The ControlDesign.com web site has been asking its visitors whether they and their customers use RFID technology, and whether machine builders are being persuaded to design and install RFID technology on the machines prior to shipment.
As we went to press, about half the respondents say their customers are using RFID, but less than one-third of them were embedding the technology on their machines. It remains an end-user task.
We asked them what they thought their direct involvement with RFID would be during the next few years, and more than half expect to be engaged with the technology choice and installation decisions for RFID applications. It’s beginning to look like their expectation is accurate.
Lantech is the latest company installing fully integrated RFID tag-reading capability in its machines, in this case, in its stretch wrappers. The first machine, a semiautomatic wrapper exhibited at Pack Expo 2005, has been delivered to DHL-owned Exel plc’s facility in Harrisburg, Pa., where it’s being integrated into an RFID-enabled order fulfillment system.
William Caudill, Lantech's marketing manager for automatic products, says the machine has a Symbol Technologies’ XR400RFID reader and wireless bridge mounted inside the mast, and Symbol AN400 area antennas on adjustable brackets attached to the roll carriage. "Because the load rotates past the antennas multiple times during wrapping, the stretch wrapping application provides an ideal opportunity for an extremely reliable and complementary read point in achieving optimal, system-level read rates.”
The reader is active only when the machine is wrapping, so it can't generate false reads from a pallet on a passing forktruck. “A key advantage is that Symbol's XR400 RFID reader has already been Generation 2 (Gen 2) certified,” adds Caudill, “and protects our customers' investment because it can be upgraded to Gen 2 through a single software update."
Caudill said that Lantech will ultimately create a retrofit package to allow existing machines to be upgraded for RFID tag reading with various manufacturers' hardware.