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The 2021 Guide to RFID Chips for Manufacturing and the Supply Chain

by Cheryl Lininger on October 9, 2020
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NOTE: This blog was originally published in May 2019. It has been updated with the latest information and best practices for 2020 and 2021.

A Note on the State of RFID for Manufacturing

With health and safety top of mind for manufacturers during the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more are turning to technologies like RFID.

RFID not only provides workers and managers better and more timely data and information, it provides a safer work environment. RFID can automate processes and data collection, so employees aren’t putting themselves in harm’s way to collect data or track processes. You can reduce risk and the number of people in the factory.

RFID can also be used to restrict and track movement, enforcing social distancing regulations even in a crowded factory or in an office. When used in conjunction with on-site signage, you can increase the safety of employees and visitors.

Other manufacturers are using RFID to accelerate and improve shipping processes. Rather than putting more people in the warehouse, the company is working smarter using RFID and automation to ship faster and with fewer errors.

During these challenging times, technology like RFID is providing critical support for businesses.

A Look at RFID for Manufacturing

For any business, but especially for manufacturers, using the right tool is critical.

You wouldn’t build a computer board with a hammer, and you wouldn’t use a drill press to mix polymers.

The same rule applies to your RFID technology. With so many options, it is important to identify your requirements and use those requirements to select the right products and technology for your needs.

If not, your team may struggle with an inadequate solution that creates more problems than it solves. Efficiency won’t be a priority — simply getting the job done is all you can hope for.

Job site safety and productivity.
See what RFID for Manufacturers can do.

Not to worry — in this guide we’ll cover some of the latest products and trends in RFID chip technology to help you match your needs to the right tool.

What Can RFID Chips Do for Manufacturers?

RFID is a system for storing and transmitting digital information. It connects the physical world, the shop and the products being built, to the digital world, your ERP, inventory systems, and electronic databases.

When successfully implemented, RFID can gather, process and transmit vast amounts of valuable information. Even better, it can do so error-free with minimal human interaction.

Types of RFID Chips and Tags

There are several components to an RFID system. RFID tags and chips are the components connected to physical objects, collecting the data. RFID readers gather that data and transmit it to another system, while RFID printers create the tags with an embedded chip.

Every RFID chip has two parts. A microchip stores data, while an antenna transmits it. There are also two types of RFID chips:

  • Passive RFID chips use energy from an RFID reader to transmit data when initiated by the reader.
  • Active RFID chips contain a battery to transmit the data to readers in range.

An RFID tag, containing a chip, can be attached to almost anything. This includes a simple adhesive label to a more durable media such as imprinted metal.

Characteristics of RFID Chips

There are several characteristics which define an RFID chip. Selecting the correct chip for your requirements will depend on these characteristics, including:

  • Frequency: The RFID tag will transmit on a frequency. Passive tags transmit on Low Frequency (125 – 134 KHz), High Frequency (13.56 MHz), or Ultra High Frequency, also known as Near-Field Communication (865 – 960 MHz). There may be some interference between the chip and readers, depending on ambient signals in the facility, which should guide your selection.
  • Memory Size: The larger the memory size contained on the microcircuits, the more data that can be contained on the chip. Many of the newer chips utilize next-gen, optimized memory options, which can potentially increase the cost of the chip. You’ll want to select a chip with more than enough memory for your requirements, at a cost point you can afford.
  • Read/Write Sensitivity: There are several factors which can impact the read/write sensitivity of a chip, or how easily data can be transmitted to or from the chip. Power consumption, for example, will affect sensitivity. Writing to a chip will require more power. A chip with lower sensitivity will also have a reduced read range. Passive chips, which draw on power from the reader, typically have a lower range due to power needs.
  • Read Distance: There is an optimal and maximum range for chips to transmit data. Longer ranges will require more power or a more sensitive chip, which can drive up the cost of the RFID application.
  • Tag Media: Consider the end use of the RFID chip, and possible environmental damage that could hurt the data. A more delicate chip would not be appropriate when applied to industrial applications, in harsh environments, and when requiring more durable media.

Prominent RFID Chip Manufacturers

There are several options when it comes to chip manufacturers.

The Higgs Series IC (Integrated Chips) from Alien Technology offers several different chips for a range of applications, including the Higgs-9 with optimized memory and best-in-class read/write sensitivity. The Impinj R Series chips are focused on Internet of Things (IoT) applications, while the NXP RFID and NFC chips include HITAG chips that use lower frequencies for harsh and demanding applications.  

For even more flexibility, look to reliable RFID printers that can accurately and efficiently print and encode RFID labels, tags, and cards. Zebra offers a range of printers suitable for multiple applications.

Getting Started with RFID Technology

While this guide will provide a broad background into RFID chips, we suggest working with a consultant that specializes in RFID applications before implementing a solution. They understand the tools and solutions on the market, and can often select and design a solution that better meets your needs in less time and for a lower cost.

For more information, contact the GO2 Material ID experts in RFID.

Topics: RFID tags, RFID Labels, Manufacturing, Inventory