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January/February 2009

Radio Frequency Identification

While the use of radio frequency identification transponders has become common for inventory tracking purposes, RFID system performance can be affected by product and packaging materials. A new ASTM standard can be used to provide a framework for testing RFID system performance that can be applied to, and compared across, all RFID manufacturer systems in any industrial application that involves a unit case load or palletized load. The new standard, D7435, Test Method for Determining the Performance of Passive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Transponders on Loaded Containers, has been developed by Subcommittee D10.18 on Miscellaneous Packaging, part of ASTM International Committee D10 on Packaging.

According to Robb Clarke, Ph.D., associate professor, Michigan State University School of Packaging, and D10 member, it is crucial when relying on an RFID system for data capture that the functionality of the system be verified prior to its use. “D7435 allows users to evaluate the performance of an RFID system, or a component thereof, with their specific product and package system in a standardized method that will allow for comparability of RFID systems from all manufacturers,” says Clarke. This results in two distinctly useful applications of the standard: it allows users to verify that a given product/package system will work within an existing RFID infrastructure, and it allows for the evaluation of RFID systems from different manufacturers with a certain product/package system when in the development and decision-making stage of an RFID implementation.

Clarke notes that likely users of D7435 are companies and research groups that are evaluating the performance of RFID systems in relation to specific product and package combinations. “Users may be seeking to verify that a new product will work with an existing system or to gather information about which RFID system can provide a solution for a specific need,” says Clarke.

Interested parties are invited to participate in the ongoing development of RFID-related standards by D10.18. Currently in the works are proposed standards for testing system performance in RFID-enabled stretch wrapper and portal (or dock door) scenarios.

Beyond these proposed new standards, there are plans to introduce RFID testing procedures specific to the pharmaceutical, biologics and medical device industry. “We would very much like input by companies that could be affected by these plans,” says Clarke. “Also, formal test procedures on tag reading fields and tag writing fields should be established.”


Technical Information: Robb Clarke, Ph.D., Michigan State University School of Packaging, Lansing, Mich.

Phone: 517-999-7125

ASTM Staff: Kevin Shanahan

Phone: 610-832-9737