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UHF RFID Reader Systems Capture Laundry Tags in Motion

Datamars' new UHF Portal Plus is designed to read up to 500 tags on textiles as they are transported at average walking speed, without requiring users to stop or open and close cabinet doors, while the UHF Open Tunnel reader fits directly on top of a conveyor to interrogate tags as they move through the packing process.
By Claire Swedberg

"What we've noticed is this is interrupting their flow," Buros states. "The accuracy is very good, but you need the operator to put the trolley in the cabinet, close the door, accomplish reading and then get the trolley out." The read takes only 3.5 seconds to complete, but the opening and re-opening of the cabinet to remove the trolley adds approximately 10 seconds to the process of washing, sorting and folding linens for customers. When hundreds of trolleys are processed daily, he notes, that step can result in a significant cost in labor hours.

Therefore, Buros says, Datamars developed a solution "that works on the fly." Its UHF Portal Plus is a reader portal through which a trolley of tagged textiles can simply be pushed at normal walking speed, and up to 500 tags within that trolley are automatically read. (That speed provides about one second for tag reads as the trolley passes.)

The Portal Plus is designed not only to interrogate the tags quickly, while they are still in motion, but also to prevent any stray reads. That function was achieved via hardware selection, as well as software that identifies each tag's transmission and location. "We've also done lots of work in choosing the right RFID reader components and software," Buros states. The company is using RFID reader hardware from Impinj, as well as other technology suppliers, he says.

The UHF Portal Plus will typically be used in the last step of processing, when cleaned goods are shipped to customers. The Open Tunnel is also aimed at making the capture of textile RFID tags faster and more accurate, Buros says. This tunnel reader is designed to be part of the process by which conveyors transport washed, dried and folded linens and clothing to be packed for shipment to customers.

Users can simply place the UHF RFID Open Tunnel structure on top of an existing conveyor belt. Then, as packages of tagged items pass through the tunnel, their tag IDs are captured, enabling the laundry company to identify the items that have been packaged for shipment to customers. A package of textiles on a conveyor typically contains between 10 and 50 tags, and a single conveyor carries up to 15 packs per minute. Each pack has been assembled to contain a specific number and type of textiles for a customer. The reader system's built-in software can identify the tags in each package and thereby enable the laundry to confirm the accuracy of an order before it ships.

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