Technical Insights

RFID for Test Fixtures

2020-10-01  |  6 min read 

There are numerous types of RFID tags available today. Selecting one that is suitable for use in test fixture identification in the FlexiCore system can be quite a task. These tags come in three frequency range categories:

  • Low frequency (LF) 30 KHz ~ 300 KHz
  • High frequency (HF) 3 MHz ~ 30 MHz
  • Ultra-high frequency (UHF) 300 MHz ~ 3 GHz

LF tags have better immunity from metal and liquid in their path due to their longer wavelengths, but they have slower read rates and shorter ranges.

HF tags have better ranges and read rates while maintaining their performance despite encountering metal and liquid objects. They also have the capability to support multiple readings at the same time. However, they are also the most expensive solution of the three categories.

UHF tags are versatile and cost effective. Read ranges go up to 10 m or more. Because of its high read rate, you can process many tags simultaneously. These tags are also the cheapest to manufacture.

Choosing the right RFID solution

In choosing an RFID technology for the FlexiCore system, we must consider not only the performance of the technology, but also its economical factor as well. We need a RFID solution that is robust, fast, can process multiple tags, and which is low cost.

The Keysight FlexiCore system uses UHF RFID technology to enable test fixture identification. The cost of an UHF RFID reader and tag is relatively low, and it offers the capacity to handle multiple tags at high read rates. 

The RFID tags supplied for the FlexiCore system uses the RFID standards listed below. Made of printed circuit board (PCB) material with a thickness of 3.5 mm, the tag provides the robustness needed in the hectic production environment. The tag is also suitable for mounting on metal or non-metal surfaces so that it can cater for different fixture designs. The user may also select other RFID tags available in the market specifically for their application if preferred, if the selected tag matches the same RFID standard. This allows the user greater flexibility in deciding the best tag for their production use.

RFID Tag for Keysight FlexiCore system

RFID Tag for Keysight FlexiCore Test Fixtures
  • RFID Standard : EPC Class1 Gen2, ISO18000-6C
  • Chipset : Alien Higgs-3   
  • Memory : EPC 96 bits, USER 512 bits, TID 64 bits
  • Read Range : 6 meters
  • Dimension : 80 x 8 x 3.5mm (L x W x H)
  • Secure method : 2 x 3mm screw holes
  • Operating temp : -40degC to 100degC
  • Waterproof : IP68
  • Usage surface : Suitable for metallic surfaces 

Memory Banks of the RFID Tag

Memory Banks of a RFID Tag

Bank 00 holds the Access and Kill password. You don’t need a password to read tags, but you will need the access password to program them. Kill Password will permanently disable the tag and prevent further access to its data. User can customize the Passwords to protect the information from unauthorized access or modifications.

The Electronic Product Code (EPC) register located in Bank 01 stores the Test Fixture ID. The EPC register is 96 bits (12 bytes) in length and each tag comes with a pre-programmed code. User may choose to just use the pre-programmed code as the fixture ID or program a unique ID using the RFID reader in the FlexiCore system.

Bank 10 (TID) consists of a unique tag ID which the manufacturer assigns during the production of these tags. This memory space is usually not programmable.

Bank 11 (User Data) can store additional information related to the test fixture. Fixture installation date, preventive maintenance schedule, and probe replacement history are just some examples of additional information. 512 bits (64 bytes) of memory allows enough space to store this useful information.

Better tracking of test fixture performance with RFID

RFID tags fixtures with larger amount of information. This is because an RFID tag offers more storage space for information as compared to the conventional methods of barcode labels and fixed wiring inside the test fixture. With the additional information on the test fixture, engineers and technicians can track the performance of each fixture and take preventive measures to ensure the least downtime for the fixture. So, it’s time to get rid of the old methods of wiring fixed ID and sticking labels onto your fixture. RFID is the way to go!

Stay tuned and check in on my next post where I will talk about how easy it is to read and write to the RFID tags using the applications provided with the FlexiCore system.

As always, feel free to drop me an email (kwan-wee_lee@keysight.com) with your comments or questions.

Stay safe and stay healthy!