O-I Debuts HF and UHF Tags within Bottles
In a rollout of a bottle-embedded RFID tag solution, Owens-Illinois (O-I; Perrysburg, OH), demonstrated 100% item- and case-level reads using both HF and UHF tag technology.
O-I said that it is offering pharmaceutical companies tags with either frequency incorporated into bottles and other containers in a patent-pending blow molding process.
“At this point, we are looking to partner with a select number of customers for a larger-scale beta project to demonstrate the value-added nature of this packaging,” says Ann House, global director of RFID solutions.
At the recent RFID Health Care Industry Adoption Summit in Washington, DC, O-I showed the write/read capacity for both frequencies at the item level as well as item-level reads in cases of bottles containing powders, gel caps, solids, and liquids.
Solutions employing HF tags from Tagsys (Cambridge, MA) and near-field UHF tags from Impinj (Seattle) were tested. Bottles were coded with 96-bit EPC numbers and read on a racetrack conveyor. In a second demo, item-level tags were read in cases of 48 bottles. In the UHF test, 49 tags, including a standard UHF case tag, were read at the case conveyor. “Both Impinj and Tagsys tags demonstrated the ability to have all items read on the bottle and case lines,” says Brian Chisholm, RFID new product development engineer.
In the demos, Impinj displayed significantly faster performance with its Speedway reader and Monza chip technology. UHF-tagged bottles were processed at 500 to 600 per minute compared with 110 bottles per minute with HF. The UHF bottles required no spacing. In the HF demo, bottles embedded with Tagsys inlays using Phillips Semiconductor ICODE 1 ICs (integrated circuits) were spaced ten inches apart to present one bottle at a time in the reader field.
“Impinj showed the ability to pick up the unique serialized-tag ID numbers and write EPC numbers to them with multiple bottles in the same reader field. We could only have one bottle in the field when we were encoding the HF inlay (with the ICODE 1 chip),” says Chisholm.
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The UHF Gen2 protocol supported faster data transfer speeds, as “the Gen2 protocol was specifically developed for high-speed applications,” says Chis-holm. The near-field reader/ tag communication confined the reader signal. “Near-field UHF can be constrained tightly, even for case reads [in a 30 in. long by 20 in. wide reader field],” he adds.
“We demonstrated how we can constrain the read zone with UHF. The Impinj reader antenna is designed to produce the magnetic near field and constrain the far-field electromagnetic energy,” says Vince Moretti, vice president of RFID systems, Impinj.
“In the case-read demo, we read 100% of items at the full speed of 600 bottles per minute. We stopped the conveyor and pushed the case slowly toward the antenna to show we could get within less than a foot before we get our first read,” he adds.
“There is no difference in performance between near-field UHF and HF around liquids and metals because they both use the magnetic field. And we showed you don’t need dual frequencies. One common infrastructure was used for both item and case levels,” says Moretti.
Though solutions have emerged with RFID inlays in closures, O-I says that bottle inlay placement is a better alternative. Inlays in cap liners can be tampered with and closures can be removed or swapped. Bottle-embedded inlays are tamper resistant and tamper evident since bottles have to be destroyed to get at the inlay. Bottle embedding also promotes more-efficient processing, O-I says.
“Our pharmaceutical customers are interested in the inherent advantages of putting the tag into the bottle itself, where you know the tag will stay with the package through to the consumer level,” says House.
Inlays are embedded during the blow molding process into the base of the container. Tags are situated on the outside of the container but captured within the wall of the bottle, so there are no stability and compatibility issues arising from foreign objects inside the bottle, says Chisholm. The tag is covered by a dime-sized embedded disc that makes the tag overt, and enables consumer disabling, he adds.
Chisholm says that bottle-embedded inlays are more consistent in orientation during coding as inlays are separated and in the same plane. Write-antenna placement can be optimized.
The technology protects inlays from damage and avoids waste arising in label-inlay application and smart-label printing and coding processes. Label tags can be disabled as labels are flexed during label printing and coding, and are subject to postlabeling damage.
“There is an inherent amount of scrap associated with label-inlay application that can easily exceed 5 to 6%,” says House.