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August 2006 edition

RFId set to play a bigger part on the international tagging stage

By Daniel Cook

Radio Frequency Identification (RFId) has been used by aerospace manufacturers for more than ten years.

The technology comes in two forms. The most established is “passive RFId” – digital tags from which information can be read with a scanner, or “node”. Useable only within a limited distance from a node -generally a few feet – it allows manufacturers to keep up with inventories, and easily identify parts and kits as they travel down the supply chain, including those from third-party contractors. One advantage over bar code technology is that passive RFId allows information to be read from a number of different readers on a pallet of parts as it passes through scanner doorway – it’s quicker, more automated and more reliable.

Around three years ago, so-called active RFId became widely viable. This system allows the tracking within a factory, using triangulation to accurately “find” individual items such as parts, tools or even people, anywhere on the factory floor. Its function is broadly similar in concept to GPS technology - but of course GPS does not work inside a building.

Two triangulation algorithms are being used in active RFId, one measuring the strength of the signal coming from the tag at three points, the other using a time-difference system.

As battery technology has improved, active RFId tags are now holding more information, and becoming smaller and cheaper – the smallest now cost as little as $10. Aerospace manufacturing is steadily progressing towards what f....

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