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Lantech to Sell RFID Stretch-Wrappers

The material-handling equipment maker is working with RFID interrogator manufacturers to integrate readers into its Q-300 stretch-wrapper.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Feb 14, 2006Lantech, a Louisville, Ky., manufacturer of materials-handling equipment, has developed a means of integrating an RFID interrogator (reader) into its Q-300 stretch-wrap machine. The company says it plans to sell RFID-enabled stretch-wrappers, potentially making it the first company to do so.

Many users of RFID in the supply chain have found that an RFID interrogator mounted onto a stretch-wrap machine, used to secure cases of products onto a pallet, provides a higher read rate than interrogators mounted elsewhere, such as around doorways. Installed on a stretch-wrapper, the reader's antenna has a number of opportunities to read each case tag as the pallet spins during the application of the wrap. Until now, however, users have had to find their own way of mounting the interrogator and antenna onto the machine. This entails determining how to best place the reader and antenna, connect the antenna cables and link the interrogator to the user's network.

Lantech's RFID-enabled Q-300 stretch-wrapper
William Caudill, Lantech's marketing manager for automatic products, says the Q-300's design makes it easy to integrate an interrogator. The Q-300 has a center mast that houses the machine's motor and electronics. "We were able to mount the reader right into the electrical panel," Caudill explains. "There were no special modifications needed. It was just a matter of adding mounts and a power supply for the reader." The mast's interior also accommodates the cables needed to link the reader with its antenna, eliminating any loose wiring that could otherwise interfere with the stretch-wrapper's operation.

A roll of stretch film is mounted on the side of the machine. The arm holding the stretch-film roll moves up and down the machine's mast as the pallet spins, and serves as a support for the reader's antenna. This enables the interrogator to take multiple reads of the case tags as the arm moves vertically and the pallet spins.

Lantech hopes to begin selling the integrated machine to its customers soon, but it has not yet set a launch date or a price. Thus far, the company has worked with RFID interrogator manufacturers Alien Technology and Symbol Technologies, building sample Q-300 units with Alien's ALR-9640 reader and Symbol's XR400 interrogator.

The readers use a Wi-Fi wireless bridge, provided by Lantech, that can send the tag reads to the user's middleware or back-end systems wirelessly. This feature is important, he says, because often orders are readied for shipment in different parts of a distribution center, requiring that the stretch-wrap machines be moved around the facility. The wireless connectivity means the users don't need to find a means of hard-wiring the reader to the network at each location.

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