missing out on a significant market opportunity if you ignore the possibilities of RFID technology.

Here’s why.

RFID technology is more advanced than ever and offers numerous benefits including reducing the time it takes to count items by 98%. It’s also a burgeoning market; researchers predict that RFID technology will continue to grow for the foreseeable future, reaching a total of $13.4 billion by 2022.

RFID solutions also tend to have a higher ROI for your customers, so you should consider learning about this technology and supplementing your existing barcode offerings with RFID.

How Using On-Metal RFID Tags & Printing Solutions Can Help Resellers

Now, let’s dig into why someone would need on-metal tags.

Here’s the thing. Offering traditional RFID smart labels will only work for items made of “RFID-friendly” materials. Depending on the customers you’re working with and the assets they’re trying to tag, you’ll most likely run into the need for on-metal tags.

Consider some of the common industry applications that can require on-metal tags:

  • Automotive: Numerous metal parts and machinery in manufacturing and later throughout the supply chain
  • Healthcare: Diagnostic equipment, metal gurneys, etc.
  • Computing Technology: Server racks, patch panels, etc.
  • Construction: Yards with metal pipes, beams, etc.

RFID solutions make good business sense for all four of these industries. If you want to break into these industries, you should consider adding RFID solutions to your portfolio. And make sure to include on-metal capabilities as part of any RFID offering.

How Printronix Auto ID’s New RFID Printers Can Help You Sell and Install Solutions (Including for On-Metal Applications) More Easily

Using Printronix Auto ID RFID solutions like the T4000 and the T6000e (coming soon!) gives you the opportunity to sell, install, and deploy both conventional and on-metal RFID solutions to a variety of industries. That’s because these RFID printers can print and encode both on-metal and smart labels.

So, no matter what RFID label needs your customers have, you can meet them in one compact solution.


On-metal RFID tags and printers give value-added resellers the ability to expand into new industries and sell more than traditional barcode solutions.

Interested in learning more about the benefits of RFID, on-metal RFID tags, or how you can grow your business by offering RFID solutions from Printronix Auto ID? Get in touch with us today!

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