When it comes to radio frequency identification (RFID) solutions, ultra-high frequency (UHF) passive RFID tags are an extremely popular option because they are very cost-effective, yet still have one of the longest read ranges. They have no power of their own — which is why they are called “passive” tags — so they are powered by the radio frequency energy transmitted from RFID readers/antennas. A UHF passive RFID tag consists of four sub-components: and RFID chip, an antenna, an inlay, and a carrier.
The RFID chip is an integrated circuit that provides several key attributes related to operating frequency, memory type and capacity, data transmission/receipt, and power. In other words, the chip is the brains of the RFID tag. The antenna, which is attached to the chip, collects radio frequency waves used to power the chip. The antenna also transmits attribute data from the chip. Together, the chip and the antenna comprise the RFID inlay.
An inlay is typically a plastic substrate that the chip and antenna are placed on so they can be connected. Inlays come in two types: wet and dry. A wet inlay features an adhesive so it can be applied to a surface; a dry inlay has no adhesive. The choice of inlay depends on the purpose and placement of the tag on an object.
There are literally hundreds of different types of inlays, each designed with a specific application in mind. Different industries have different requirements for inlays, so there are inlays for pharmaceutical, automotive, retail, manufacturing, and healthcare applications. The inlays are designed for optimum performance when affixed to the material they are intended for. Inlay manufacturers ship their products to RFID tag producers, like Lowry Solutions, who then produce finished products that are ready to be applied.
The carrier is the material or package that the inlay is placed in. The simplest carrier is label stock (think barcode label), where the inlay is laminated into the label stock using specialized converting equipment. Examples of other carriers include plastic capsules or ID badges. Sometimes carriers are made of specialized materials that make it easy to mount the RFID tag on liquid containers or metal, or in high-heat or hazardous environments. These types of carriers are often referred to as “hard tags.”
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