Tire Industry Works Toward Global RFID-Tagging Standards

By Claire Swedberg

Mesnac, Michelin and other tire companies are seeking ISO ratification of four standards that specify how RFID tags are applied to tires, and how they are encoded and tested.

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A tire-industry working group led by Chinese rubber manufacturing equipment company Mesnac strives to standardize the way in which the tire industry uses radio frequency identification tags. This includes how those tags are attached in tires, as well as how they are tested and encoded with data.

The working group’s efforts have resulted in four proposed ISO standards, all focused on passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags. The ISO/NP 20909 standard provides performance and function requirements for tags used in tires, while ISO/NP 20910 consists of coding requirements and how data is written to and stored on tags. ISO/NP 20911 features methods and technologies related to one step in the process of attaching or embedding tags, and the ISO/NP 20912 standard provides testing methods for tags embedded in tires.

Mesnac’s Dong Lanfei

The proposed standards were officially filed for consideration in June 2015, with the ISO/TC31/WG10 Workgroup established on Oct. 6, 2015, thereby signaling the start of the approximately three-year approvals process. The workgroup’s next meeting is scheduled for next month. If everything goes well, the four standards are expected to become ratified by October 2018.

All four standards were drafted by Mesnac with input from tire industry firms, including global tire company Michelin and other manufacturers from China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, South Korea, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The proposed standards are based on existing automotive industry-based tire-tagging standards, including those of the Auto Industry Action Group (AIAG) (see Auto Industry RFID Data Standard Proposed), as well as other auto industry organizations, such as Odette International, the Japan Automotive Manufacturers Association (JAMA) and the Japan Auto Parts Industries Association.

In 2008, Michelin, Mesnac and China’s Standardization Administration of China (SAC) Technical Committee, TC19, along with members of AIM Global China and GS1 China, met to create a regional Chinese tire RFID tag-use standard. These Chinese standards were published locally early this year. The effort now is to establish global versions that will enable tire manufacturers to uniformly select and embed RFID tags in order to assure interoperability. Such tags could then be used throughout a tire’s life span, wherever it is located throughout the world, to track tires through the manufacturing and distribution processes. In addition, the tags could be accessed by tire users, such as bus companies or commercial operations with fleets of company vehicles.

Launched at the Qingdao University of Science and Technology in 2000, Mesnac designs and manufactures tire-making machinery, and also carries out research and development efforts.

In its research capacity, the company “is committed to R&D and innovation of information equipment, industrial software applications and new rubber material research,” says Dong Lanfei, the chief engineer of Mesnac’s Internet of Things division. Mesnac’s customers use the company’s software and equipment to produce tires from rubber materials. In addition, the firm has been working on RFID technology since 2005, and offers solutions enabling customers to embed, encode and test RFID tags in their products. Mesnac’s customers can also utilize the RFID technology to track the incoming rubber and other raw materials, as well as semi-components and finished tires.

Mesnac finds that the use of RFID is increasing among tire manufacturers, Dong reports. However, she adds, current tire-related RFID standards, while established by the automotive sector, lack the details that tire manufacturers and others in the tire industry would need to uniformly track materials and tires throughout the supply chain.

“Through establishing systematic RFID tire tag standards,” Dong says, “we hope to build a uniform tire data platform; realize automated identification of tires; ensure tire safety, reliability and performance; and, in the end, promote a regular application of RFID tire tags in a global sense.”

The tire manufacturers’ use of tags provides both tire safety and authentication, Dong says. Applications include confirming that a particular tire was manufactured by a specific company, in addition to monitoring how long each tire has been used and in what way, so that it can be inspected, maintained or replaced before it creates a safety hazard.

Michelin’s Stan Lew

Michelin, Mesnac and a group of tire industry stakeholders that were involved with RFID item-identification standards development in 2008 became part of the consensus-building efforts for the four proposed new standards, says Stan Lew, Michelin’s industry standards and government regulations manager. Michelin’s employees have visited other major global regions in an effort to build consensus, he adds, and have published articles in relevant trade journals.

In the meantime, Mesnac’s customers are using EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tags in two key areas: facilitating smart-tire applications and monitoring raw materials and components utilized in tire manufacturing. A smart tire, containing an embedded tag encoded with a unique identification number, can be tracked around the world to the customer who buys each tire, as well as to maintenance personnel who service or manage tires on vehicles.

For material tracking, Mesnac says it offers an RFID solution for automatically identifying what materials and components are used in finished products.

According to Lew, Michelin continues to evaluate the needs of its own customers and the value that RFID technology brings to them, and has embedded RFID tags in evaluation groups of its truck tires. “There have been other members of the tire industry that have similarly evaluated aspects of tire RFID technology,” he states.

There are other RFID-related efforts currently under way. The U.S.-based Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), for instance, has provided input for an electronic tire identification feasibility study that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) plans to launch sometime next year. That study was mandated by an amendment to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 (FAST Act).

The objective of NHTSA’s electronic tire identification study is to assess reliable, yet cost-effective technology options, such as RFID, to improve the efficiency and accuracy of capturing tire identification numbers (TIN). The RMA examined these technology options, as well as functionalities related to TIN capture, such as screening potentially defective or non-compliant tires in inventory, either before or after the installation of tires onto vehicles.