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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
TROI was established by King in 2003. A synthetic organic chemist, he has been an entrepreneur in printing, thermal imaging and automatic identification, among other fields. With some experience in RFID technology, he established TROI to initially provide consulting services, then joined the staff of Michelin Tires as a global electronic strategist—a position he still holds to this day. In that role, he has helped the tire and automotive industry develop RFID standards for tagging and tracking assets and work in progress.

To test a tag's durability, TROI fastens it to the head of a sledgehammer, then drops it from a height of 3 meters.
In addition, King began developing a tag that could serve the oil and gas industry better than the bar-coded tags and plastic RFID hangtags frequently used to track pipes and tools. "I realized there were no tags," he states, "that were rugged enough for that environment."

To create all of his tags, King says, he starts with an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) Gen 2 RFID chip, such as the models available from Alien Technology, Impinj or NXP Semiconductors. The chip comes bonded to a pair of wires and sealed in a plastic casing from the wires protrude. He then takes this chip to a third-party manufacturer that solders it to a circuit board with an antenna, resulting in a complete RFID inlay that, he says, is extremely durable. In the case of the Armored-RFID tag, space shuttle materials (a foam skin coated in high-temperature ceramic) are added for greater insulation, thus allowing higher temperatures. Depending on the model, he says, TROI's tags might also be sealed in silicon, Teflon, rubber, thermoplastics or urethane.

Earlier this year, to test the Armored-RFID tag's durability, as well as that of other TROI tags, the company's employees attached the tag to the head of a 12-pound sledgehammer, raised it to a height of 3 meters (9.8 feet) and then released it so that it smashed against the concrete surface below. They then did the same to industrial tags produced by competitors, such as Omni-ID, Confidex and Intermec. The process was repeated until the tag's case ruptured, then continued until the tag was no longer readable. For most tags from TROI's competitors, King says, the case ruptured after one to 10 drops, with one surviving for 20 drops. The TROI tags, on the other hand, did not rupture. While most of the tags tested were unreadable after between three and 60 drops, he notes, the majority of TROI's tags continued to be read until the 115th to 170th drop, and none ever cracked.

William Frick has put the tags through its own set of tests, Bennett says. "We've taken sledgehammers to them, we've tested them with torches, baked them in the oven, even thrown them in the barbecue," she says. What's more, end users have placed the tags at the bottom of the ocean floor at a depth of about 1 mile, and they were still functional upon returning to the surface. "I don't know of any other tags that can do that," she says.

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