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CustomWave RFID is a one-of-a-kind solution
CustomWave RFID use antennas printed onto a variety of materials including labels.

CustomWave RFID is a one-of-a-kind solution

CustomWave RFID Solutions from R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company, Chicago, are positioned as a cost-effective, high-performance and environmentally friendly radio-frequency identification (RFID)-enabled smart label for packaging and other uses. The company has the ability to print antennas on a variety of materials, including directly onto a label.

"Our CustomWave RFID Solutions build upon our years of experience working with RFID technologies, our expertise in label conversion, and our ability to develop and apply new technologies to help our customers solve their most pressing business challenges, " says Brad Hull, the company’s VP of printed electronics. Hull responds to Packaging Digest’s questions in the following interview.

For what kind of applications/substrates is this applicable?

Hull: RR Donnelley’s range of custom smart tag and label solutions help to maximize our customers’ return on their RFID investment in a number of ways. For example, our solutions offer longer and more reliable RFID reads, thinner final products that fit up to 60% more labels per roll and are therefore more environmentally friendly, and the ability to incorporate RFID without compromising the branding of their products.

Our CustomWave RFID Solutions can be incorporated into almost any product we manufacture for our customers—from smart tags and labels to packaging, books, in-store displays, and other materials. We’ve selected a range of both paper-based and synthetic materials for our RFID products with inlays or without.  As RR Donnelley services customers in all verticals, the technology is adaptable to a very wide variety of applications from inventory management and theft control in retail, to asset tracking and authentication in automotive, healthcare, or logistics. 

What are the “custom” aspects of the product?

Hull: Every part of the final RFID smart product can be customized—in terms of the antenna, we’ll customize the size, shape, frequency response, and chip used. Our team of experts identifies, designs and tests the right inlay in our labs and in our customers’ environment, selects the most appropriate label materials and converting techniques, and then plugs in the hardware and software for our customers’ infrastructure needs.

We’ll also customize the smart tag or label—using whatever materials, adhesives, static and variable printing and client encoding that is required. Finally, we are able to customize the end deliverable—rolls, sheets, kitted products, and more.

Whether the required customization is simple or complex, our CustomWave RFID Solutions offer smart label technology that revolutionizes performance for our customers to achieve deep, real-time insights into their business.

Next: Options, durability, performance and status

What options are available?

Hull: Leveraging decades of experience developing imaging technologies and proprietary materials, our Printed Electronics platform enables RFID applications that were previously not practical with traditional RFID manufacturing techniques. We produce truly customized RFID solutions for our customers’ exact form factors, read requirements, quantities and budget. This gives our customers the freedom to optimize their RFID labels and tags based on the application—not on what off-the-shelf inlay may currently be available. As a result, the form factors are almost limitless. 

We custom-design the antennas to match the needs of our customers’ applications, and can fit those antennas into a wide variety of label sizes and shapes, as well as plastic cards, wristbands, luggage tags, and packaging.  By integrating CustomWave RFID into labels, we can further extend the number of form factors of the final products.

What exactly does RRD provide customers, rolls of printed RFID tags? 
Hull: We provide our customers with whatever final product is required for the application. In some cases it will be rolls of RFID labels, but the CustomWave solutions can be integrated as a value added feature into almost any of our products. 

As the name implies, we provide custom solutions that address our customers’ business challenges.  The finished RFID product can also be encoded to the customer’s specifications.  As a large, global label converter with broad capabilities, other label formats beyond rolls are also possible such a sheeted, fan-folded and singulated booklets.  In addition, by leveraging our extensive kitting and fulfillment operations, we’re able to supply printed and encoded RFID labels as part of our customers’ final product pack-out or customer facing materials.

What is the durability of the resulting RFID tag if printed directly onto a label?
Hull: The manufacturing process that we use results in product durability that is comparable to other RFID products in the market. However, because of our ability to design and tune the antenna to the unique requirements of each application, we find that we are often able to deliver improved performance characteristics such as read range and read rates versus more generic RFID inlays.  We also have significant experience in converting durable materials that can protect the RFID antenna and chip in harsh or demanding environments.

What would the cost per inlay/label be for customers?

Hull: It’s not possible to answer this question as it is dependent on the variables involved:  material selection, order quantity, physical size, chip requirements, variable print and data encoding all have an impact on final cost. One of the primary advantages of this technology is that it can reduce the number of steps in the supply chain and simplify the manufacturing process for finished products thereby reducing total costs. 

What is the commercial status?

Hull: We are currently providing the CustomWave products to a variety of customers for applications ranging from asset tracking and inventory management to access control and authenticity.  These applications span a variety of industries including retail, logistics, healthcare, government and more.

For more information, visit R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company.

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