A Guide to Buying RFID tags and Equipment
The primary reason why RFID technology became increasingly popular in the 21st century is due to the Department of Defense and Walmart mandates. During that period, components like antenna, readers, and time and tag options were not many. Hence, the selection process was effortless and seamless.
These days, several products need system customization for each application to be installed successfully.
This guide aims to equip the mind of the reader with enough information they need to make the right buying decision. Some of the reader’s factors are size limits for tags and antennas, reader power features and connection alternatives for each hardware, etc.
You need to take a bold step by getting a full picture of what you need or the problem that must be solved. When you understand the business’s entire need, the project’s scope, the budget, and other factors, all you need and the Equipment begins to fall into line.
- Do you have any business goals or problems you want to achieve or solve?
- Do you have any present system that would help you solve this problem and achieve this goal?
- Explain and highlight your preferred application?
- How much money do you want to exhaust on the project?
- Which country or continent will you use the RFID?
- What items or products do you want to tag and track?
- What is the number of read zones or read points you need?
- Where do you want to place the antennas, computer items, and reader, and the likes?
- Do you need software and installation, or do you want to buy tags/hardware and install it yourself?
Introduction to RFID tags
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags are also known as transponders, and they are little devices that use minimal-power radio waves to receive, preserve, and send data to close readers. RFID tags consist of some significant features like an Integrated circuit (IC) or microchip, a substrate material layer, and an antenna that keeps the components in one piece.
Generally, there are three types of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. There are active, passive, and semi-passive/battery-assisted passive tags. The active RFID tags come with their power source and transmitter within the tag. The passive RFID tags do not have their power source.
They get their power from the electromagnetic energy that the RFID reader transmits. Semi-passive tags have a power source within a passive tag configuration.
It is also important to mention that RFID tags function in three frequency types: Low frequency (LF), High Frequency (HF), and Ultra-High Frequency (UHF).
RFID tags can be connected to various surfaces, and they have different designs and sizes. Interestingly, RFID tags are available in a broad selection of form factors like dry inlays, wet inlays, wristbands, stickers, cards, labels, and a host of others.
Because RFID tags come in various read ranges, shapes, and sizes, you need to select the one that meets your needs. Before you buy an RFID tag, you need to be sure of the application’s requirements before you get it. This process would need you to narrow down your search based on the specific features that the needed RFID tag must possess.
Some questions would be imperative to determine the type of tag that would be great for your application. If you want to tag above one object, it would be best to use a tag that will suffice for all objects.
When you want to decide on the type of tag to use, the primary step is to know why an RFID inlay/label or a hard-RFID tag is needed.
RFID inlay is the functional feature of an RFID tag’s label responsible for encoding the identifying information. The RFID inlay is as minute as a grain of rice, and it functions with radio-frequency waves to send information to the computer system through an RFID reader.
Also, the RFID inlay comprises two components. It has a microchip or integrated circuit that stores identifying information. This integrated circuit is attached to a little silver, copper or aluminum wires known as the antenna. In turn, the antenna sends and receives radio-frequency signals.
The antenna and the microchip are kept in the label, and the whole unit is coated in plastic. What’s more, RFID inlays work when the microchip’s data is transmitted to the RFID tag’s antenna. At that point, the antenna of the RFID reader reads it. And it is sent to the computer system acting as the host to store, analysis or process.
Generally, RFID inlays are divided into wet and dry. RFID inlays are referred to as wet when an adhesive is added to the inlay. This is done to adhere it to the pressure-sensitive liner which makes up the label. When an inlay is dry, it is attached to the label in the absence of an adhesive.
RFID inlays allow the printing of barcodes and readable information. For most purposes, RFID inlays are more used than hard tags. And one of the primary reasons is hinged on the cost. The RFID inlays vary in reading range, size, adhesive preferences, printability, and several others.
- Seamless to use
- It can work with an RFID printer for bulk encoding/printing.
