Paxar, a White Plains, N.Y.-based RFID technology company, offers some tips on complying with the U.S. Department of Defense's RFID program. Beginning Jan, 2006, the DoD required that the following Classes of Supply will require RFID tags to be placed on all individual cases, all cases packaged within palletized unit loads and all palletized unit loads (pending appropriate safety certification):
- Class I -- Subclass -- Packaged Operational Rations
- Class II -- Clothing, Individual Equipment, and Tools
- Class III(P) -- Packaged Petroleum, Lubricants, Oils, Preservatives, Chemicals & Additives
- Class IV-- Construction & Barrier Equipment
- Class VI -- Personal Demand Items
- Class VIII -- Medical Materials (except Pharmaceuticals). Exceptions to this rule include certain bulk commodities such as sand, bulk liquids and coal
As of January 2007, there will be about 35 DoD ship-to destinations that are covered by the RFID mandate. Also beginning in 2007, items that require a UID (Unique Identification) will need to be RFID tagged in the item packaging and Dod will only accept 96-bit EPC Class 1 Gen 2 UHF passive tags.
As far as choosing an RFID inlay, much depends on the content of the product. As the Paxar white paper entitled "12 Basic Steps to DoD RFID Compaliance" explains, UHF inlays work well on RF-friendly products -- which would be products such as paper and cloth that do not have high amounts of liquid or metal. In this case, tag selection and inlay position are not critical. Liquid products tend to absorb UHF RFID energy, making it more difficult to achieve adequate read ranges. If cases have liquid contents, extra care is needed in choosing the correct inlay design and inlay placement. Often, slight shifts in the location of the inlay on the carton will be enough to move away from the liquid and resolve the read range issues. In some cases, it may be necessary to pick a more robust inlay design to help compensate for the loss of read range due to the liquids.
Metals also pose a challenge to UHF RFID labels. Since metals reflect RF energy, they often cause 'echoes' that confuse RFID readers. Again, choosing the correct inlay design and placement on your package can typically yield good results. The DoD has specific rules concerning where these labels cannot be placed:
- Don't put the smart label where it can be cut when opening the package.
- Don't cover the smart labels with tape, bands, or other packing material.
- Keep any two RFID labels at least 10 cm apart.
- Attach the label so that it is uniquely associated with the item and case it is identifying.
- Place the RFID tag on the identification-marking side and right of center on a vertical face, allowing a minimum of 5 cm from all edges.
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