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Boeing Selects Chipmaker for Parts Tags

Intelleflex will supply a chip for the passive tags Boeing wants placed on parts for its Dreamliner jets, but the chips will have one-eighth the memory Boeing originally requested.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Tags: Aerospace
Apr 04, 2006Boeing announced today that San Jose, Calif., RFID technology company Intelleflex will provide the chips to be used in the passive RFID tags Boeing is requesting its suppliers place on many parts to be used in its upcoming family of 787 Dreamliner jets. The tags will be used to identify and track the parts' maintenance history.

Last fall, when Boeing first announced its intention to use RFID-tagged parts in the Dreamliner, it had envisioned an EPC tag that could hold 64 kilobytes of data (see Boeing Wants Dreamliner Parts Tagged). The most data current Gen 2 UHF EPC passive tags can hold is 96 bits, and though a number of semiconductor companies told Boeing they could create a 64-kilobyte chip for a passive tag, such chips wouldn't be available for at least 18 months—much too late for Boeing to meet its ambitious goal of getting smart labels to its suppliers and having the parts tagged and tested in time to meet the Dreamliner production schedule. The first jets are due in the spring of 2008.

Suresh Palliparambil, Intelleflex
Intelleflex, however, told Boeing it could provide a 64-kilobit chip for the tag in a much tighter turnaround time because the chip was already in development. "We had a huddle at Boeing and decided that we would go with the Intelleflex chip because it would jump-start the process by a year [over the timeline for the 64-kilobyte chip]," says Kenneth Porad, Boeing's program manager for automated identification programs.

"High-memory UHF chips are our core product," says Suresh Palliparambil, director of business development for Intelleflex. "We'd already been designing a chip for EPC Class 3 battery-assisted passive tags for more than a year." (Battery-assisted passive tags operate like passive tags but use an onboard power supply to extend the tag's range.) Thus, when Boeing announced it was looking for a high-memory passive chip, Intelleflex was quickly able to design a subset of its Class 3 high-memory chip to make it useable in a passive tag.

Once the chip is in production and Boeing releases its final list of the Dreamliner parts requiring tags—both of which are expected to happen soon—Intelleflex will begin providing the 64-kilobit chips to tag makers, who will design and manufacture inlays for the specific parts. "We are going to the sole provider of the integrated circuit, but we will supply it to any tag maker," says Palliparambil. The inlays will then be converted into various types of RFID labels, or nameplates.

Porad says he wants these finished nameplates to be in the marketplace and available to Boeing's parts suppliers, such as Rockwell Collins and Honeywell, by December 2006.

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