RFID Frequency Ranges –How to Choose the Right Frequency & Tag

RFID tags are classified by the frequency they are intended to function in. There are four main frequency bands that are assigned to be used in RFID systems, by different government agencies.

RFID Frequency Ranges

RFID frequency ranges are classified as:

  • Low Frequency (LF)
  • High Frequency (HF)
  • Near Field Communication (NFC)
  • Ultra High-Frequency (UHF)

The above RFID frequency ranges were initially confined to non-commercial usage and comprised of frequency ranges called as ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) radio bands. Based on the purpose of the RFID tags, they are designed to work in one of these bands. The frequency is determined by two key elements – the materials of the object to be tagged and the read range that is required.

LOW FREQUENCY (LF) RFID TAGS

  • LF Frequency Range – The low frequency range comprises of frequencies ranging from 30 KHz to 300 KHz. However, only 125 KHz or 134 KHz (to be precise 134.2 KHz) are utilized for RFID. This frequency range is used for RFID tags to track animals and it is available for RFID use across the world. The RFID tags used in this frequency range are typically referred to as LF tags.
  • Power Source and Read Range – They utilize near-field inductive coupling to get power and connect with an interrogator. The LF tags function as passive tags and they have a small read range of just a few inches.
  • Transfer Rate and Storage – Among all RFID frequencies, the LF tags have the lowest transfer rate and typically can store only a limited amount of information.
  • Multiple Tag Reading Capability – The LF tags are not equipped with or have limited anti-collision features; thus the simultaneous reading of multiple tags within the interrogation zone is either impossible or extremely difficult.
  • LF Tags Readability and Usage – The Low Frequency (LF) tags are easily read when they are attached to items that contain animal tissues, water, metal, wood and liquids. LF tags are the most widely used tags and they are used for asset tracking, access control, animal tracking, automotive control, healthcare and POS (point-of-sale) applications. LF tags are used the most in automotive industry, especially in vehicle immobilizer systems where the LF tags embedded in the ignition key is used to start the car.

HIGH FREQUENCY (HF) RFID TAGS

  • HF Frequency Range – The high frequency spectrum comprises of frequencies ranging between 3 MHz and 30 MHz, but there is only one frequency of 13.56 MHz that can be utilized for RFID applications. The frequency is now accessible for RFID applications across the globe with the same power. Tags and interrogators that use 13.56 MHz frequency are typically referred to as the HF tags and HF interrogators.
  • Power Source and Read Range – Similar to LF tags, the High Frequency (HF) tags also utilize near-field inductive coupling to get power and connect with an interrogator. The HF tags function as passive tags and they have a read range of under 3 feet.
  • Transfer Rate and Storage – The HF tags have lesser transfer rate when compared to UHF frequency, but they have the capability to store more data than LF tags. Certain HF tags can store data up to 4K.
  • Multiple Tag Reading Capability – Unlike LF tags, HF tags are equipped with anti-collision capabilities that allows reading several tags simultaneously within the interrogation zone. However, since the read range for HF tags and interrogators are limited, they don’t implement anti-collision which simplifies the process and reduces the cost.   
  • Design and Affordability – HF tag antennas are typically made up of copper, silver or aluminum coil that has three to seven turns. HF tags are very simple to make and they are thin and two-dimensional. The HF tags are less expensive than LF tags because of the simpler antenna design. They are available in various sizes, even less than half-inch in diameter.
  • HF Tags Readability and Usage – The HF tags can be easily read when they are attached to items that contain water, tissues, wood, metal and liquids but can be affected by metal objects that are in the vicinity. Inductive coupling used by High Frequency interrogators utilizes magnetic flux to get power and connect with the tag. Magnetic flux is not directionally oriented but Omni-directional, which means that it evenly covers the entire region around its source and there are no holes in its density. This feature makes HF tags the preferred choice for applications such as smart shelves where the magnetic flux covers the entire shelf so that all the items in the shelf are scanned. Some of the other areas where HF tags are used are in asset tracking, credit cards, smart cards, airline baggage and library books. The lack of restrictions on the usage of HF frequency and the growing popularity of smart cards has enabled HF tags to be the most commonly used tags across the globe.

