In addition, Avery Dennison highlighted its new iLab, a customer experience center designed to generate ideas and technologies encompassing RFID and NFC technology. According to Mariana Rodriguez, business director, Intelligent Labels at Avery Dennison, the iLab will contribute to developing the next generation of label and packaging solutions. In conjunction with Avery Dennison’s Concept Lab, the company is committed to solving problems with a host of resources, ranging from ideation sessions to prototypes.
“We love these events, because they make a difference and help our customers,” said Nick Tucci, vice president and general manager, Label and Graphic Materials North America. “There are over 25,000 years of experience with our employees, who are tenured, committed and dedicated to ensuring your success. We recommend taking advantage of and getting exposed to the investments we’ve made in our labs to make this a creative space.”
Avery Dennison has seen significant growth in intelligent labeling. The Converter Academy included panel presentations, panel discussions and multiple tours of the Mentor facility, all showing the investments made in this technology.
As part of the event, Elizabeth Sowle, RFID applications testing manager, Avery Dennison, detailed the science behind RFID technology and how it can be practically used to enhance labels and packaging.
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) involves the wireless transfer of data to or from electronic tags that are attached to items. Each item is uniquely identified, which requires a matching RFID reader to interrogate the tag. RFID, unlike bar coding, does not necessitate a direct line of sight. Other benefits include a fast, simultaneous read; unique identification of physical items; and a digital connection.
“RFID hides in plain sight,” said Sowle. “It’s so prevalent that you can spot it all around you. Over 15 billion chips have been sold, ranging from applications like tires, medical, aviation, and all the way to tracking people on oil rigs.”
The Intelligent Label Converter Academy primarily focused on passive RFID technology, meaning no battery is required. The tag reflects a radio signal to communicate to the reader, making the technology affordable, flexible and devoid of battery maintenance. HF (or high frequency) RFID, which includes NFC, operates at 13.56 MHz, with a read distance of centimeters. This is often seen with consumers placing their smartphones up to an object, as well as with credit cards. UHF (ultra-high frequency) RFID functions at an 860-960 MHz frequency, translating to longer read distances. This is ideal for item-level tagging and tracking product inventory. HF and NFC technology are characterized as 1:1, while UHF is seen as 1:Many.
An RFID inlay incorporates an IC (integrated circuit), antenna and carrier. The tag, on the other hand, is the finished ticket or label encasing the IC and antenna. The item size will drive the inlay size, whereas the material will determine the inlay. There are challenges associated with the technology, though. Liquids, metals, glass and rubber can be complex, however Sowle noted, “There’s almost always a solve, but the challenges are something to be aware of.”
When choosing a tag, it’s important to gather tag requirements (chip type, label size, is it near metal?), review requirements against RFID data sheets, and then select and test. For UHF/RAIN tags, bigger tags read from further away, and newer chips perform better. For HF/NFC tags, chip selection is key, especially choosing the needed memory and features. The tag read distance is the same for most materials, and users should select the largest tags they can fit in the application.
There are several converting options, as well. Wet inlays, dry inlays, on-pitch and off-pitch converting are all variables in this process.
- On-pitch converting: dry inlay with PS delamination plus one hot melt
- Off-pitch converting: use an inserter with continuous dry inlays, where the inlays are cut before being applied to the release liner using a hot-melt adhesive
- Off-pitch converting with wet inlays: PS delamination plus transfer tape
RFID might seem complicated at the outset, but Steve Leibin, president of Matik, believes this technology has the potential to proliferate rapidly in the future. “RFID converting is not much more difficult than what most converters are doing now,” he said. “It’s growing and it’s going to continue to grow in the near future. And Avery Dennison has the materials to help.”
According to Leibin, 96% of retailers have plans to start tagging, and the market in 2018 is expected to be about $11 billion, representing 7.6% growth. The standard label market is seeing about 5% growth.
“I see NFC being heavily used in the packaging side,” explained Dave Eagleson, VP and chief operating officer at SimplyRFID. “It’s all about the consumer experience, and you’re seeing it in areas like sporting events and with products like wine and spirits.”
“We see constant daily technology changes,” says Kelly Snead, business development manager, RFID - Intelligent Labels at Avery Dennison. “We think RFID is here to stay. It’s the quickest way to digitize inanimate objects and get them on the Internet of Things. I can program tags with my phone. I can program 20 tags watching a football game on a Sunday before I have to go into a meeting.”