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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

The metal tag's design extends the inlay's transmission length, which averaged closer to 8 to 10 feet in range for the traditional polymer version of the tag. "The name plate is acting as the antenna," Maliszewski says, and that extends the transmission range. The tag also comes with a photographically imaged bar-code and human-readable ID number printed on front. The ID can also be written to the RFID inlay, along with the encoded EPC number.

To date, the company has been testing the tags in-house, but it is now providing them in quantities of a few thousand to customers for deployment in the field. One of the most challenging environments is the oil and gas site, Maliszewski says, noting that the company expects it to function well even at that location, where washing, chemicals and heavy impacts are likely. The metal tag can sustain temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to +180 degrees Fahrenheit.

The company's new on-metal tags
Many early deployments are likely to be centered around tracking reusable metal containers, Elling says. "That's where we have focused our pilots" in the asset-tracking area, he states. The metal tag is affixed to the side of a container, so that its unique ID number can be read via a fixed or handheld reader.

Metalcraft's Mark Maliszewski
The benefit for logistics companies and shippers will be better inventory visibility into where their containers are located within large yards, or as they pass from one warehouse to another, as well as when they are loaded or unloaded. The metal tags could be applied to assets that are moved between worksites, such as rental equipment, and could be read as they leave from or arrive at a specific site, as well as during inventory counts. Moreover, the visible ID information printed on the front could be linked to the UHF RFID tag ID for both visual and digital identification.

Some of Metalcraft's customers have found RFID untenable in the past due to the tags' destructibility, Elling says. But now, he predicts, many of them may be able to launch their first large-scale deployments. "We see a lot of interest in adopting RFID by our traditional customers," he states. "This opens up doors for them to start incorporating RFID into their operations."

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