Near Field Communication (NFC) Tags

  • NFC Frequency Range – NFC tags operate in the high frequency range of the RFID band at 13.56 MHz.
  • Power Source and Read Range – NFC tags function as passive tags and operate without a power supply of their own and communicate using the ISO 14443 type A and B wireless standards. NFC tags provide secure data transmission within a distance of approximately 10 centimeters.
  • Design – NFC tags are designed to store information and transfer a wide range of data types to other NFC enabled devices. They are designed with the basic architecture of RFID tags and contain three components – a tiny microchip or integrated circuit, an antenna and a material or substrate layer to hold all the components together. NFC tags are available in a wide range of shape, size and form factors with a variety of storage capacity and transfer speeds.
  • Usage – NFC tags are ideal for use in access control, transport, consumer electronics, healthcare, payment, information exchange and collection, ticketing applications and coupons.

ULTRA HIGH FREQUENCY (UHF) RFID TAGS

  • UHF Frequency Range – The ultra-high frequency range comprises of frequencies ranging between 300 MHz to 1,000 MHz, however only two frequencies 433 MHz and 860-960 MHz, can be used for RFID applications. The 433 MHz frequency is used for active tags whereas the 860-960 MHz frequency range is used mostly for passive tags as well as some semi-passive tags. The 860-960 MHz frequency range is generally termed as one frequency, either 900 MHz or 915 MHz. Tags and interrogators within this range are known as UHF tags as well as UHF interrogators.
  • Power Source and Read Range – The semi-passive and passive tags within this frequency range use far-field radiative coupling or backscatter coupling. UHF tags have an approximate read range of 15-20 feet.
  • Multiple Tag Reading Capability – All the protocols in the UHF frequency range have some form of anti-collision ability that allows reading several tags simultaneously within the interrogation zone. The new Gen 2 protocol for UHF tags is designed to read hundreds of tags every second.
  • Design and Affordability – UHF antennas are typically made of copper, silver or aluminum that is deposited in the substratum. Their length of effectiveness is around 6.5 inches, roughly half the wavelength of the 900 MHz radio waves. The optimal length of UHF antennas is one-half of the wavelength of the carrier wave; however, with the right design, the length could be decreased. The UHF antennas are thin and they are simple to make which allows tags to be extremely small, just 100 mM, and pretty much two-dimensional. UHF interrogators are expensive than HF interrogators; however, UHF tags are getting more cost-effective.
  • UHF Tags Readability and Usage – Since water absorbs UHF signals, UHF tags can’t be quickly read when they are being attached to objects with animal tissues and water. The UHF tags, when attached to metal objects, become detuned. Therefore, to improve UHF tag efficiency, it is important to separate UHF tags from objects made of metal or that contain liquid. UHF tags are not readable when water or any other conductive material is put between the tag and interrogator antenna. Radiative coupling that is used by UHF interrogators utilizes radio waves for power and to interface with the tags. Diffraction, reflection and refraction of radio waves provide the multipath effect that allows radio signals to arrive at the receiver through different routes. Signals that come from multiple paths diminish the strength of the original signal. This results in an interrogation zone with diverse signal strength. Sometimes, the UHF tags cannot be read in areas with low signals, which eventually causes random tag readability issues. The UHF antennas are directional that enables you to create an interrogation zone with clearly define boundaries, even though the zone could contain holes. UHF tags, because of the requirements of large corporations to use them within the supply chain, are getting a huge boost. This along with the introduction of Gen 2 protocol have created an enormous momentum in the RFID industry to make UHF tags at a low cost in high quantity.
  • Government Regulations – UHF frequency regulations aren’t similar to the frequency regulations for HF tags. Governments across the globe had allocated UHF frequencies of approximately 900 MHz, which was long before RFID, for applications that were not RFID-related. Therefore, there isn’t a common frequency band of around 900 MHz that can be used for RFID applications. Different countries have different frequency ranges with different allowable maximum powers and duty cycles. To solve this issue, Gen 2 protocol was developed to operate on any frequencies in the 860-960 MHz frequency range and also with various max power levels. Government regulations have split the allowed frequency range into different smaller frequency bands. These smaller bands are called as channels. Countries have different number of channels within their allocated bandwidths. Regulations also require that interrogators don’t make use of one channel all the time, but rather randomly hop between the channels that are available.

The following table displays the RFID frequency ranges by country and the allocated band sizes, maximum power and number of channels assigned.

