February 16, 2018

3M and Texas Instruments CelebrateTen Years of RFID Collaboration

By Josh Hadro

  • Relationship between 3M and TI dates back to 1998
  • Early RFID testing done at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with full rollout in 2000
  • Long-term durability and data integrity of RFID tags tested under extreme conditions

This month, 3M Library Systems and Texas Instruments (TI) celebrated ten years of collaboration in the design and sale of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to libraries worldwide. 3M Library Systems (a subdivision of 3M Track and Trace) offers the tags along with circulation, self-service, and security equipment, while TI handles the design and manufacturing of the embedded RF inlays within the tags themselves.

The library relationship between the two companies began in the design and testing phase of the RFID tags and reader technology, culminating with the rollout in 2000 of a large-scale implementation at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), an early testing ground for the technology. Since then, the partnership has resulted in the production of upwards of 80 million RFID tags that 3M has helped integrate into the collections at more than 1000 library sites.

The durability issue
Unlike retail and supply chain RFID use, library items have the potential to last for decades and need to be ready for circulation over that entire period of time. This puts higher demands on the library tags than those used for one-off tasks like finding a pallet of goods in a warehouse. Moreover, outfitting a collection with RFID tags is an expensive and time-consuming process not to be undertaken lightly. As a result, the durability of all technologies involved is a significant concern.

As 3M marketing operations manager Rob Noirjean told LJ, 3M and TI have always focused on the durability of their tags during this ten-year relationship, and recently revisited the issue to ensure that the tags were holding up according to their original guarantee. Noirjean points to the two important factors in the durability of an RFID tag: physical construction and data integrity. If either the construction of the tags or the integrity of the data falters, read range is compromised and the benefits of RFID technology are lost.

To test the limits of both construction and data integrity, TI has run the tags through a series of stress tests to simulate the extremes an RFID tag may be subjected to. Tags are placed into specially designed chambers that cycle through a number of environmental factors including temperature and humidity for weeks at a time. This and other testing simulates the course of a tag’s life over a number of years, and is the basis for 3M’s guarantee: “we warranty that 3M’s tags will last as long as the item’s to which they are affixed,” said Rory Yancheck, 3M Track and Trace general manager.

Current in-progress installations featuring 3M technology include the San Antonio Public Library, TX, the West Palm Beach Public Library, FL, and the Cynthiana-Harrison County Public Library, KY.

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