- It is not weather-resistant
- It only works with the adhesive attachment means.
- The metal-mount models are few and limited.
RFID inlays/labels: Questions
- How many items do you want to tag?
- What is the duration of the tags’ lifespan?
- What are the size limitations for the tags?
- Will you tag on metal, wood, plastic, or other surfaces?
- If you want to work with an RFID printer, which model of RFID printer will you use?
- Are there extreme environmental conditions to look into, like excess cold, heat, moisture, vibrations, corrosive elements, and the likes?
- Do you need high-temperature adhesives?
- Is user-memory needed? Will the tag store anything asides from the special product code?
- Do you need printing or custom coding?
- Do you need to perforate between labels?
RFID Hard Tags
RFID Hard tags are tags that are made from materials like ceramics, ABS, or plastics. The RFID Hard tags do not have the paper nature like labels and inlays. RFID hard tags are also structured for distinct application needs like enhanced cold and heat resistance, objects embedding, and upgraded read range.
Due to these RFID hard tags’ thickness and largeness, they are more expensive than inlays and labels. Interestingly, these hard tags can be as low as $1 and as high as $15 for each tag. When you purchase RFID hard tags in many quantities, it is quite inexpensive, similar to inlays and labels.
RFID Hard tags come in various shapes and sizes. They could be as small as a little pencil and big as a vehicle’s license plate.
- The RFID hard tags are primarily dependent on the tags’ features.
- There are various attachment methods
- RFID Hard tags are pricey than RFID inlays
- The encoding and labeling of RFID hard tags is a very slow process. Also, some models cannot work with a label.
RFID Hard Tags: Questions
- How many items do you want to tag?
- What is the nature of the surface you want to tag? (Metal, wood, plastic, etc.).
- How durable are the tags?
- What read range is needed?
- What are the size limitations of the RFID hard tags?
- Are there extreme environmental conditions you should look into? (Excess cold, heat, UV rays, etc.)
- What method of attachment will you use? Cable tiles, adhesives, screws, or rivets?
- Do you need user memory?
- Do you need printing or custom coding?
- What is your budget price for each tag?
Introduction to RFID readers
RFID fixed-readers are stationary, top-performing devices useful for reading and writing tags in any application. There are two models of RFID fixed-readers. The first is the non-integrated readers that are connected to antennas through coaxial cable. In comparison, the integrated readers comprise an antenna and a reader in a device.
Provided you have a primary idea of the world of RFID; you can effortlessly set up fixed readers and use them when you want. You can also connect from 1-64 antennas via auxiliary-multiplexer devices. With the RFID reader, you can amass information through an RFID tag used to track/monitor individual objects.
RFID Fixed readers: Questions
- Which country will you use the RFID reader?
- Where will you mount the reader?
- How fast will the tags move through the read zone?
- How many tags do you want to read at once?
- How many antennas do you want to use with this reader?
- How will you power the reader?
- Will there be excess environmental conditions to look out for, like excessive moisture, heat, and cold?
- Will you connect the reader directly to the host computer or via a network?
- Do you require any GPIO functionality like light-stacks?
Reader Modules are the computing aspect of the RFID reader. Generally, they are incorporated into an already-existing product design. They are employed as the base to produce a special RFID reader item. RFID reader modules are not useful when they are outside the box. And the reason is, they are not complete products.
RFID reader modules need extra engineering to make them functional. When you develop with RFID reader modules, the customer has increased flexibility to differentiate the modules’ frequency ranges. More so, the customer can specify the processing power and sensor options rather than being stuck on an old reader’s design.
Since the customer makes a payment for the hardware that the application needs, large-scale integrations are more affordable when the project uses RFID reader modules, in this case, customers would ditch readers that are engineered more than the application’s needs and specifications.
RFID Reader Modules: Questions
- Have you gone through a Reader Module Guide?
- Which country will you use the RFID reader module?
- How many tags would need to be read at once?
