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MWT Materials Brings RFID Shielding to Fish-Processing Plants, Airports

The company's isolation curtains and RF-blocking pads enable users to better control where RFID reader transmissions go, as well as prevent inadvertent tag readings.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 15, 2016

For the past four years, MWT Materials has been selling RF-absorbing curtains and pads to RFID technology users to boost the effectiveness of tag reads. In recent months, fish-processing solutions provider Marel, McCarran International Airport, in Las Vegas, and other businesses have installed these RF-isolating curtains to improve the reading of passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags.

Based in Passaic, N.J., MWT Materials (like its predecessor, Millimeter Wave Technology) has been providing RF-absorbing material to the U.S. Navy and other U.S. Department of Defense customers since the early 1990s. The Navy uses this material to absorb radar RF signals on some U.S. vessels. The company also manufactures RF-absorbing products for use with MRI machines (to enhance images), and for improving cell tower signals.

MWT Materials' RFID Portal Isolation Curtain (MAC-9101) is composed of RF-reflective exterior panels and RF-absorbing coupled interior panels.

However, products that block radar signals can also be used to control the transmission of signals by RFID readers, according to Marc Grun, MWT Materials' sales and marketing director. So about four years ago, the company sold its first product for preventing stray reads of passive UHF RFID tags to McCarran International Airport, which used the curtains to improve the read efficiency of the UHF RFID reader tunnels that were part of the airport's existing baggage-handling system. During the past year, the airport has purchased additional curtains for use at its Terminal 3.

When luggage or other RFID-tagged objects pass down a conveyor, the problem of stray reads from tags at other locations within the vicinity can require users to "dial down" the reader signal, ensuring that only tags directly in front of the device capture and respond to its signal. But with a reader's transmission power decreased, a user typically needs to reduce conveyor speed in order to ensure that every tag is interrogated as it passes. The result is that reading tags can be a slower process, with lower read rates, than if the reader were set for a longer transmission range.

The airport had already installed several hundred of MWT Materials' RFID Portal Isolation Curtains (model MAC-9101), Grun says, at the entrance and exit to each reader tunnel, through which RFID-tagged baggage passes on its way to or from a flight. The curtains ensure that only the tags within the tunnel are read, he explains, and allows for increased line speed, thereby resulting in faster luggage delivery to passengers. During the past year, Grun reports, McCarran has purchased approximately 150 additional curtains for use at Terminal 3. (The airport's RFID system and installation provider did not respond to a request for comments.)

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