The project from Appleton is designed to help select participants in RFID trials meet compliance requirements on its new SmartStrate label stock.
"Consumer product companies that are performing trials to meet the Wal-Mart mandates for RFID labelling need to understand the potential problems they'll face when the trials are completed," said Mike Cove, senior marketing manager for Appleton's thermal and advanced technical products.
"Current trials are being conducted at a slow and deliberate pace with companies gently hand applying labels made from non-protective face stock. This 'slap and ship' process is contrary to what the real-world supply chain will demand once trials are complete, which is speed, efficiency and label read accuracy.
"This is when problems related to damaged RFID inlays will begin to be fully noticed."
In an effort to make the trials more real-world oriented, Appleton will partner with select companies performing RFID pilots and underwrite a portion of the cost of the SmartStrate label stock used in the pilot.
"Our objective is to help companies gain a better insight into the issues that will exist in real-world applications for RFID labels," said Cove. "To do that, the RFID trial labels should be handled and applied the same way as standard labels.
"That's the only way for companies to accurately gauge the overall effectiveness of their RFID effort."
SmartStrate is the first label stock specifically engineered to improve the reliability of RFID smart labels by reducing label failure rates.
SmartStrate is designed to overcome chip inlay failures associated with mechanical damage and electrostatic discharge at multiple points in the value chain-from converting, printing and shipping, to application and end use. In addition, cushioning properties of SmartStrate overcome issues related to printing on an uneven label face stock surface created by the inlay edge and chip bump.
SmartStrate uses a proprietary cushioning material that protects the inlay (chip, antenna and lead) against physical damage. Throughout converting, printing, shipping, application and end use, RFID labels encounter mechanical pressures and electrostatic discharge (ESD) exposure that can destroy the inlay.
Tests of RFID inlays on SmartStrate revealed that they could withstand mechanical pressures that were 20 to 40 times higher and ESD exposures that were 18 kilovolts higher than the same inlays on conventional label stock.
In addition to providing mechanical protection, the cushioning layer of SmartStrate provides a uniform surface for printing both human-readable information and error-free bar codes. This cost-saving feature makes it possible to print over the entire label surface, thereby reducing overall label size by eliminating the need for a no-print zone.