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Siemens to RFID-Tag Its Gear Motors

The company says it will soon begin incorporating an Omni-ID RFID label in the nameplate of each Simogear electric gear motor it makes, so that customers can quickly identify a motor even when it is installed in a hard-to-access location.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 13, 2013

Customers of global electronics company Siemens have begun testing the radio frequency identification technology built into the firm's Simogear series of electric gear motors that will enable users to more easily track the units, as well as their maintenance history and order replacements. In January 2013, Siemens began testing several different types of Omni-ID passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID labels on the nameplates of Simogear products. Based on the results of this testing, the company will soon include a custom version of Omni-ID's on-metal, printable IQ 400 label on every Simogear product it produces.

Simogear motors are installed in conveyor systems, roller coasters and other large equipment, and users must regularly maintain them in order to ensure their proper operation. That is not a simple process, says Benjamin McDow, Siemens' senior application engineer for Simogear products, since the gear motors can be difficult to access. For that reason, personnel often must shut down a belt or equipment, and then crawl under or into machinery to examine the unit's housing and its printed serial number or bar code, in order to identify that item and then order a replacement.

Simogear electric gear motors, typically installed in conveyors, roller coasters and other hard-to-access machinery, will soon be fitted with Omni-ID RFID labels, to facilitate the motors' maintenance.

Each unit, explains Richard Mintz Jr., the marketing manager of Siemens' gear motor business, is uniquely configured for an end user's particular needs, and is then assigned a serial number, while a nameplate listing that number is attached to the motor's housing. "These are not the kind of product you can go into a catalog and order," he points out. Therefore, users are accustomed to performing extra work to identify the proper unit for replacement and maintenance, which not only can require some climbing under equipment, but also may necessitate the use of flashlights and mirrors to read the numbers, which are printed in a very small font. "There is lots of room for error in that process," McDow states, while the task is also highly time-consuming. A bottling plant, for example, may have 1,000 gear motors, each of which must be individually checked.

By using RFID, a worker could simply walk up to the machinery holding a handheld reader, capture the ID number (known as a Smart Number), which is linked to the part's serial number in the company's software, and place a replacement order with Siemens.

Siemens will use a custom-designed version of Omni-ID's IQ 400 printable on-metal RFID label, which will also be printed with the item's Smart Number, serial number and other data. "We did a search of quite a few vendors," McDow says, "and Omni-ID provided the best product," based on size and read distance.

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