Frequently Asked Questions about RFID

What is the Printronix Auto ID RFID Printer and Label Validation Lab?

The RFID Printer and Label Validation Lab tests inlays and tags from mainstream manufacturers and interested customers for compatibility and quality assurance with our RFID printers. Testing for compatibility is due to the unusual shapes, sizes and edges of many RFID labels and inlays. We test for quality assurance by measuring the percentage of tags that are successfully encoded. The higher the quality score, the higher productivity users can expect.  If a customer has an unusual tag or inlay , the Lab will also test their tags for compatibility and productivity.  A list of tested inlays and tags can be downloaded from the RFID page on our website.

Is RFID technology better than barcode technology?

The answer depends on many factors such as cost, return on investment (ROI), physical environment, value of the goods to be identified, etc.  RFID does have advantages over barcoding, albeit at higher costs, which include:

  • No physical line of sight is needed to identify an object
  • Faster read times
  • Fewer errors (fewer missed scans and double scans)
  • Easier to uniquely identify and track individual objects

Assuming the ROI makes sense, then RFID can provide significant advantages over barcoding.

What applications are there for RFID? Does your printer work with them all?

New applications are constantly arising as people learn to leverage RFID and find creative applications to solve common problems. Printronix Auto ID RFID printers have been successfully used in retail, aviation parts, transport & logistics, manufacturing, healthcare, cable and wire marking, horticultural, cannabis and many other applications.

Printer compatibility is not limited by the type of application. However, limitations can be associated with the types of labels and tags that are used. Many RFID tags have unusual constructions and chips, so we advise initial testing. If you would like help with testing a particular tag, please contact our RFID Printer and Label Validation Lab at RFID@PrintronixAutoID.com.

 

Do your printers work with “on-metal” tags?

Yes.  Printronix Auto ID has two printers, the T6000e and T4000, that were designed from the ground up to work with on-metal tags. The printers have an above-label antenna construction that allows them to work with a wide range of on-metal tags. The T800 desktop printer can also work with limited on-metal tags constructions, however the printer was not designed specifically for this purpose. Please feel free to contact us for details on which tags work with which printer or take a look at the list of tags  and inlays that have been tested with our printers.

What is the read range for an RFID label?

For UHF Passive RFID labels (the type that work with Printronix printers), typical read ranges are 2 – 10 meters, with some tags readable up to 15 meters. There are many factors that can affect read ranges, such as reader power, environment, chip in use, etc. so each application should be evaluated individually.

How much information can a typical RFID label store?

Most common EPC / GS1 EPC / RAIN labels store between 96 and 128 bits in the EPC memory bank. Originally, 96 bits was considered sufficient for storing a unique EPC number, but with a larger number of objects being tagged, users are migrating to 128 bits. Cheaper chips tend to be limited to 96 or 128 bits. Newer generation chips may have increased EPC memory capacity of up to 496 bits.

The EPC memory bank is just one of four memory banks in a standard RAIN chip. Another memory bank that can be written to by a printer-encoder is User memory.  Cheaper tags generally have no User memory available.  At the other end of the spectrum, there are various “high-memory” chips on the market, which can store up to 64k bits in the User memory.  These higher memory chips tend to be used in specific applications, such as the ATA Spec 2000 for aviation parts marking, with the intent that certain data be stored directly on the tag itself as opposed to a remote database.  An example would be the service record for a critical aviation part.

Where can I get RFID labels?

TSC Printronix Auto ID Genuine Supplies stock RFID labels in common sizes and materials such as 4 ”x 2” and 4 ”x 6 ” labels. Stock labels use industry-standard chips and inlays to ensure wide-range compatibility. Genuine Supplies can also work with you to provide custom sizes, specific chips and/or inlays.  Please contact us at RFID@PrintronixAutoID.com or refer to the TSC Printronix Auto ID Genuine Supplies website for more information.

How difficult is it to set up the printer to encode RFID labels?

We’ve made it easy. Printronix RFID printers have an RFID Auto-Calibration feature which automatically determines the inlay position and appropriate read and write powers. Simply configure the printer as you normally would for standard (non-RFID) media by running the standard media calibration sequence, then run the RFID Auto-Calibration sequence and you’re done.

What is RAIN RFID? Do your printers work with RAIN RFID?

RAIN is an alliance of companies and people promoting the adoption and use of UHF Passive RFID as defined by GS1’s Gen2 UHF protocol (formerly EPC) standard.  This standard has been formalized by ISO/IEC as 18000-63 with a few very minor differences.  Essentially, they are all the same thing.  Printronix Auto ID printers work with this type of RFID – and currently only this type of RFID.

 

What’s the difference between NFC, HF and RFID? Do your printers work with all of them?

RFID is an overarching term that simply means “identifying objects, people, events, etc. by using radio waves.”  RFID encompasses many different technologies and standards.  HF, or High Frequency, uses radio waves in the high frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.  NFC (near-field communications or Near Field Communication) can mean two different things:

  1. The generic form of near-field electromagnetic communications based on near-field induction.  When two electromagnetic devices are close enough, electromotive forces can be transmitted back and forth using near-field induction.  In this sense, near-field communications (lower case) is a generic term encompassing all forms of this technology.  As an example, when you run electrical current through a wire, it generates a nearby magnetic field, which can cause electrical charge movement in a nearby wire.
  2. The trademarked communication standard NFC (Near Field Communication) which is administered by the NFC Forum.  This is a particular type of near-field communications with specific standards and protocols and functions at a frequency of 13.56 MHz.  NFC is used by smart phones for contactless payments, for example.

Although RFID is really a generic, overarching term, many people today use it to refer specifically to a type of RFID formalized by EPCglobal (now part of GS1).  This specific type of RFID is based on UHF (Ultra-High Frequency) Passive (no batteries in the tags) technology and uses radio waves in the frequency band of 860-960 MHz by definition.  So, if you hear “RFID,” make sure to clarify if it refers to RFID in general or to UHF Passive RFID specifically. Printronix Auto ID printers currently support only EPC / GS1 EPC / RAIN / UHF Passive (just different names for the same technology) RFID.

Do your printers encode NFC tags?

No, however there are now some dual-frequency chips on the market, such as em microelectronic’s echo-V chip, which allow encoding via UHF and reading via NFC.  We have tested these chips with our printers, and we were able to successfully encode them and read them with an NFC reader.

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