Contrary to off-the-shelf RFID tags, custom RFID tags can be created with unique features for an application such as a special adhesive backing, specific data printed and encoded on the tag, as well as a custom size and shape. Custom RFID tags can be an advantage especially for applications that require a large number of tags because the additional cost per tag for customization can be offset by volume pricing.
When purchasing RFID tags, there are three levels of customization available:
Constructed from scratch to fit a specific application, these tags have unique variables for almost all the options defined below.
Low to No Customization
An off-the-shelf tag is basically a ready-to-go tag with the possibility of some custom printing and encoding specific to the application.
Detailed below are some of the options available for the varying customization levels for RFID tags.
Many RFID applications require unique attachment methods to best fit the item to be tracked. While many off-the-shelf RFID tags come standard with adhesive, customizable tags can be created or purchased with attachment methods such as extra strength adhesive, epoxy, or holes for mounting with zip ties, or even screws.
The material or substrate that makes up the back of an RFID tag usually determines the ruggedness of an RFID tag. Most inlays and labels have a PET or plastic backing followed by a layer of adhesive. Because hard tags typically have an external layer of encasement around them, a durable plastic, or sometimes metal, makes up the backing in order to hold up to more rugged applications.
Other backings can be used to create a special effect on how the RFID tags behave. Metal-mount tags are affixed with a special backing that provides separation from the metal surface, absorbs RF energy, and then uses the metal surface as a backplane to amplify the RF waves, thus enabling the tag to work better on or in metal.
Another example is foam-backed RFID tags used for mounting on metal or items with a large water content, such as the human body. The foam spacer in between the tag’s antenna and the mounting surface helps to minimize effects usually present when mounting on these RF-unfriendly materials.
For inlays and labels, there are a few different types of material that make up the front of the tag, or the tag’s face. The most often used materials are clear PET (polyethylene terephthalate, a type of plastic), white PET, and paper. Clear and white PET can stand up to a few more environmental factors than paper, and PET also keeps the printed text from fading quicker than paper. However, paper is generally a cheaper face stock than PET and is great for short-term applications like race timing.
When printing data onto the inlays or labels, the chosen face stock will affect the printer ribbon as well. While paper face stocks can accommodate a more economical wax or wax-resin blend ribbon, PET face stocks require a more costly (and more durable) full resin ribbon.
Data – Encoded
Customizing the encoded information on each tag is one of the biggest advantages of using customizable tags. Off-the-shelf tags are usually shipped from production pre-encoded with either a random repeating number or random unique number, but custom encoding can ensure that the data on the tag is relevant to a specific application.
Data – Printed
Printing custom information on an RFID tag, like human readable text, 1D or 2D barcodes, or logos can be a great way to visually customize tags for ease of use, additional functionality, or marketing purposes. Printed data on tags is a great way to quickly tell the difference between two tags or visually gather information about the item that is tagged.
The memory size affects the amount of data that can be stored on the RFID tag. Memory is expensive and most applications don’t require extended memory, so most RFID tags have similar memory sizes. However, it is possible to customize the amount of memory on RFID tags – either by re-allocating specific bits to certain memory banks (depending on the tag’s integrated circuit, or IC), or by customizing a tag with a high-memory IC.
Size & Shape
Most often, tags are designed with a simple shape and size to match the internal antenna; however, different sizes and shapes can be created in order to best suit the intended application and asset to be tagged. An example of a tag with a customized size and shape (and attachment method) to make it an ideal tag for a specific application is the RFID hang tag.
For more information about the different levels of customization available for RFID tags, or information about RFID tags in general, please comment below or contact us.