Confidex Releases Printable, Flexible On-Metal RFID Label

By Claire Swedberg

Silverline, a passive Gen 2 EPC UHF self-adhesive label able to be attached to curved surfaces, is being tested by potential customers after gaining a nod from four RFID printer-encoder suppliers.

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Finnish RFID tag provider Confidex has released a printable, flexible on-metal adhesive label known as the Silverline. The passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) label has been tested by printer-encoder manufacturers, says Miika Pylvänäinen, Confidex’s product manager, and is currently being reviewed by potential end users.

Most metal-mount tags are encased in a hard, ruggedized casing intended to protect the tags from the environment, as well as separate the RFID chip and antenna from the metals on which they are affixed. That creates hurdles for some applications, since hard tags typically cannot be printed using a standard printer-encoder, and can only be attached to a flat surface.

Confidex’s Silverline printable, flexible on-metal adhesive RFID label.

According to Pylvänäinen, customers had indicated to Confidex a desire to print and encode RFID tags onsite for use in tracking items for which on-metal tags were necessary (for example, in outdoor storage yards or industrial settings). “We saw a clear demand for an RFID label with the on-metal performance of hard tags and personalization easiness of labels,” he states.

The Silverline is composed of a flexible material with a white synthetic face layer designed to be easily printed, and comes in a reel of 500 labels, with a disposable spacer label located between each RFID label, in order to protect the print head in the printer. The label is made with an Impinj Monza QT or optional Monza 4E chip. The tag is being offered by RFID Global Solution as part of a system that includes the company’s Visi-Trac software.

Confidex manufactures UHF RFID tags and labels for automotive manufacturing, industrial logistics and asset-management applications. In some cases, labels need to be attached to a variety of materials and surfaces that are not flat. According to the company, the Silverline tag is flexible enough to be attached to an object even if there is a bend or curve in the surface to which the tag is applied. Confidex also designed the tag to be easy to print by a customer on a standard RFID printer-encoder.

The Silverline label has been tested by four suppliers of such devices: Zebra Technologies, Finn-ID (an official partner of Toshiba TEC), SATO Nordic and Datamax-O’Neil. Each printer manufacturer used its own testing methods to meet its own functionality standard, Pylvänäinen says, adding, “All tests included evaluation of printing quality and encoding reliability.”

Zebra tested a roll of the tags with its RZ400 and RZ600 printer-encoders, designed for the asset-tracking market, says Michael Fein, Zebra Technologies’ senior RFID product manager. “We were impressed with Confidex’s design approach,” he states. “The print quality was exceptional for an on-metal asset tag.” Zebra’s printer-encoders, together with the Silverline label, he notes, “provide a scalable solution.”

The Silverline, measuring 3.94 inches by 1.67 inch by 0.03 inch (100 millimeters by 40 millimeters by 9 millimeters), is resistant to water, chemicals and dust, with a read range of up to 5 meters (16 feet). The label is designed to be attached to metal equipment or tools, office or IT assets, or liquid-filled containers, all of which may have curved surfaces. It supports a bending diameter up to 50 millimeters (2 inches).

The tag is currently being tested by end users, Pylvänäinen says, though he declines to specify the companies involved.

“We have seen Monza 4 QT, with 128-bit EPC and 512-bit user memory, as a good default chip for our high-end products like Silverline,” Pylvänäinen reports. However, he adds, “We do leave a door open for other options, and are already providing Silverline with Monza 4E, with 496-bit EPC and 128-bit user memory, in cases where a longer EPC is needed, such as in automotive applications.”

The Silverline joins other printable on-metal labels that have recently entered the market. Earlier this year, Omni-ID debuted printable adhesive on-metal RFID labels—namely, its IQ 400 and IQ 600 models—that are also made with a Monza QT chip and come in the form of reels that have discardable spacer material between each label (see Omni-ID Introduces Printable In-Metal RFID Labels). The labels were certified by Zebra (see RFID News Roundup: Zebra Technologies Certifies Omni-ID On-Metal Labels for Printer Compatibility). In June, engineering and electronics conglomerate Siemens has announced that is incorporating an IQ 400 label into the nameplate of every Simogear electric gear motor it produces, so that customers can quickly identify a motor even when it is installed in a hard-to-access location (see Siemens to RFID-Tag Its Gear Motors).