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Passive RFID Tracks Changes in Structural Micro-Cracks

Dai Nippon Printing has developed a passive adhesive sheet with a built-in Identiv UHF RFID tag, to detect when a crack to which a sheet is affixed widens, and to transmit that event when interrogated.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 12, 2017

Japanese construction companies have been testing a new RFID-enabled product that automates the inspection of infrastructure cracks, with a goal of preventing catastrophic failures to bridges, tunnels or other structures. Dai Nippon Printing Co. (DNP) developed a new tag that employs passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID technology to monitor the conditions of structures as they age. The tag has a built-in Identiv UHF RFID inlay that transmits a unique ID number when interrogated, but that ceases working properly when damaged by the expansion of a small crack on a structure to which it is attached.

The tag has been tested by multiple companies in Japan, according to a DNP spokesperson who has asked to remain unnamed. DNP's full solution consists of the company's Passive IC Tag Sheet with the built-in RFID tag, as well as handheld readers to interrogate those tags and dedicated management software that captures read data, interprets that information and makes the results available to users. It can also display alerts if a tag has not been read properly.

The solution is intended to make inspections faster, easier and more accurate for companies that are responsible for railway tunnels or infrastructure, as well as for road works companies, general contractors for construction sites and local governments.

Much of Japan's infrastructure was built during the country's economic growth period from 1954 to 1973. As a result, many of these structures are still in use but require inspection and maintenance. Owners and operators of infrastructure, such as bridges or tunnels, must monitor the conditions of their structures on a regular basis, for their own purposes as well as to meet regulations by governing bodies. That typically requires inspectors to regularly visit each site, visually inspect existing micro-cracks, and use a tool similar to a ruler that measures the length and width of each crack. Inspectors then manually record the results on paper, and the information must be entered into a management system to compare against earlier results. If the crack has become larger, it may require remedial action.

With RFID, DNP's solution is aimed at making this process more automatic. The Passive IC Tag Sheet is a rubberized tag measuring 60 millimeters by 108 millimeters, with an adhesive back that is affixed directly over a micro-crack that needs to be watched. The sheet has a built-in tamper-evident Identiv inlay. The rubber on the Passive IC Tag Sheet allows the tag the flexibility to adjust with any widening of a crack over which it is placed. Identiv tuned the antenna on its inlay to accommodate the material to which the tag would typically be applied, in order to ensure a proper read from a handheld reader, says Manfred Mueller, Identiv's chief operating officer.

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