CountryFrequency (MHz)PowerChannels
North America902-9280.5-4 W EIRPVaried
Europe (302-208)918-9284 W EIRP50
Europe (Lower Band)865-8682 W ERP15
Japan908.5-9144 W EIRP16
Singapore866-869, 923-9252 W ERP20
Korea950-9560.5 W ERP, 2 W ERP10
Australia865-8684 W EIRP12
Argentina, Brazil, Peru902-9282W ERP20
New Zealand864-9294W EIRP50
RFID Frequency Ranges by Country

How AssetPulse’s RFID Tracking Solutions help reduce Manufacturing Costs and Improve Efficiency

Manufacturers use technology and automation to streamline the manufacturing supply chain process, eliminate defects, reduce waste/costs, increase staff productivity and improve the overall efficiency and margins. AssetGather’s new RFID Tracking Solutions help cut manufacturing costs and improve efficiency.

AssetGather RFID Tracking Solutions for Manufacturing

AssetGather’s RFID Tracking Solutions help manufacturers to stay competitive by tracking inventory, automate workflows and staying less dependent on people. RFID automation not only cuts down on operations cost but increases customer satisfaction and productivity of experienced staff and managers who are in-house.

RFID Tracking Solutions
Smartphone isometric vector created by vectorpouch – www.freepik.com

By tagging all big parts and bins with RFID, manufacturers see that any temp worker can be trained to find a part using their handheld reader in just a few minutes. In the past, temp workers had to be given hours of training/instruction about the layout of operations, categorize each part and where they could find them through visual means. But, with a single click, AssetGather’s RFID asset tracking software helps you to track inventory and location of the assets.

Helps Improve Employee Management

In the past, companies relied on long-term folks, whose main advantage was to know where to store parts and how to find them. With an RFID upgrade, any new employee can be taught to store something roughly in the right place and to find finished goods instantly.

Managers get more time to Improve Efficiency

With RFID asset tracking software, management spends less time on hiring temp workers, training and the overall costs are significantly less. They become more productive and more cost efficient. They are less reliant on people and labor costs.

50+ Ways to Automate and Improve with RFID

There are 50+ ways where RFID can help Manufacturers, Labs, Biotech, Defense companies to improve traceability and physical workflow operations.

At AssetPulse, we have streamlined operations for several organizations, from a single plant manufacturer to global Fortune 1,000 companies. We have been doing this for 15+ years.

In a 30-minute discovery call, you will be able to see if RFID solutions will help you decrease manufacturing costs, increase efficiency even if you are using barcode or ERP solutions today.

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Work Order Tracking on the Manufacturing Floor

RFID for Work Order Tracking System

Work Order Tracking – Regardless of industry, be it medical devices manufacturing, semiconductor/aerospace manufacturing or industrial molding, work orders or paper travelers are an integral part of the assembly line. The actual usage of the paper traveler may differ from industry to industry, but the challenges of tracking them, remain the same.

Work orders or paper travelers usually accompany the product being manufactured. Some may relate to a single product and others relate to a batch of product. As the parts and unfinished products move through the different work cells on the manufacturing floor, the traveler needs to stay in close proximity to the unfinished product, since it contains vital information of the state of the Work in Process (WIP) product.

RFID tagging the workorder enables in work order tracking which in turn allows the product to be tracked through the manufacturing process. In essence, the workorder can be a good proxy for the WIP items. This is especially true with sensitive WIP like medical devices and semiconductor wafers, where the WIP cannot be directly RFID tagged.

RFID for Work Order Tracking System
Work Order Tracking System

Various parameters can be monitored with work order tracking including the last known location of the work order, and recording the sequence of work cells it went through.  For instance, as the paper travelers are transitioning through work cells, the time spent at each work cell directly correlates to the time spent by the technicians/engineers at each work cell which in turn, feeds into calculating the Cost of product(s) being manufactured.

RFID tagging the workorders and tracking them through the workstations, allows organizations to track the time spent and the speed at which parts and unfinished products move through the manufacturing floor. These insights help to improve the production efficiency where required.

Additionally, a completed workorder is an indication of finished product. So, completed work order tracking can give direct insight into how much product has been manufactured, which in turn, can provide insight into inventory levels of used and current raw material.

