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A Flurry of High-Memory Tags Take Flight

Marubeni Chemix and Xerafy are the latest companies to announce high-memory UHF passive tags for aircraft components, such as those being made for Airbus' A350 wide-body.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 18, 2011To meet the needs of airplane manufacturers and their parts suppliers, a growing number of RFID vendors are releasing passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags with 4 or 8 kilobytes of memory, to store historic data regarding parts. Airbus is scheduled to complete its A350 XWB wide-body, for which the company is requiring that most flyable parts be tagged with high-memory EPC Gen 2 RFID tags for maintenance-tracking purposes. Each A350 is expected to have 3,000 tagged parts, 2,000 of which will be fitted with high-memory tags. The planes are expected to be put into service in 2013, so parts suppliers are seeking RFID tags that will help them meet those demands soon.

Chip manufacturer Tego provides the only high-memory ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) chip currently available for this market that has a non-erasable memory with the ability to retain data for many decades, according to the RFID tag makers. All high-memory RFID tags currently available, the companies report, incorporate Tego's TegoChip XL. A portion of the memory can be rewriteable, and the TegoChip XL is also capable of interfacing with sensors, controls and displays, and can provide power to them as well. "The (aerospace) industry has been waiting on high-memory chips, and so a flurry of activity would be expected when chips become available in volume," says David Puleston, Tego's VP of marketing. The high-volume release of Tego high-memory chips began with a 4-kilobyte version in the first quarter of 2010, followed by an 8-kilobyte chip by the end of last year. "The presence of multiple vendors reflects the fact that the vendors see aviation and other industrial applications as an attractive and fast-growing market."

Marubeni Chemix's TAGAT 900G tag, designed for attachment to airplane components, has 4 kilobytes of memory.

In 2008, Fujitsu announced the release of a 64-kilobyte EPC Gen 2 tag for use in aviation, though to date, no aircraft company has yet announced plans to use a tag made with the 64-kilobyte chip. In December 2010, however, Boeing announced its intention to provide a part-tracking solution in 2012 utilizing Fujitsu EPC Gen 2 tags with lower memory (see Boeing, Fujitsu to Offer Airlines a Holistic RFID Solution).

The latest Tego-based high-memory tags include Marubeni Chemix's 4-kilobyte TAGAT series, as well as Xerafy's 4- and 8-kilobyte Pico XL, Nano XL and Sky ID tags. Both companies announced this week that their tags are now available for commercial use by aircraft companies and their parts suppliers.

Marubeni Chemix reports that a third-part laboratory recently completed testing of its tag, in order to ensure that the tag meets the requirement of SAE International's AS5678 standard for passive RFID tags intended for aircraft use, while Xerafy says it hopes to do the same by next month. The SAE AS5678 standard spells out requirements regarding a tag's ability to withstand specific variations in temperature, air pressure, vibration, shock and other environmental factors. The tag must utilize a data format compliant with Chapter 9 of Spec 2000, a set of specifications administered by the Air Transport Association of America (ATA), and must also avoid being a potential source of radio frequency interference and not be susceptible to RF interference from other sources.

Boeing and Airbus are collaborating on developing commercial aviation industry standard requirements for RFID, by joining forces on the ATA's Automated Identification and Data Capture Task Force, which developed the SAE AS5678 and SPEC 2000 standards. The task force includes representatives from airlines, suppliers and airframe manufacturers, with the goal of establishing and maintaining an industry-wide format for RFID tags attached to parts.

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