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Metalcraft Develops Metal UHF RFID Tag

The new product combines the company's aluminum IDPlate design to withstand harsh environments with an RFID inlay that leverages the tag's own metal to boost transmission, with a range of up to 20 feet, whether on metal or non-metal surfaces.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 31, 2018

Metalcraft, a provider of industrial name plates and labels, has released a new metal UHF RFID tag that can serve as both a visual and digital ID plate for heavy equipment, vehicles and other assets and inventory typically found in challenging environments. The tag is made of anodized aluminum, can be mounted on metal and can transmit a signal in response to interrogations at a distance of 15 to 20 feet. The RFID system leverages patented technology provided by Technologies ROI (TROI).

The tag, known as the Metal RFID Tag, can be attached to equipment at oil and gas drill sites, to vehicles in outdoor lots, or to returnable metal containers. According to Austin Elling, Metalcraft's marketing director and inside sales lead, companies have often found such environments out of reach for RFID technology use, since tags would not survive for the duration of a tracked item's lifespan.

A Metal RFID Tag attached to a forklift
For visual and rugged identification, Metalcraft's customers use metal name plates that can handle exposure to chemicals, extreme temperatures and multiple washing cycles. "We've always been providers of durable name plates," Elling says. "As we evolved over the years, we've gotten into RFID as well." In fact, Metalcraft has increasingly found that its customers want to leverage the benefits of RFID to uniquely identify equipment, vehicles or containers. However, Elling reports, traditional RFID tags, including Metalcraft's own polymer universal tag, might not survive the extreme environments to which they would be exposed.

Despite that fact, Elling says, the company has seen significant growth in RFID product demand in recent years. That includes in the heavy equipment manufacturing and rental spaces, as well as for vehicle tracking. While Metalcraft could print data on a polymer tag to enable a standard RFID tag to act as a visual IDPlate, the information printed on it could be destroyed over time—for instance, by chemicals, washing or ultraviolet rays. "Customers had been asking for a metal name plate with an RIFD tag," he states.

Metalcraft's Austin Elling
Metalcraft has been working on a solution for the past 18 months, reports Mark Maliszewski, the firm's product-development engineer. The resulting metal RFID tag acts as a metal ID plate with RFID functionality. The tag consists of an Alien Technology Higgs-EC chip and a modified version of Metalcraft's Universal Micro inlay built into an aluminum plate measuring 1 inch by 3 inches. The plate can be attached to a metal or nonmetal surface via adhesive or some other method, such as screws or metal fasteners with nylon bushings.

The tag has a built-in reflector on its backside, and the inlay's antenna uses the tag's metal to send a transmission when interrogated by a reader. The metal surface to which the tag is attached serves as a reflector of the RF signal as well; if the surface is non-metallic, the tag's built-in reflector provides that function.

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