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Dutch Tire Company Bonds EPC Tags to Retreads

Roline is using a solution from Ferm RFID to better manage its retreading and inventory processes, and to enable customers to track tires installed on their vehicles.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 04, 2013

Dutch truck tire and retreading company Roline is embedding radio frequency identification tags in the tires that it retreads, not only to better manage its own production processes and warehousing, but also to enable its customers to track the tires they install on their fleets of trucks, buses or cars. The passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags and readers were provided by Ferm RFID Solutions, also based in the Netherlands. The tags are manufactured by Smart Res, while the readers are made by Motorola Solutions, as well as by Microelectronics Technology Inc. (MTI).

Though Roline sells between 7,000 and 10,000 new tires annually, it also retreads approximately 550 tires each week, totaling as many as 25,000 to 30,000 every year. Retreading is big business, the firm reports, since it potentially saves customers large sums of money. A company typically pays $1,300 for a new tire, but only about $450 to retread one that is worn out.

The front of the rubberized patch tag can be printed; a passive EPC Gen 2 RFID inlay is attached to the patch's back side.

Until Roline ships the new or retreaded tires to customers, it stores them in racks located within its warehouse. Last year, the company began working with Ferm RFID to develop a solution that could identify the tires on the racks, says Hans Jorg, Roline's project manager. Additionally, the firm began investigating other ways in which the technology could be used to manage the retreading process, as well as enable customers to manage their own vehicle fleets via the tires' RFID tags.

Before being approached by Roline, Ferm RFID had already worked with Smart Res to develop an RFID tag in the form of a rubber patch that can be permanently bonded to the exterior surface of a tire's rubber sidewall, says Jos Uijlenbroek, Ferm RFID's international program manager. A couple of tire companies, including LeCont, have trialed the patches. Therefore, when Roline explained its requirements to Ferm RFID, the two businesses agreed to develop a solution employing a permanent tag for use on retreads, along with a disposable RFID label for new tires.

The resulting solution consists of a permanent rubberized patch tag for retread tires, a disposable adhesive RFID tag for new tires, and handheld and fixed readers to track the tires through the retread and storage processes. According to Jorg, the software that manages the RFID data, supplied by ABP Dynamics, is integrated with Microsoft's Dynamics-NAV solution, enabling Roline to generate reports that identify recurring issues. The system was taken live at the end of 2012, he reports.

In the case of retreads, Jorg explains, Roline receives the worn tires from its customers, as well as from other sources, and then examines them to determine whether they qualify for "a second life." If a tire passes inspection, the firm buffs away the remaining tread, repairs any damage, applies a layer of treaded rubber to the buffed surface and attaches a rubberized patch RFID tag to the tire's wall. The ID number encoded to that passive EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID tag is then stored in software co-developed by ABP Dynamics and Roline, and is stored in Roline's database. The new tread is applied to the tire, which is then placed into an oven, where the rubber is vulcanized by being heated to approximately 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit) for four hours.

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