Dan Williams, with Avery Dennison Printer Systems (www.ris.averydennison.com), offers these three ways to help shippers get up to speed with radio frequency identification (RFID) labeling:
1. Verify compatibility between RFID printers and labels
When establishing an in-house RFID labeling operation, be sure to purchase RFID label printers and label stock that are compatible. RFID labels carry a small embedded microchip, and chip positioning can be important.
Many RFID printers require chips to be positioned in a specified location on the label. A mismatch between a system's print capabilities and RFID chip positioning can result in damaged RFID chips or smeared printed copy. At a cost of 20-50 cents per label, expenses due to damaged labels can add up quickly.
Some next-generation RFID printers now include "jumpthebump" capabilities, which accommodate RFID labels with chips in any label location. Users alert the printer to chip location during setup. During operation, the print head senses the chip location, and "jumps" over it.
2. Improve RFID label scan rates by correctly positioning RFID readers
To ensure proper reception of RFID signals on packaging lines, check the positioning and orientation of RFID readers with respect to labeled items. Readers must be located within the read range of RFID labels.
In addition, although line-of-sight positioning is not required, RFID readers and labels must be properly oriented so as to allow effective two-way radio communication. Otherwise, important data may be lost. For example, readers positioned directly above moving packaging lines may fail to scan RFID labels placed on the side panels of cartons or cases.
To fix the problem, change the orientation of RFID readers with respect to labels or request that RFID labels be placed in a different location, such as on panel tops. Some RFID labels currently in development feature embedded antennas that are oriented in more than one direction. These labels could improve RFID signal reception and allow greater flexibility on the packaging line.
3. Safeguard RFID communications from electronic interference
When setting up systems for encoding or reading RFID labels, minimize the risk of electronic interference from devices or networks that employ frequencies to standard RFID frequencies. Potential sources of interference include cordless phones, wireless networks and desktop/laptop computers. In the worst case, interference can jam RFID signals and impair data communication.
Problems are more likely to affect RFID readers than printer/encoders because of the greater distances between reader antennas and labeled items. To prevent interference, remove cordless phones and similar devices from the vicinity of RFID readers, and properly shield the area from the effects of wireless networks and computers. You should also consider moving reader antennas as close as possible to labeled items.