Thursday, November 8, 2007

RFID from ink jets

Here’s one use that inkjet printers are being put to that doesn’t involve printing pages or photos. It is generating RFID-enabled labels and smart tickets.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), if you haven’t yet come across it, is a technology for adding tags to any item, tags that emit low frequency radio waves that can be read without having to physically touch an item. Think of them as barcodes that can be read with a scanning device just by walking by them. RFID is used in such fields as warehousing, theft protection, and manufacturing.

Up until now, one of the big problems with RFID has been that it has been slow to make the tags and attach them. The older technique involved copper etching. But new technologies are allowing companies to print out RFID-enabled labels on special adhesive tags that can be automatically applied to any item. Typical systems cost as little as 25 to 50 cents per tag.

Because this method uses printing technology, it can be set up to print with variable data, if you need, for example, to add a unique serial number for each item. The printer uses special conductive inks. It’s a technique that’s gaining wide acceptance in consumer products, crates, or packages.

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