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Armored-RFID Tag Loves to Get Hammered

A new steel-shrouded UHF EPC Gen 2 tag, developed by Technologies ROI, can be welded to metal pipes or tools for the oil and gas, construction or other heavy industrial sectors, and is built to sustain abuse.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 29, 2010When a supervisor at a British firm that manufactures offshore oil-drilling rigs received a new RFID tag to attach to pipes and other steel equipment, he sent an employee out behind the building to try to break it. In fact, he offered the man ₤5 if he could destroy the tag in three swings of a sledgehammer. The world of RFID tags in the heavy industrial, oil and gas, and construction industries is all about endurance. A tag must be rugged enough to withstand heavy blows, abrasion, extreme temperatures, high pressure, and immersion in water and harsh chemicals—and still be able to transmit its ID number to an RFID reader.

The tag being savaged by the oil-rig manufacturer was designed by Technologies ROI (TROI). The Dome Cable Tag, as it is named, is encased in rubber—and, in fact, the supervisor never had to pay up on the wager. The rig-maker's employee placed the tag on a rock, then took the sledgehammer by its three-foot-long handle, raised it over his shoulder and swung the tool down so that its steel head, which weighed nearly six pounds, landed squarely on the tag. After three such blows, the tag remained undamaged, according to Patrick King, TROI's founder and president, who says he was on-hand for the experiment and watched the hammer pummel his tag. When the worker rotated the handle so that the tag would be hit by the sharp edge of the hammer's head, instead of its face, that was the tag's undoing, King says, noting, "It took more than a few swings, essentially chopping at the tag like you would cut down a tree."

From left: TROI's WoW-1, WoW-2 and Armored-RFID tags

It's unlikely that the same worker efforts would have destroyed TROI's newest models, King says: Armored-RFID and Weldable option World (WoW) tags, which consist of EPC Gen 2 inlays clad in stainless steel and weldable to metal surfaces. These durable tags are designed to be able to withstand temperatures of 600 degrees Fahrenheit (316 degrees) Celsius, as well as remain readable on and around metal and, above all, rugged. Like all other TROI tags, the Armored-RFID (commercially released this month) is available through resellers worldwide. What differentiates this tag from its predecessors and competitors, he explains, is its 1/8-inch-thick steel shell. Shaped in the form of dome, the Armored-RFID gleaming carapace can be welded to a metal object. Despite its metallic armor, the tag can still be read at six angles at a distance of up to 2 meters (6.6 feet).

That weldable feature appeals to those in industries such as oil and gas, says Evie Bennett, the VP of distributor William Frick & Co., which is preparing to sell the tag to customers in the oil and gas sector, as well as in construction. "This weldable tag is truly a breakthrough product," she states, because it allows users, for the first time, to actually weld the tag to the item being tracked, thereby sparing that user from drilling holes for bolts, or from using an adhesive to attach the tag. With either bolts or adhesives, she points out, tags can be knocked off something like a pipe, or be removed by someone with criminal intent, and although, to her knowledge, the latter scenario has never occurred, it's a concern the tags' users express to her repeatedly, she says.

Patrick King, Technologies ROI's founder and president
The rectangular WoW-1 tag (which measures 1.5 inches by 1 inch by 0.5 inch), the circular WoW-2 version (measuring 1.35 inches in diameter by 3 inches) and the Armored-RFID (1.25 inches in diameter by 0.5 inch thick) are embedded in a stainless steel case and a ceramic layer that can sustain temperatures ranging from 500 degrees to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (260 degrees to 538 degrees Celsius). They can be read from six different directions, through the metal, thanks to its antenna design. The Armored-RFID tag has additional insulation enabling it to function at temperatures of 600 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

The Armored-RFID tag's casing is symmetrical, and its steel shell is an active element of the tag acting as an antenna, not just as a cover for protection. The tag couples inductively with its metal shell, enabling it to receive and transmit RF signals. That unique design and the durable tag that results, King says, are what differentiate his small company from the larger RFID tag providers. He develops all of his tags, he indicates, with oil and gas, construction and heavy-industrial companies in mind.

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