Replacing paper labels on packaging with embedded technology could drive down the cost of radio frequency identification (RFID) to the supply chain, according to two North American packaging solution companies.
Domino Integrated Solutions Group, based in Dallas, USA, and Hide-Pack, in Montreal, Canada, have developed a system that incorporates an RFID inlay within the packaging’s structure during production. This eliminates the need for separate labels and applicators.
‘From the consumer goods manufacturer’s perspective, RFID tags embedded into packaging represent considerable savings, both in capital investment and consumables,’ explains Paul de Blois, Hide-Pack’s Vice President and General Manager. ‘The cost of an RFID inlay is at least 35% less than that of a smart label. Moreover, replacing paper labels with inlays allows manufacturers to lower the fibre content of their packaging, improving stainability.’
The inlay, typically made from PET, poly-propylene, polycarbonate or even paper, is placed inside the joint of a pack after printing and die cutting, but before gluing and folding. ‘The key to making RFID affordable is moving [it] back in the value chain into the manufacturing process,’ says de Blois.
The packaging’s adhesive is used to encapsulate the inlay. This increases the reliability of the technology under detrimental conditions such as condensation or immersion in water. ‘The packaging’s structure and constituents significantly improve the protection of the tag against transit damage and limit its exposure to wet environments and, to a certain degree, excessive heat,’ he adds. The nature of the adhesive formulation and application could also help protect the device from electrostatic discharges.
The Hide-Pack concept has been designed for use in a variety of paper-based package-making equipment, including corrugated case, carton box and envelope lines, but it is also suited to other materials containing a joint, such as film wraps and rigid polymers. The companies claim this does not affect the packaging’s recyclability.
Trials were held in three locations across North America and the technology is now commercially available.
Dr Peter Harrop, Chairman of IDTechEX Ltd, a company specialising in printed electronics, RFID and smart boxes, based in Cambridge, UK, comments, ‘There are currently 360 organisations trying to reduce the cost of RFID, yet companies such as Walmart have lost substantial amounts of money by using the technology. If the Hide-Pack inlay can indeed improve cost then it is a useful step forward for RFID’.