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William Frick & Co.'s Gen 2 UHF Tags Take the Heat for Manufacturing Apps

The firm's SM-HE16 tag is available in a version that can tolerate 650 degrees Fahrenheit for up to two hours.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Apr 28, 2009William Frick & Co. has partnered with Technologies ROI (TROI), a tag manufacturer based in South Carolina, to develop a passive EPC Gen 2 UHF inlay tag that can withstand temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,093 degrees Celsius).

Together, the companies have developed a number of different housing options for the tag—known as the SM-HE16—to protect it from exposure to very high levels of heat. According to the company, the tag is now available with four distinct levels of heat resistance, ranging from exposure to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (149 degrees Celsius) to up to 650 degrees Fahrenheit (343 degrees Celsius) for as long as two hours. John Poplawski, William Frick & Co.'s product development manager, says the SM-HE16 with the most heat-robust housing can survive a very brief exposure to 2,000 degrees.

William Frick & Co.'s SM-HE16 tag

RFID is a technology tool that factories have embraced for many years because it can help quickly and accurately identify parts or tools necessary for a specific production process. The time-intensive process of scanning bar codes or manually reading a part or tool identifier can slow production—especially in environments in which grease or dirt make bar codes or labels impossible to read or scan. Passive tags that operate at low-frequency (125 kHz or 134 kHz) or high-frequency (13.56 MHz) ranges have long been employed in manufacturing applications, because they are less susceptible to RF interference from metallic or liquid sources than ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) passive tags. But William Frick & Co. cites its growing list of manufacturing customers that utilize the company's heat-resistant UHF Gen 2 passive RFID tags for tracking tools or parts used in harsh production environments, as evidence that this is changing.

William Frick & Co.'s customers are using the heat-resistant tags for industrial applications, including tracking molds or other high-value parts and tools used in such processes as injection molding or painting. Some customers, for instance, employ the tags to track the molds used for injection-molding processes. The molds are portable, and come in different sizes of very small increments, making them nearly indistinguishable from each other.

To differentiate the molds, each has traditionally been etched with a unique tracking number. But dirt and grease often make the etchings very difficult to read, Poplawski says, noting that the SM-HE16 tag provides a faster, more accurate means of identifying the exact molds needed for a particular process. The tags also provide an efficient method for ensuring that the molds are maintained—cleaned, repaired or replaced—on a regular basis. RFID interrogators collect the tag ID of each mold as it is used, and software tracks this usage, generating alerts to staff members whenever a mold is due for a service check, based on the number of times it has been used.

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