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Tire and Agricultural Industries Have RFID in Stitches

Industrial companies are conducting qualification testing of Primo1D's passive UHF E-Thread technology, with integrated RFID-enabled threads, including electric cables, ropes, bale twine and tires.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 01, 2019

French technology firm Primo1D was launched in 2013 to bring RFID-enabled yarn, known as E-Thread, to the apparel and laundry markets. These days, the company also serves different markets that are investigating how RFID threads could be built into their products or assets. A handful of companies are trialing its technology for such industrial applications as embedding RFID into hay-bale twine to track the product from harvest to animal feed, building RFID threads into cables or ropes for the oil and gas and marine industries, and integrating the technology into electric cables.

Additionally, says Alain Papanti, Primo1D's cofounder and chief sales and marketing officer, the company has created an industrial tool to manufacture the technology, with a production capacity of five million RFID-enabled threads or cables, which is expected to rise to 20 million next year. With the latest qualification testing, the firm is aimed at the kinds of products that haven't lent themselves to RFID tagging in the past—such as agricultural twine, cables or tires, for example. "Those are the use cases we are targeting," he states. "The tags are durable, invisible and work where an inlay would be too big or too fragile."

Primo1D's E-Thread
Primo1D was founded in Grenoble to offer an RFID solution that could be woven directly into fabrics or labels (see E-Thread Provides Discrete Anti-Counterfeiting or Tracking Solutions and Company Boosts Sensitivity and Shortens Length of Its RFID Yarn). The thread consists of an EPC UHF RFID chip connected to two antennas integrated into a thread, thereby preventing the need for a paper hang tag and providing permanence to the RFID functionality of the garment or item.

"The apparel market is still part of our client base," Papanti says, adding, "In addition to that, we are also talking with players in industry." One of the important steps the company is taking in that direction, he explains, is to build its manufacturing volume capacity. Approximately two years ago, Primo1D began meeting with businesses from a variety of industries about how to incorporate the technology in items that use a variety of materials. For instance, tire maker Michelin began working with the company to test the use of RFID-enabled threads in rubber tires.

RFID, Papanti explains, is typically applied in the form of labels, affixed to the sides of truck tires, while car tires tend to be too small to support an added RFID tag. However, some companies are seeking ways in which to enable car manufacturers and owners to monitor the tires, and to track whether the front and rear tires are mounted at the correct locations on a vehicle.

Companies such as Michelin are, therefore, experimenting with building a UHF RFID reader into the undercarriage of a vehicle, and are integrating the E-Thread into the rubber tires. Once the tires are mounted in the vehicle, each tire's tag ID is captured by those readers, along with, potentially, its location. Users can then store or forward data about where each tagged tire is installed, when it was rotated or replaced, and how long it has been on the road.

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