When you think of RFID asset tracking and inventory management solutions, the first things that likely come to mind are RFID tags and RFID readers. These are critical components of an RFID technology solution, along with RFID software that receives and stores data from RFID readers for record-keeping and analysis.
But the humble printer is also a very important part of an RFID technology solution, especially for high turnover retail and inventory management applications. Consider RFID asset tracking, where high value assets such as vehicles, equipment and technology are tagged and tracked for the life of their use. In this case, a tag is created and applied once.
On the other hand, consider high turnover retail environments (such as apparel), where products are made, shipped, stored and sold. RFID tags in this application leave the store, never to be returned, and new stock coming through needs to be efficiently tagged as the cycle continues.
RFID printers close the loop as part of your complete RFID inventory management solution, providing flexibility and high-speed printing and encoding of RFID labels for all kinds of products. Specialised RFID printers can be located anywhere along the retail supply chain – including at the point of manufacture, warehouses, stock rooms and retail stores – for efficient and cost-effective tag printing.
What is an RFID printer?
RFID printers are specialised devices that can simultaneously print and encode information on tags and labels. These printers are the only way to print on RFID labels, and also save time by automating the manual process of encoding each tag.
RFID printers use smart labels – standard printed labels with RFID chips and antennae embedded into the label itself. The chip is encoded with relevant data that can be read by an RFID reader that then transmits the data to RFID software for tracking and management. The printer contains an RF encoder, which transmits the data to the chip and encodes it. The printer then checks the data to ensure it has encoded correctly.
The label itself can then be printed just like regular labels. RFID printers are capable of printing readable numbers and information on labels, along with graphics and barcodes as well.
How RFID printers are used
There are many applications for RFID printers and the smart labels, tags and stickers they produce. Typical use is in a warehouse and retail environment as an inventory management and control system with encoded information including:
- Package contents
- Security alert in-store
- Shipping information
RFID printers can be used to print labels, tags and stickers for a wide variety of uses including art, office equipment, tools, vehicles and anything else that a business might need to track. Purchasing an RFID printer is a decision that needs to be based on usage and label consumption. For example, having an RFID printer on hand (possibly in multiple locations) is efficient in a retail environment with a large volume of stock and high turnover.
On the other hand, it may be more efficient to use your RFID solution provider to undertake the one-off labelling of assets such as equipment and vehicles that are turned over far less regularly, rather than investing in an RFID printer.
Print in-house or outsource printing?
Before you invest in an RFID printer, consider your usage and consumption requirements. For example, if you have operations in different countries around the world, you can choose to outsource and offshore RFID tag and label printing via RAMP label bureau partners located all over the world.
The same applies onshore in Australia, with RAMP offering warehouse and store printing options for RFID label printing and encoding.
But if you need to print in-house, at one or more key locations, RAMP offers a range of high-performance RFID printers that deliver superior flexibility, high print speeds and large media roll capacity for maximum efficiency.
When it comes to RFID printers, size matters
Once you decide to invest in an RFID printer, you need to consider a range of factors before you commit to purchase one or more machines. RFID printers can be categorised according to RFID tag compatibility, usually by tag frequency or sometimes by specialised tag types.
More common is consideration of the usage of the printer. Typical usage classifications are:
10,000+ tags per day
These RFID printers are made to be durable and capable of handling high volume printing, day in and day out.
500+ tags per day
These RFID printers are good for office-style environments and often have a good design aesthetic, making them ideal for customer-facing situations.
200+ tags per day
Less common, these RFID printers are ideal in environments that cover large spaces, such as warehouses and shipping yards. They enable users to print in the field, without the need to return to a central location to print labels.
Setting the standard
RFID labels for retail products are printed and encoded using the GS1 standard EPC Global. This is important as it allows the printing of current price label information, including the existing GTIN barcode. At the same time, it encodes the RFID tag with the serialised GTIN (SGTIN) to provide for RFID tracking to item level.
That makes the RFID solution fully compatible and interoperable with existing systems for maximum efficiency and accuracy.
Choose Australia’s leading RFID specialist for complete RFID solutions, including printing
In fast-moving retail environments, an RFID printer provides flexibility and high-speed printing and encoding of RFID labels for inventory items. For businesses with operations or manufacturing in multiple countries around the world, RFID tag printing can be outsourced and off-shored via bureau partners with the assistance of your local RFID specialist.
For all your RFID printing needs, talk to RAMP, the leading provider of RFID inventory solutions in Australia. RAMP is the RFID company that can help you improve retail inventory management, speed up your supply chain and gain valuable, real-time insights to make better business decisions.