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Michelin Ramps Up Tagging Program, Launches RFID-based App

To support that effort, the company adopted a high-speed, wide-band tag-testing system and released a hosted RFID-based solution for tracking tire air pressure.
By Claire Swedberg

"Tags are embedded into tires before the curing process; once cured, it's irreversible," says Julien Destraves, Michelin's RFID integration design engineer. And a working tag is important not only to Michelin, but to its customers. "A lack of read range due to bad tags will lead to a denial of service for our customers," he explains. "That is why we want to ensure 100 percent of quality check."

Testing tags in high volumes prior to manufacturing is not an easy task, however. The test needs to be conducted with a large quantity of tags very quickly, Destraves explains.

Michelin's tire tag is designed to compensate for the detuning effects of a tire's rubber and steel belts.
In 2012, Michelin began consulting with Voyantic to develop a testing system to be used with Hana RFID tags before they left its facility, and again at Michelin's factory before they were placed into the tires, recalls Niina Aurén, Voyantic's RFID testers product manager. "They wanted a reliable testing solution for high-speed testing while guaranteeing all the tags would work similarly," she states.

Voyantic developed a solution that includes its Tagsurance tester—which employs the EPC Gen 2 protocol to measure the tag's operational sensitivity—and the Snoop Pro coupling element, which functions as a near-field UHF reader antenna. The solution is designed to provide wide-band testing, from 800 to 1100 MHz, to cover the entire UHF band within which the tag could transmit. Tires are composed of rubber and steel plies that create a detuning effect, she says, so it's that much more important for a tester to confirm that the entire RF band is working properly.

The testing was taken live in 2014 with a single manual testing station at Michelin, followed by another at the Hana manufacturing facility. There are now two testing stations in use by Hana, says John Erdmann, Hana Microdisplay Technologies' president and CEO—one in Ohio and the other in Thailand. "We plan to add a second system in Ohio and one in another plant of ours in China," he says.

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