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Omni-ID Introduces Printable On-Metal RFID Labels

The company's new thin inlays, models IQ 400 and IQ 600, are available as adhesive labels that can be printed and encoded on a thermal printer. Several companies are now testing the tags.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 14, 2012Ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag manufacturer Omni ID has added two new passive UHF tags to its range of IQ RFID tags—part of its UltraThin line of tags aimed at making the RFID-tracking of metal and liquid items easier and less expensive. The new IQ 400 and IQ 600 tags are designed to provide on-metal functionality in the form of a hard tag, but can be printed on a thermal bar-code printer and then be affixed to an item via the tags' built-in adhesive. In that way, the tags are intended to save users the cost of applying hard tags to assets or other items, since they can be printed on a roll that could then be applied more easily. However, the tags are also intended to offer greater functionality in the presence of metal and liquids than a traditional dipole label.

The tags result from continued engineering that follows the March 2012 release of two thin tags intended for use around metal or liquids (see Omni-ID Launches UltraThin Metal-Mount Tags), explains Tony Kington, the company's managing director in Europe, as well the chairman of the board of the company's China division. The UltraThin product line began its development as early as 2006, he says, when "it was clear there were a number of applications in which there was a real need for a low-profile product," that would operate well on metal. The first resulting products—the Flex LP and Flex Al tags—provided on-metal functionality. However, those versions measure 1.2 millimeters (0.05 inch) and 1.45 millimeters (0.06 inch) in thickness, respectively, while the IQ 400 and IQ 600 models are only 0.8 millimeter (0.03 inch) thick. In addition, the Flex LP and Flex Al tags are not sold on a roll; therefore, users were unable to print and encode the Flex tags onsite by means of a thermal printer.

Omni-ID's IQ 600 on-metal RFID labels can be printed using a standard thermal printer.

Since the Flex tags' release this spring, there have between 30 and 40 users globally that have been purchasing the tags, typically in units of approximately 100,000. The labels are being applied to medical equipment and blood bags in the health-care environment; on products stored on metal-frame storage racks in the logistics arena; and on consumer electronics, weapons and tools—all of which contain a large quantity of metal that would negatively impact transmission via a standard dipole UHF tag.

However, Kington says, with the tags in use, engineering work continued at Omni-ID to develop a tag with mass-production and simple on-site deployment in mind. "We wanted a tag that could be processed through a thermal printer easily," he states. Affixing a tag onto an asset from a roll requires minimal labor, he adds, while a tag on a sheet that would need to be printed and encoded in advance requires additional labor, and ultimately greater cost for a user.

Omni-ID's development work took place within its own laboratories in Farnham, in the United Kingdom, as well as in the lab of its manufacturing partner, Yeon Technologies, headquartered in Taiwan. This was accomplished together with design-validation support provided by AdhTech, in Sweden, and several major printer manufacturers.

Both the IQ 400 and IQ 600 tags can now be purchased as finished labels, or as inlays that can then be converted into labels. The finished labels are composed of a multilayer synthetic with an acrylic adhesive and a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) face laminate. The IQ 600 tag measures 101.0 millimeters by 50.0 millimeters (4 inches by 2 inches) and weighs 5 grams (0.12 ounce), while the IQ 400 model measures 103.0 millimeters by 28.0 millimeters (4 inches by 1 inch) and weighs 2.8 grams (0.01 ounce). Both tags feature an Impinj Monza 4QT chip with 512 bits of user memory. When used with a fixed reader, the IQ 600 tag has a read range of up to 19.7 feet when mounted on metal, while the IQ 400 has an on-metal read range of up to 13 feet.

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