UHF RFID, One Size Fits All! – Really?

With the proliferation of UHF (ultra-high frequency) based RFID in the commercial and consumer markets, UHF has been seen as the mainstay now for many low-cost, long-range RFID applications. And in recent years with the desire for longer range application flexibility in the industrial sector, naturally users want to gravitate toward technologies and products with a proven track record. But can you really take the same products developed and used for the commercial and consumer logistics markets and apply them reliably to industrial applications like asset tracking, EKanban, general manufacturing or logistics?
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New Guy Jumps in Head First at IMTS

Sandvik Coromant yellow bags are everywhere

Stepping off the escalator, I immediately begin searching for something recognizable to ease the anxiety that has been building over the 5 hour trip from northern Kentucky.  I am having a little trouble dodging and diving through the current of an estimated 100 thousand plus patrons who all seem to be toting a bright yellow messenger bag with their heads slightly bowed and eyes fixed intently on whatever information was just piped into their phone. Am I supposed to have a yellow bag?  I didn’t see it when I picked up my badge.  I know I am not one of them yet, but at least I can look the part, right?

As I continue to stutter step and juke my way through the steady stampede, I catch a glimpse of a vehicle that looks like Mad Max meets the X-games. So I dip off to the left to get a closer look.

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Intelligent Interfaces and IO-Link Innovation

I recently had the opportunity to attend Hannover Fair in Germany and was blown away by the experience… buildings upon buildings of automation companies doing amazing things and helping us build our products faster, smarter and cheaper.  One shining topic for me at the fair was the continued growth of new products being developed with IO-Link communications in them.

All in all, the growth of IO-Link products is being driven by the need of customers to know more about their facility, their process and their production.  IO-Link devices are intelligent and utilize a master device to communicate their specific information over an industrial network back to the controller.  To learn more about IO-Link, read my previous entry, 5 Things You Need to Know about IO-Link.

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A Bolt For RFID

In many cases, RFID tags are only as good as the package that carries them. In recent years with the explosion in the use and acceptance of RFID, many different types of tag packaging have become available. In these cases, these new packages have been based around low-cost labels. But when it comes to the industrial use of RFID, strength and reusability are an absolute must and there is a package for that too.

Databolt examples.

This package is called the Databolt™. The Databolt is most likely what you might picture when you hear that name in reference to RFID. It is literally an industrial grade bolt with an RFID tag embedded inside. Usually the tag is located in the head of the bolt. The bolt body is usually made of a type of tooling steel which has been treated or hardened for maximum longevity. In several automotive applications today, the Databolt is screwed into a part, typically metal, programmed with data as needed and then erased and removed only to be taken back to the beginning of the process and used again. But there are new applications where a Databolt can be screwed into a part like an oil or gas valve, cylinder or plate as a bolt for example, and then used as a track and trace method for things like field servicing once the device is installed or in use.

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Survey Says: “UHF RFID works”

To give you an idea of where I’m going to take this, let me ask a few simple questions. Would you buy a mattress without laying down on it to see if it’s comfortable? What about a motor cycle or car? Would you buy one without a test drive? In that same vain, would you want your company to invest in UHF (ultra-high frequency) RFID (radio frequency identification) equipment for a RFID project without anything more than specs if you didn’t have to? I would assume the answers are: “of course not”.
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Heading to Fabtech? Read this first.

Balluff has the opportunity to share some of the company’s proven Error-Proofing Techniques in a Seminar at Fabtech on November 14, 2011 in McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois.  The session is segmented into two areas:

  1.   Automated/Robotic Weld Cell Process Improvement. We continue to see a great deal of need in this arena.  When the economy tanked in 2007/2008, many companies inside and outside of the Automotive Industry were on the edge and many good, talented people were let go.  In some cases, the people whose jobs were eliminated had many years of experience in maintenance and in manufacturing engineering.  When volumes of work came back, so did the problems associated with weld cell nesting, Poka-Yoke, clamp sensing because of loading impact, weld debris hostility and other issues related to peripheral sensing devices in weld cells; in many cases, without the experienced personnel to reduce time in consumption used to address a wide range of problems.  In this session, we will discuss and provide examples of proven techniques aimed squarely at these productivity and time-wasting problems that will return significant ROI for many customers.

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Sensor Based Error Proofing – As easy as 1, 2, 3

Error proofing your manufacturing processes can be as easy as 1, 2, 3. You should be able to freely deploy error proofing in all appropriate locations in your plants without concerns regarding costs and long-term support or stability. It all starts by first identifying your trouble spots, then implementing a detection method, and finally establishing a process to handle the discrepancy. Let’s discuss the detection methods using sensors, as well as the process, for handling discrepancies.

By utilizing sensors as opposed to vision systems or other passive approaches, the cost of implementation and maintenance is reduced. With the new generation of low-cost lasers, sensors are now more affordable and easier to implement.  Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) brings new opportunities for handling non-conforming products. By tagging the individual part, assembly, or lot, products can be directed to the appropriate rework or scrap area.

These methods will allow you to implement more error proofing in your manufacturing lines to save thousand of dollars in scrap or rework and avoid the potential for costly containment.

Top 5 questions regarding error proofing…

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RFID Embraces The Cloud

One of the biggest advantages of using Radio Frequency Identification in industry and logistics today is the visibility it can provide into the process. With the use of Cloud Computing, that visibility can be achieved with greater flexibility and lower cost.

Cloud Computing provides a means of leveraging shared IT infrastructure and standardized software modules to collect and present RFID data without having to develop, maintain and most importantly, finance a redundant and load balanced infrastructure. Cloud applications also provide visibility and access anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

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Get it in Writing?

I recently attended the RFID Journal Live 2011 trade show and conference in Orlando, FL. I really like this event because it brings together a diverse group of vendors, academics and customers in a setting that promotes open, honest discussions. These discussions are about not only technology, but also the state of the markets RFID serves, including aerospace, medical/heath care, defense, supply chain/retail and manufacturing, the process of RFID, like developing your ROI and even the “how to” parts of it all.

I would highly recommend attending this event to anyone seriously looking to implement RFID, especially at an organizational level. You will gain insight into the advantages of the RFID value proposition and the visibility capability all in one place, at one time. (For future events and to take advantage of RFID Journals offering, go to www.rfidjournal.com)

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Industrial Identification – Barcodes

Written by: Andrew Bollinger

In the realm of manufacturing and industrial automation, the need to easily track products and collect information about their whereabouts has been a problem faced by many businesses. The complexities surrounding the details of successfully identifying and recording products’ information have traditionally been solved by implementing codes on the product’s label or package.  The most widely use code today is the one-dimensional barcode. While advances in one-dimensional code reading have continued to improve, new hardware, code readers, and symbology have made an emergence and are proving to be a more reliable means to track information.

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