In life sciences, pharmaceuticals, biotech, and laboratories, RFID labels are typically used to track and trace cases and pallets as well as individual inventory items and assets such as high-value lab equipment or chemical bottles stored in cabinets.
The big advantage of RFID is that you can capture data from RFID labels and uniquely identify a labeled item and determine its location without physically scanning a barcode or even having line-of-sight access to a barcode.
For example, if you’re storing hundreds of chemical bottles in cabinets and need to take regular inventory of which chemicals you have on hand, you can use RFID to accurately identify and count the inventory of each cabinet in as little as 10 seconds. You don’t need to remove each bottle and scan a barcode, and you don’t even have to open the cabinet door.
Instead, RFID uses radio waves, similar to how Wi-Fi works, to read and transmit asset or inventory data wirelessly and remotely. Each RFID label contains an inlay with a tiny microchip that stores a unique ID to track that individual item, and it also contains tiny micro transmitters that communicate with RFID readers using radio waves.
When a handheld RFID reader is brought within range of the labeled item, or when the item passes an RFID reader placed in a strategic location such as a doorway or a warehouse aisle, the RFID label is read almost instantaneously.
With passive ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID labels, which are the most common, an RFID reader sends out a signal that “wakes up” and sends power to the label’s inlay, telling it to transmit the inlay chip’s unique ID to the reader. With active RFID, using a very high frequency (VHF) band, each label has its own power source built into the inlay, so the label can wake itself up at periodic intervals and transmit its unique ID without first receiving a signal from a reader.
Using the label’s unique ID as well as RFID antennas and software, an RFID reader can accurately identify a labeled item and determine its location to within a few feet or less, depending on the type of RFID label and radio frequencies you’re using. Using RFID software, you can also automatically or manually update the location, quantities, and status of inventory and assets using related data that you store in a database and match to each label’s unique ID.
For high-value assets such as lab equipment, computers, or tablets, you can use active RFID labels and fixed readers located above doorways to automatically track those assets as they move into or out of specific locations. This way, you can quickly find and locate an asset by checking its last known location in your software, and you can even configure automated email or text alerts if an asset has been moved into an unauthorized location or left your facility.
For other use cases where you simply need to track chemicals, supplies, or additional less expensive inventory, passive RFID is an economical and highly effective choice. Staff can simply use a combination handheld RFID reader and barcode scanning device to detect labeled items wirelessly and remotely. They can also use a mobile version of your RFID software running on a companion tablet device or on a combination RFID reader and mobile computer to update or maintain any other related information in your database, using simple touch screen interactions or mobile keypad entries.
Typically, for the best RFID results, we recommend Zebra RFID technologies and solutions, including Zebra RFID printers, labels, inlays, and readers. Zebra has been one of the leading innovators and pioneers in RFID for well over a decade, and Zebra offers a complete portfolio of RFID solutions for life sciences, biotech, pharmaceuticals, and more.
For RFID label printing, Zebra’s ZD621R RFID desktop printer is a great choice, particularly for low-volume label printing in a compact device that fits virtually anywhere. If you’re printing RFID tags in higher volumes, then we recommend Zebra’s ZT400 Series or ZT600 Series RFID printers, which print at speeds up to 14 inches (356 mm) per second and have all-metal components, rugged construction, and internal temperature monitoring that make these printers one of the most durable workhorses in the printing industry, for up to 24/7 continuous operation.
When labeling your inventory or assets, you’ll need to choose the right RFID inlays for your labels. Zebra’s ZBR2000 RFID inlays are typically a great choice for most general-purpose needs, as they’re an economical option for 4” wide labeling and most use cases. They are great for labeling cardboard, glass, rubber, PTFE, poly acetyl, fiberglass, and even PVC.
For labeling metals or where there is a significant presence of metals or liquids, Zebra has specialized label inlays that deliver excellent results and compensate for the interference and challenges that metals and liquids can pose for passing radio signals through them.
For laboratory and life sciences use cases, Zebra’s DS9900 Series corded hybrid imagers are a great option because they combine both a barcode imager and an RFID reader into a single handheld device that also has a cradle, so you can use it as either a handheld device for reading RFID tags and scanning barcodes, or as a presentation-style hands-free barcode imager. You can wheel the imager into any location on a cart and use either its RFID or barcode reading capabilities on demand.
For true wireless RFID reading freedom, Zebra’s MC3300 RFID reader is an excellent choice because it also has both RFID and barcode reading capabilities, but it’s a completely cordless and wireless device that can also run a mobile version of your RFID software and allow you to do all data entry on the device. Zebra also has a selection of RFID sleds that allow you to attach a touch mobile computer such as a smartphone to them, and you can use the sled to read RFID tags while using your mobile computer to run and interact with your RFID software.
For fixed and automated RFID reading in strategic locations, Zebra has a complete range of fixed RFID readers, antennas, and inlays to help you create a complete solution that virtually eliminates human labor from your tracking processes and allows you to track items, even as they move from place to place in your facility.
To learn which type of RFID solutions might be best for your needs and get recommendations to help you automate and streamline your inventory and asset tracking, connect with our RFID experts at Vantage ID Applications Inc. Vantage ID Applications, Inc. See it all. Track it all.
Call us now at 866-234-8468 or contact us through our website.