Experimenting with RFID: Behind the Scenes of Innovation | Avery Dennison | RFID

Avery Dennison RFID Blog

Experimenting with RFID: Behind the Scenes of Innovation

RFID laboratory in Ohio serves as state-of-the-art testing facility for RFID technology and applications

A decade ago, a high-performing RFID tag was 4 inches wide and read at 10 feet. Today, not only has the market caught on, but the technology has developed, too: the same size tags can read at over 40 feet, and tags less than two inches wide can read over 20 feet.

What started as a ‘garage shop’ in 2005 has evolved into a state-of-the-art testing facility for RFID technology and applications. Here to take us through the Avery Dennison RFID Lab is Elizabeth Sowle, manager of Application Testing in Miamisburg, Ohio. With 12 years of experience in the technology and engineering space, Elizabeth leads a team of engineers to support new product development for RFID. “We test, validate and give feedback on all of our new tag designs. We also suggest tag solutions for improvement or go-to-market guidance,” she shared.

Read on to learn how the lab and its members serve as a platform for discovery:

Talk us through the RFID Lab. What’s there?
It’s a place - and group of people - that houses equipment to determine how our RFID inlay products, typically tags, will perform. There are four lab rooms, plus a large warehouse area, dedicated to testing the technology:

  • Anechoic chamber: A room free of radio frequency reflections that allows for precise tests of RFID inlay performance

  • Calibrated hardware to make sure tags are up to market standards

  • The latest RFID reader hardware so we can better understand performance with our product

  • A high-speed conveyor for testing DC applications, located in a warehouse area

  • Thousands of products and materials for tag performance evaluation: clothing, medical vials, tires, food packaging, makeup, jewelry, and more, for testing any scenario our customers might face

I also partner with outstanding engineers on my team and across Avery Dennison, as well as local co-op students who keep the work fresh and exciting. We believe in helping the community and younger generations understand technology and its impact now and in the future.

What is developed in the lab, and what’s the application focus?
Just about anything we can put an RFID tag on will come into the lab. We develop tests with typical items where an inlay is most likely to be placed, such as with denim or a bottle of makeup toner, so we can compare RFID read performance. Avery Dennison also works closely with University of Auburn RFID Lab and the European EPC Competence Center (EECC) to ensure our tags meet and exceed regulatory and market expectations.

Apparel is the largest market we serve by customer. That said, with more and more apparel adoption occurring over the years, there’s been inroads and growth in non-apparel applications. Newer applications, including food and beauty products, are active right now, so we’re working closely with our design team to define and create improved solutions for these tough-to-tag categories, which are often liquid filled or have  metallic packaging which creates additional challenges for this technology.

Progress in automotive and aviation over the past two years is inspiring. We’re also exploring new avenues of consumer interaction with near-field communication (NFC). Regardless of application, in each instance we push the boundaries of tag performance.

It’s technology with a long road. [RFID] was expected to take off over a decade ago (some suggest even longer). We’re now hitting a high note and it’s grown such that it’s working particularly well for these applications, which allows us to create products that can bring even more value to the customer.

Technology is transforming the world we live in. With new enablers and innovation, coupled with consumer and user demand there is one solution to address demands - intelligent labels.

The team goes through “what-if” scenarios to challenge the status quo.

What customer pain points do you address?
Whether we are serving a system integrator who’s creating RFID processes for other customers or a brand owner who’s trying to manage inventory in real time, we’re simply trying to improve their processes, pushing us to create the best RFID tag solution possible.

What role does innovation play in the lab?
Innovation is essential for us. We’re always understanding the why behind what we're doing so to that we don’t get into a routine, and can make more efficient and intelligent tag configurations.

When it comes to new product development, we consider all read points the tag will provide, what goes into design definition - what is the best size for tagging this item? What is the environment the tag will see?  The team goes through “what-if” scenarios to challenge the status quo. If we’re looking at tagging a new type of item, we think about where the RFID can sit: does it have to be a label stuck on? Can it be applied some other way?

What’s the future of RFID?
We believe that RFID will become fairly ubiquitous in day-to-day life. Most items will have a unique ID that can be easily tracked by those making and selling the goods, while helping consumers to understand what’s in their hands. It’s getting easier to tag items each day!

“RFID’s applications are designed to make life more efficient, and when activated, it makes an effective, almost magical product.”

Here’s to more magic.

Schedule a visit to the RFID Lab now.

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