- How many antennas would be used with the reader module?
Introduction to RFID Antennas and Cables
RFID antennas and cables are important in systems that have a non-incorporated reader module or a fixed reader. Integrated fixed readers and handheld readers are produced using an onboard antenna. Hence, buying an antenna is not needed with these types of readers. There are some special characteristics that Antennas have like polarity, gain and size.
This is why it is crucial to know what the application demands before you opt for one. For Coaxial cables, they come in various lengths, connector types, and insulation ratings that have a direct correlation with the connectors on the antennas and the selected readers.
When the energy travels from the RFID reader through the cable to the RFID antenna, the power subsides, and it cannot be gotten again. Hence, to make sure that every RFID antenna cable achieves the performance you crave for your application, you must take intentional steps to reduce the volume of loss.
If you want to choose the right cable for the application, you need to choose the antenna and reader first.
The RFID antenna cable you choose depends on some important factors:
- The length of cable needed to connect the reader to the antenna.
- The desired read range from the antenna to the RFID tag.
- The antenna’s gain is used.
When the cable is longer, the loss is greater. However, you can minimize this loss with the use of a suitably-insulated higher-rated cable. The disadvantage of using a higher-rated cable is that it is very thick and challenging because it does not bend like the less-thick ones.
Also, if your preferred read range is short, you can use a lower-rated cable. To maximize the read range, it is best to use a higher-rated cable.
When you want to choose a cable, it is important to consider the RFID antenna’s gain. This means you have to consider factors like cable rating and length, reader-power settings and a host of others. When you factor in the antenna’s gain, you will realize it shares equal importance with the cable’s nature needed to attain your goal.
Antenna’s & Cables: Questions
- What volume of read range is needed?
- Can you always know and control the RFID tag’s orientation in line with the antenna’s position in your application?
- Do you have an idea of the ideal read zone using dimensions as a yardstick?
- Will you mount the antenna outdoors, indoors or on a vehicle?
- Are there environmental conditions to look into, like excessive moisture, heat or cold?
- Are there available size limitations?
- Will mounting brackets be needed?
- Which reader will you use?
- Which antenna will you use?
- What is the distance between the antenna and the reader?
- Does the cable need to bend beyond 45 degrees before it connects to the antenna?
Introduction to RFID printers
RFID printers do not perform the function of printing alone; they encode RFID inlays or labels. RFID printers have a variety of quintessential uses. And when combined with software, several rolls of tags can automatically be printed effectively and fast.
If you are using applications with inlays or labels, it is usually challenging to encode manually, most times due to its volume. However, with RFID printers, you will be surprised at how fast you will print with little or no stress.
RFID printers do not need ink like conventional ones. However, they function properly with ribbon, which prints graphics or texts on tags. For tags that come with paper faces, a different type of ribbon is needed, other than labels with a plastic-type or poly surface.
If you desire to achieve the best results, you need printer software. One of the primary reasons for this is, you will be provided with standard features like a label design. More so, this software allows for a user-friendly interface that prevents you from writing programming codes.
RFID printers: Questions
- What do you think your printing volume would be in a day, week or month?
- Have you figured out the size of the tags you intend to print?
- Have you decided on the resolution quality you want on the printed label?
- What kind of printer do you want? Do you want the network-enabled printer or the one that connects straight to a host computer system?
- Do you feel Wi-Fi capability will be needed?
Printer Labels and Software Questions
- Will you print poly-faced tags or paper tags?
- What kind of printer model will you use?
- Will you use programming codes for the printer interface, or will you need another software entirely?
- What function do you need your printer software to provide?
- How many printers will be used with the software?
Having read this guide, it is important to note that you need to exercise a great deal of care before buying RFID tags and Equipment. Many people make the mistake of entering the market to purchase RFID tags and related products without taking out ample time to know their peculiarities.
Before you buy RFID tags and Equipment, you need to be sure of your application needs. This will guide you in making the ideal decision.