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Paxar Tests EPC Gen 2 RFID Labels in Real-World Scenarios

To measure the durability of EPC Gen 2 RFID tags, the company applied RFID labels to cardboard cases and plastic totes, then shipped the cases and cleaned the totes in a commercial dishwasher.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 30, 2006Label and printer-encoder maker Paxar has released the results of a durability test of its RFID labels with Gen 2 tags. This summer, the vendor shipped its RFID labels on cartons across the country and back. In a white paper describing the test, Shipping Test Examines RFID Label Durability, Paxar explains that the tags were all readable at the end of the testing, even when the cartons on which they were placed were damaged.

"We have a lot of customers talking to us about readability—typically, consumer goods manufacturers or distributors that are trying to meet retail or DOD compliance," says Lori Porter, Paxar's product-line manager for RFID. "They know the labels are good when they leave their facility, but they want assurances that these same labels will still be good when they reach their ultimate destination."

The company tested its Monarch thermal-transfer 1- by 4-inch paper labels, containing Alien Technology Squiggle inlays with Impinj Monza Gen 2 UHF chips. It used standard adhesive to apply RFID labels to 25 9.5- by 9.5- by 6.5-inch corrugated cardboard cases containing label and tag supplies, which were then stacked on pallets and stretch-wrapped. The pallets traveled by ground transportation from Paxar's facility in Dayton, Ohio, to Emco Label Co. in Sun Valley, Cal., with multiple stops along the way.

Once the shipment arrived in California, Emco employees removed the boxes from the pallets and shipped them back, once again by ground transportation, independent of the pallets. "We were trying to look at real-world applications," Porter says.

The test results showed that the labels remained 100 percent readable, at a decrease in strength from 0 to 0.7 decibels per label. A 0.7-decibel change would result in, at most, a 20-centimeter drop in read range. Furthermore, all labels could be read at almost 4.5 meters after shipment—the goal had been for readability at 4 meters.

Paxar performed similar testing of Gen 1 tags several years ago, securing similar results for durability. Recently, customers have begun asking about the reliability of Gen 2 tag reads after shipping. "We couldn't find any data," Porter says, which led to the more recent Gen 2 shipping-durability test. Paxar also included a temperature recorder in one box, which revealed that the packages traveled through temperatures fluctuating from 65 to 95 degrees.

This is one of a series of tests Paxar plans to conduct with its labels. Since completing the shipping-durability test, the company has also tested the effect of washing on RFID labels attached to totes typically used by such companies as food manufacturers and distributors to store and carry products. That test was completed in October 2006. According to Porter, Paxar tested five different tote materials, including polyester and polypropylene, using RFID labels with paper or synthetic face sheets. Paxar put the totes through 20 wash cycles in a commercial dishwasher, which it says most closely simulates the kind of washing to which these totes would be exposed.

The labels all came through with 100 percent readability, Porter says, though the paper face sheets did not survive the washing. A separate white paper on this study will be released in December.

Paxar has not decided if it will proceed with an international durability test of how well labels survive shipment overseas. "We are considering whether it would be worthwhile or not," Porter says. "We are waiting to see what kind of feedback we get from this first white paper on shipment tests. If we see that people are really hungry for this type of data, then we will consider moving forward with an international shipment test."
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