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RFID Takes Flight at Rockwell Collins

The company has adopted Brady Corp.'s Aerospace RFID Solution, which is intended to bring flexibility to users, with a choice of 11 different on- or off-metal tags that can be wrapped around equipment such as metal seat frames or oxygen canisters.
By Claire Swedberg

Rockwell Collins intends to use the Brady solution for on- and off-metal tags to identify its flyable parts—which, Columbia says, includes oxygen generators used by passengers. The tags will be utilized on items with both flat and curved surfaces. Rockwell Collins will use the tags with their existing manufacturing workflow systems.

Some use cases from Brady's other customers include fuel lines, electronic components, passenger seats, oxygen generators and life vests.

Some companies also intend to employ RFID tags to collect and store the maintenance histories and expiration management of oxygen generators. Each generator consists of a metal cylinder inside an enclosure, installed in a compartment above every passenger seat. In the event of an emergency, a mask will drop from the panel above each seat, and the generator will then provide the necessary oxygen.

Because this life-saving equipment must be inspected and maintained regularly, RFID technology will provide airlines with a fast method of identifying the presence, condition, security and expiration of safety equipment without having to physically access them. In some cases, alloy on-metal tags are applied to the metal canister itself, while in other scenarios, a tag is applied to the enclosure in which the cylinder is contained.

Additionally, the aerospace RFID tags are being used to track life vests and other safety equipment. Without RFID, Columbia explains, removing a vest, checking its ID number via a bar-code scan and then inspecting it requires more than an hour. With an RFID system, however, a user can verify the presence and check the expiration date of a vest in merely a few minutes.

"We continue to innovate new products," Columbia states. In addition to making its software more user-friendly and available for more handheld RFID readers, the company is designing tags for more specialized use cases. Some customers require a label that can be tamper-evident, he says, or able to sustain higher temperatures. "That's what sets us apart. We really listen to the industry and develop relevant useful products." He expects new products for specialized use cases will be announced during the coming year.

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