RFID Work Order Tracking System for Manufacturing

Occasionally, the workorder along with the unfinished product can get misplaced or ‘wander away’. The downtime that results from searching for them, can adversely impact manufacturing efficiency and throughput. RFID tagging the work orders is an excellent solution to address this issue. With AssetPulse’s AssetGather RFID based work order tracking software, the workorder can be monitored and ‘searched for’ in the event of misplacement.

Further, when manufacturing is complete, workorders may need to be archived for audit reasons, whether they are stored on site or moved offsite. Either way, RFID tagging them is an excellent and efficient way to search for them and locate them quickly.

AssetPulse’s customizable RFID asset tracking solution is used by several of AssetPulse’ customers as a work order tracking system for tracking workorder on their manufacturing floor. Few customers have also integrated this process into their GMP guidelines. Customers span various industries including aerospace, construction and biotech.

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RFID Solutions Customized for your Industry

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RFID for Inventory Control in Manufacturing

RFID Implemented for Inventory Control in Manufacturing Operations

Managing inventory levels in a cost-effective and revenue-driven manner can be difficult, even for the most experienced manufacturer. Without access to effective systems to help automate inventory control processes, properly managing inventory levels can be quite the challenge for manufacturers. AssetPulse RFID asset tracking solutions helps in automating inventory management.

RFID Implemented for Inventory Control in Manufacturing Operations
RFID Based Inventory Control in Manufacturing Operations

AssetPulse’ inventory control capabilities allow manufacturers to automate their processing based off of previous purchasing trends and can even set reminder alert for raw material orders to renew when needed. With a real time inventory data, inventory control becomes less of a pain point and more a second nature

How inventory is traditionally managed?

Many different ways are used to keep control of inventory. One basic method is by creating a spreadsheet with various columns for product name, item number, and quantity. A column to deduct what is sold or consumed. Additionally, a log for returns and new incoming stock is maintained. It requires continuous manual monitoring to ensure every transaction is accounted for.

For more sophisticated customers, they may be using an ERP system to track inventory and inventory levels. Often data input into these systems is also manual – often through barcode scanners.

Of course, these are all labor-intensive processes. The information is difficult to share, and another huge pitfall is human error. People are prone to make mistakes––mistakes that are difficult to track and result in inaccurate inventory numbers.

Forecasting Demand

A manufacturer relies on inventory to complete a finished product for which they expect to get paid. For example, an aerospace manufacturer has millions of dollars in parts in their inventory of raw materials that they include in the finished product.

Forecasting demand is essential for any business. For a manufacturer, this means having enough inventory on hand to meet this demand. If a manufacturer fails to forecast demand and orders too little inventory, they face the possibility of losing customers to a competitor. A late order may come at a higher expense, as supplier prices rise due to increased demand; this is another way the manufacturer loses money. If the manufacturer overestimates demand and orders too much inventory, they stand the chance of having unused inventory and may have to incur additional storage costs.

AssetPulse RFID asset tracking solution

Inventory management can be automated with the help of AssetPulse RFID asset tracking solution. RFID tags are affixed onto the items that are inventoried. Fixed readers can be strategically placed either at the source or the destination to monitor transfer of inventory. E.g. inventory can be tracked in VLMs (Vertical Lift Modules), on shelves where inventory is stored or the carts that carry inventory from one location to another. RFID readers can be placed also at the destination where the inventory is consumed.  With the help of these fixed RFID readers or handheld RFID scanners, inventory data is updated in real-time or periodically, whichever is optimal.

The AssetGather RFID based tracking system is available as a hosted solution or as an on-Prem solution – inventory data is readily accessible from anywhere, in either case. Apart from this, AssetPulse RFID asset tracking solution also alerts users when the inventory level is running below par and inventory thresholds are likely to be breached imminently. All this happens automatically without any human intervention, thereby making the otherwise time consuming process very efficient and accurate.

AssetGather also can integrate with other ERP systems to update those system with inventory data that is automatically collected by AssetGather. Integrations can span a range, from very simple exchange of data to more complex integrations that not only update inventory data, but also facilitate and validate various manufacturing processes as they occur in real-time.

The RFID asset tracking software also has different reports including historical reports which enables manufacturer to forecast a demand and stock required inventory.

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RFID Solution Customized for your Industry

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