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New System Puts RFID at Core of Paper Handling

A new RFID system designed for the paper industry uses combination 125 KHz/6.8 MHz tags to identify industrial-sized paper rolls in production and supply chain environments. The complete system from IPICO and Sonoco includes application software to support end-to-end product tracking.
Jul 02, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

July 2, 2008—A new system puts RFID literally at the core of efforts to improve bulk paper management. Canadian RFID technology firm IPICO and Hartville, South Carolina-based Sonoco, the leading producer of tubes and cores used for packaging paper, announced a new system this week that includes specialty RFID tags, readers and application software for tracking various paper products throughout production processes and in the supply chain as they move among mills, packaging producers and end-user customers.

Sonoco is embedding pre-encoded dual-frequency RFID tags into blank cores that it provides to customers. The pre-encoded cores allow customers to begin tracking bulk paper as soon as it is rolled onto the core. Paper products can be difficult to identify and track by RFID and other methods because of the sheer size of the rolls, composition of the material, and sources of interference common in paper processing environments.

"Paper that is intended to be a box is much different than paper that is intended to be printed as the Parade magazine. There are a massive amount of variants in paper," John Greaves of IPICO told RFID Update. "With this system you don't have to be mindful of the variants."

Paper handling is an especially challenging RFID environment because of the clamp trucks with metal arms that are traditionally used to move bulk paper products, and the moisture content of the paper itself, according to Jeff Stacy, Sonoco's market segment manager for paper mill packaging. The longstanding challenge has sparked previous RFID innovations, including the development of RFID-enabled forklifts and, more recently, cranes (see RFID Gives a Lift to Crane Accuracy).

The new system is based on IPICO's dual-frequency RFID technology. Readers send a 125 KHz signal to excite passive tags, which respond with a 6.8 MHz transmission. The combination of frequencies protects against interference and provides read range of up to 1.8 meters, according to company literature. The tags are embedded at one end of the roll core and can be read with readers positioned at the far end, according to Rob Ufford, IPICO's vice president of business development.

"If you need a handheld reader or manual process to make sure to get the right orientation to read the RFID tag, then quite frankly, you don't have anything better than you had before," said Greaves.

IPICO and Sonoco will provide tagged cores, readers and application software for the system. The software can be used to track materials through production processes and throughout the supply chain to provide identification and traceability. Mondi March Corrugated Packaging has used different components of the new system in its operations and reported excellent results in IPICO's announcement.

"The RFID-enabled paper rolls represent a step-change in material management for our site. We have a solution that is actually working and enables automatic goods receipt and matching against order and shipping document without any manual intervention," Mike Ramsey, the firm's managing director, is quoted. "This, for the first time, gives us full traceability so that we can guarantee to a customer that the correct type and source of paper has been used. The technology is so simple to use that it provides a win-win solution with accurate data reporting and at less cost to acquire through savings in labor, waste, stock levels and stock outs."
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