As the RFID compliance labeling clock ticks down to the January deadline, Zebra Technologies, a global leader in delivering on-demand printing solutions for business and process improvement, offers these tips for selecting the right printing/encoding solution to satisfy mandates for EPC-compliant RFID labeling:
1. EPC Compliant -- Before selecting an RFID printer/encoder for passive UHF EPC smart labels, ensure it has been tested by the EPCglobal organization to be "EPC compliant."
2. Integrated Support -- Know what you're buying. Choose a printer that has integrated software support for the programming and verification of RFID tags, or you could face hefty invoices for additional programming.
3. Technology flexibility -- Select printer/encoders that support the range of RF tag protocols in use today. Doing so offers the flexibility to choose the RFID tag that works best in each application.
4. Investment Protection -- Choose a printer that is field-upgradeable to support future RFID tag standards and air interface protocols. Ask for a free or guaranteed upgrade to the next "Generation 2" standard.
5. Migrating Current Applications -- Ensure that the RFID printer/encoder you choose can be incorporated easily into your existing bar code labeling application, and that the application can support RFID data. Printer/encoders using programming languages such as ZPL can be modified to encode RFID tags quickly and with minimal risk.
6. Proven Platform -- To minimize downtime, choose an RFID solution that is based on a field-proven product line, known for low-maintenance and high reliability. Putting RFID on an untested or error-prone system could turn your dream of a smooth implementation into a nightmare.
7. Label Size Flexibility -- Today you may be using large 4-inch by 6-inch smart labels, but what about tomorrow? The printer/encoder you select should be flexible enough to accommodate various pitch levels between the chip inlay and label, as well as a wide range of label sizes.
8. "Certified" Smart Labels -- Before you buy, identify what steps have been taken to "certify" blank smart labels for quality and compatibility with your intended RFID printer/encoder. Labels may perform differently, and could produce unsatisfactory results, in some brands of printers/encoders.
9. Verification -- To ensure the reliability and accuracy of your RFID labels, select a printer/encoder that will automatically void or reject a smart label or inlay that fails to respond properly to reading/encoding instructions.
10. XML Support -- For easy integration with your ERP/WMS system, you may be able to harness the flexibility of eXtensible Markup Language (XML). Be sure you specify an XML-capable printer that's optimized for your software.