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Turck USA's Customers Install UHF RFID Solutions in Factories

The factory-automation company developed passive UHF tags and hardware as a longer read-range alternative to its HF RFID solution, so that its customers can track assets and products.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 20, 2013Factory automation equipment company Turck USA, a division of German firm Turck, reports that some of its customers have begun using its passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags and transceivers (readers) to collect data regarding the movements of tagged assets and products within their facilities. The UHF RFID technology provides a longer range than the Turck high-frequency (HF) systems those companies had previously employed, and thus enable the reading of tags from fixed transceivers at such locations as dock doors.

Turck USA has provided its BL ident RFID technology to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), as well as automotive and pharmaceutical companies and other end users, since 2007. The firm manufactures products designed for industrial automation, including HF 13.56 MHz tags and transceivers complying with the ISO 15693 standard (see Turck Introduces Modular RFID System for Controlling Machines). The tags are typically attached to items such as automotive parts, so that they can be tracked while moving through the facility for the purpose of inventory management, as well as for monitoring work in progress as components are assembled.

Turck USA's Matt Boudjouk
Until recently, the company provided only HF technology, which it was able to develop and commercialize faster than a UHF solution. Using Turck's 18-millimeter (0.7-inch) barrel-shaped fixed transceiver or a handheld reader, a worker could capture a tag ID and any other data, or write information to that tag at close range. The process improves on the practice of utilizing bar codes to identify parts during manufacturing, the company explains, since RFID tags do not require a clear line of sight with a reader, making it much easier to capture a tag's data than to scan a bar-coded serial number.

However, says Matt Boudjouk, Turck USA's RFID and modular IO (input-output) product manager, UHF technology creates new deployment opportunities. Some RFID installations do not allow for transceivers to be mounted close to a tagged product or part, he says, which makes a fixed HF solution impossible. The company, therefore, has developed passive EPC Gen 2 UHF tags able to sustain the hard knocks related to manufacturing, with housings developed for specific use cases. The tags are also able to operate within automotive paint shops or other environments in which temperatures may reach 300 degrees Celsius (572 degrees Fahrenheit).

Turck USA's customers that are using UHF technology have typically installed the company's transceivers in portals or on ceilings above assembly areas, and attach tags to products via either adhesive backing or bolts. Each tag can contain up to 138 bytes of memory, so users can store a unique identifier and other information, such as a part's number and date of manufacture.

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