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MAINtag Beefs Up Its RFID Offerings, to Meet Demands in Aerospace

The French company opened a division in the U.S., and is expanding its tag, reader and software portfolio to address the growing needs of the aerospace industry for tracking parts.
By Claire Swedberg
More recently, the company introduced an aluminum bracket and aluminum name plate version for the non-adhesive mounting of its tags, as well as the FLYtag HT and nanoHT models—which, according to the company, are both lighter than the standard FLYtag model and are designed to operate in the presence of heat. FLYtag fiber, released in this quarter of 2012, is designed for life vests and plastic parts, while the FLYtag skin will be released during the first quarter of 2013, and is more lightweight and flexible to fit curved surfaces. Like the other tags in the line, the FLYtag HT, nanoHT and FLYtag skin are available in low- and high-memory versions, while the FLYtag fiber is available in low-memory form only. The HT tags are expected to be made available next month. All of MAINtag's high-memory tags, as well as some of its low-memory models, are made with Tego's high-memory chip.

The company also offers its MOBIpad AT2 handheld reader (released in 2010), with a built-in camera for picture-data association, and a 2-D bar-code scanner. In March 2013, the firm will release is WAVEbox pad, for desktop reading, with built-in FLYtag Manager software; the WAVEbox print, for encoding and printing RFID tags; and the WAVEbox access, a fixed reader for installation in portals, with a read range of 4 meters to 8 meters (13 feet to 26 feet). The FLYtag MobiPACK, available now, is a kit that includes the MOBIpad handheld interrogator, as well as five standard-size FLYtag 8-kilobyte tags, five FLYtag nano 8-kilobyte tags and software to manage read data.

The FLYtag fiber is designed for tagging life vests and plastic parts.
According to Beurdeley, MAINtag is the only RFID company that is aerospace-certified (ISO 9001 and EN/AS/JISQ 9100), and its tags have passed independent testing from Airbus, as well as from Parker Hannifin (see A Flurry of High-Memory Tags Take Flight) and Honeywell. All three of these companies, he says, are utilizing the FLYtag.

MAINtag's North American division, Beurdeley says, is currently in discussions with Boeing and Brazil's Embraer regarding the use of its RFID technology for parts tracking. The firm reports that it is also providing its technology, or is discussing doing so, with all major manufacturers of Airbus' life vests, as well as makers of the aircraft seats. Airbus requires that the life vests be tagged by March, and that the seats be tagged by the end of next year.

One such company, Switlik, which manufacturers life vests for Airbus, is preparing to meet the RFID-based mandate by March 2013, says Ross Hallen, Switlik's director of marketing and business development. EAM Worldwide, an Airbus supplier based in Florida, has already been tagging its life vests—building the tags directly into each vest—since 2009 (see RFID Finally Cleared for Takeoff). It also opened its own RFID division in 2010, which developed software to manage reads of its RFID-tagged parts before they leave the facility, explains Eloy Leal, EAM's director of operations and engineering. The company has been utilizing tags containing 512 bits of memory, but is considering switching to tags with 1 or 2 kilobits, and is presently testing the FLYtags, among others models, for this purpose. What's more, EAM sells its RFID-based software to other businesses in the aerospace industry, as well as within other sectors, such as fire departments looking to track assets.

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