GENERALLY, ULTRA-HIGH-FREQUENCY (UHF) radio-frequency- identification (RFID) tags are applied to a piece of equipment once the assembly is complete. Yet a new approach allows the implementation of the RFID tag directly on the printed-circuit board (PCB) early in the production process. A small RFID-module package, dubbed the MAGICSTRAP, integrates both the RFID tag integrated- circuit (IC) and broadband RF-matching functions. Murata delves into the details of its MAGICSTRAP product in a white paper titled, "A UHF Printed Circuit Board Solution."

This seven-page note examines what manufacturers are looking for in a RFID tracking method. Specifically, they want item-level tracking at the start of the PCB assembly. The tracking method should be compatible with current information systems while providing privacy and reasonable security. The cost should be low enough to provide a positive return on investment. Finally, the tracking method should be easy to modify; capable of withstanding electrostatic discharge (ESD); functional within finished goods; and compatible across all industries.

The white paper also explains the limitations of barcodes and why RFID is a suitable replacement for them. For example, barcodes are read-only. In contrast, the RFID tag includes an antenna and semiconductor chip with built-in, rewritable memory. Among the main features of the PCB-mounted RFID tag are non-lineof- sight reading, item-level identification, and reprogrammable memory.

Despite its advantages over barcodes, however, an RFID module still had to overcome some challenges that had been revealed in early PCB UHF RFID trials. At less than 1 x 1 mm, for example, the tags were too small to be handled by many manufacturing companies. As a result, placement could not be accurately controlled. In addition, there is no RF matching function between the antenna and integrated circuit (IC) in most RFID assemblies, making it difficult to achieve operation from 850 to 960 MHz.

To minimize multiple designs and implementation time, a solution was needed that would be flexible regardless of the IC or antenna design. Finally, the tag had to be readable from the finished product. The white paper ends with an overview of the MAGICSTRAP module and a discussion of how it meets these varied demands. Overall, it provides a clear discussion of the features that are needed to improve RFID implementations.

Murata Electronics Sorth America, Inc., 2200 Lake Park Dr., Smyrna, Ga 30080-7604; (770) 436-1300, Internet: www.murata-northamerica.com.