Northwest Aerospace News June | July Issue No. 3 | Page 54

ID Integration and RFID Technology :

Better , Faster , Cheaper

How simple tags can amplify efficiency and reduce costs in complex production environments
By Fiona McKay , Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance

In the last decade Radio Frequency Identification has been gaining traction in aerospace . The benefits it brings to inventory and asset tracking make it a key enabler to a lean and efficient organization – vital for those manufacturers determined to step up to the cost reduction challenges set by many of the OEMs and government agencies . Current advances in data collection and analytics have also enabled it to become an essential part of company operating systems . However complex it sounds , you don ’ t need to look to large companies to find a solution to your RFID needs . Located in the heart of the Pacific Northwest , ID Integration is providing solutions to everyone from small SMEs to giant corporations .

Fiona McKay
Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance Business Development Director
www . pnaa . net
The basics of RFID
Radio Frequency Identification ( RFID ) utilizes Automatic Identification Technologies ( AIT ) to read tags and capture data essential to efficient operations . RFID tags are like barcode labels on steroids , where data is transmitted via radio waves from a chip inside the tag . The RFID tag acts as a “ transponder ,” automatically transmitting a signal upon receiving an incoming signal . The information can then be transmitted to computers in real time . There are two types of RFID tags , each with their own benefits and limitations .
Passive tags – these tags do not communicate unless they have been energized by radio frequency signals , such as those generated by a handheld reader . The tag collects the energy emitted by a reader ’ s antenna , powering the data chip that then reflects back a signal to the reader . The read range of passive RFID tags is relatively short , usually 25 – 30 feet . However , the advantages are significant as the small size and simplicity of the tags means they accommodate smaller parts and are both inexpensive and disposable , hence bringing numerous benefits to operations where a high number of assets need to be tagged and where there are significant numbers of consumables .
Active RFID – these tags do not rely on antennas as their power source , as each tag contains a small battery that powers up their internal transponder . Like a cell phone , they broadcast their own signals , hence they have a much longer read range than typical passive tags and can utilize the existing Wi-Fi network . These tags are larger and more expensive than the passive tags , but they are re-usable and can be critical to high value assets such as tools and jigs , and high value parts in storage across a large area .
The Rise of RFID in Aerospace
The principles behind RFID were initially driven by the retail industry as a way of tracking and managing inventory . Its success has led to the technology being deployed across many industries and it is now posed for explosive growth , with forecasted revenues of more than $ 18 billion by 2026 . Whilst aerospace has taken longer to adopt the technology , advances in the last five years have enabled the barriers to implementing RFID to be largely overcome , reducing costs significantly and practicality of implementation improving substantially .