3D printers are on the rise nowadays. More companies adopt 3D printing during the prototyping stage as they can create test models on-demand. They don’t need to go to a different supplier, and this could save them on costs.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has been around for years. Although the adoption rate is slow, companies are slowly integrating it into their operating processes or their products.
But, can 3D printing help hasten the adoption of RFID technology? Although both are on the rise, some companies or manufacturers are hesitant to embrace RFID due to its cost and implementation, but it can be a game-changer to these industries if done correctly.
What Is RFID?
RFID is a chip, tag, or card with a built-in antenna and an integrated chip that uses RF signals. A reader or a terminal then uses these signals to exchange information without using any physical contact.
Modern credit cards, for example, use RFID to exchange data since you only need to tap the card on the terminal instead of inserting it during payment. It will enhance security and confidence to the user since they don’t need to expose their PIN codes.
Modern passports use RFID as well. It contains biometric information of the traveler, and immigration officials can use it to authenticate the passport holder’s identity.
In a report by ReportLinker, the RFID market was valued USD $10.87 billion in 2020 and is forecasted to grow by 5.06% to reach USD$14.42 billion by 2026.
The supply chain and logistics market appear to have a significant impact option as they’re using the technology to monitor items during the manufacturing process. More distribution centers and warehouses around the globe have been investing in improving their operations and efficiency, which includes the implementation of RFID.
A study titled RFID Adoption: An exploratory study of issues and concerns shows the struggle of other companies in RFID adoption. While the companies that participated in the study had formal plans and strategies, they encountered many problems, like missing tags, tags ruined by moisture or chemicals due to the product or the package, cost, and supplier’s adoption.
If a company or manufacturer plans to adopt RFID technology, an RFID implementation services company can integrate RFID into their processes. An implementation and consulting firm can help them leverage existing RFID technology with minimal friction.
Using 3D Printing And RFID
Here are some of the ways 3D printing can accelerate the adoption of RFID technology:
A study from MDPI showed that it’s possible to combine 3D printing and RFID technology, and they have created an actual 3D printable RFID tag. The printed structure was high-density, with a high resonance sensitivity. The study also showed that it’s possible to 3D-print these tags using low-cost flexible and solid substrates. The researchers also expressed hope that these 3D-printed tags can eventually replace the optical barcodes that are widely used today.
A different study from the Academy of Finland tested a product that uses a flexible 3D printed Ninjaflex substrate. The 3D-printed tag was robust and showed great promise for use in sensing and identification applications. The study concluded that that product is suitable for settings where strain is a major concern. However, further studies were recommended, especially for setups that require the use of protective coatings in humid environments.
Another benefit is 3D printing can improve RFID technology by printing the components needed in making RFID. Researchers from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and the University of Barcelona, for instance, used 3D printing technology to create antenna system prototypes. These prototypes were a resounding success—the antenna systems were able to preserve conductivity while also ensuring easy integration.
Other types of systems have also been created successfully with 3D printers over the years like wearables and antenna systems for satellites. Just last year, researchers from the Swinburne University of Technology published a study discussing the viability of a 3D-printed liquid antenna system that can be used for biosensing applications.
Can 3D printing accelerate the adoption of RFID technology? Absolutely. 3D printing is a disruptive technology that can expand and maximize a company’s RFID system, while also minimising the costs of adoption, the problems of legacy databases, and workflow bottlenecks.
At the same time, companies should also weigh other factors that may impact their operations and expenditures. As much as possible, they should work with an implementation firm that can guide them on the right path and help them avoid costly mistakes.
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