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Universal Tag and Printer Combo Aimed at On-demand Encoding at Industrial Sites

Metalcraft, SATO say their combination of a universal tag and a cloneable printer can make encoding and tagging metal or other material items seamless at factories, warehouses or industrial sites.
By Claire Swedberg

The printer's cloning feature is intended to enable deployments across multiple sites or areas, using multiple printers. Users can configure the device to the particular media they are using, the data that should be encoded to it and the use of any sensor data that may be built into the tag. Such settings can be stored in a file on a USB drive, or on a printer webpage, or they can be uploaded to SATO's All In One Tool. The settings are then downloaded to another CL4NX, Krause says, thereby reducing the amount of time required for the initial setup of printer units, or for updating the setup. "This affords users consistency and speed in these matters," he states.

The partnership comes at a time of expansion for RFID, Krause reports, especially in regard to item-level track-and-trace applications. He cites tool tracking, container movement, and ingredient or material management as potential use cases. The system can provide accountability regarding a variety of asset types, he notes, adding that with the proliferation of RFID solutions, the need for on-demand printing—by which tags are printed at a work site as needed—has been expanding.

SATO's CL4NX printer
For instance, although tags can be printed in advance and shipped to a user, they user may want to encode specific information to each tag, as the need arises. "There are many semi- and fully automated systems requiring a weight, date or some other user or system update prior to final labeling," Krause says.

Metalcraft's Austin Elling
By printing the Universal Mini tags onsite, Krause explains, users can ensure that pertinent information is encoded as required, "with an ability to customize label and tag encoding as needed and without delay." On-demand printing also enables the creation of labels to replace damaged goods and labels, or to re-pack products.

"We've seen continued growth in the market, especially for industrial applications where they need on-demand printing," Elling states. Some common applications he cites are the tracking of metal pieces as they are manufactured for the construction sector or other industries. Those metal pieces undergo a series of processes prior to being shipped out as a finished product, and a rugged on-metal tag enables a company to track each step in order to ensure products are being processed on time, as well as determine if a step is being missed or where bottlenecks might occur. Items may, for instance, require painting, washing and high-temperature processes, each according to customized requirements that must be tracked according to a specific order.

Another common application is tracking inventory or assets, Elling adds, which could include tools or returnable containers. "We've seen an explosion in RFID in general," he says, but customers increasingly want to use the tags on metal or with a variety of surfaces. Metalcraft offers pre-printed tags, he says, as well as the on-demand printing option.

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