For the past two decades, imaging and scanning solutions company Lake Image Systems has been providing the technology that printing, labeling and mailing companies use in high-volume production. More recently, it has been offering RFID technology as well, so that businesses can build passive RFID tags into their mass-produced packaging or labels at high speed. This year, Lake Image partnered with Feig Electronics to make the deployment of RFID easier for its customers. Lake Image offers Feig readers and antennas with its own high-speed RFID encoding system that can be built into its customers’ label-converter and printing equipment.
For 23 years, Lake Image—a New York company with offices in the United Kingdom, France and Singapore—has provided technology for printing and tracking systems for document and mail-piece integrity. It also offers pin-number verification, print-quality inspection and process-control solutions. Its customers include companies that print direct mail for advertisers, or that print labels or brand packaging. They use Lake Image technology on bindery, print finishing, polywrapping, and continuous and sheet printing, as well as on rewinder, narrow-web, plastic-card and postal-automation equipment.
About three years ago, Lake Image began offering RFID encoding, printing and read-verification technology for customers that build RFID into their products, says Scott Stevens, Lake Image’s president. These companies often mass-produce labels at low cost, and thus require verification of the integrity of RFID tags that go into, for instance, direct mailings that can be shipped to hundreds of thousands of homes. Each piece of mail comes with a built-in ultrahigh-frequency(UHF) passive RFID tag (or a tag of another frequency), so that the mail can then be tracked. In that way, the direct-mailing company can be sure that targeted advertising is sent to the addresses or regions for which they are intended.
Lake Image’s customers have asked not to be named for this story.
RFID tags are being built into more than just direct mail advertising. They also appear in packaging for products such as cigarettes, in which case users need to be sure that the tags are printed, encoded and read properly as the packaging is created, in high volume and at high speed.
The challenge for Lake Image, and for its customers that make the labels or packaging, is the need for a variety of technologies, depending on customer demand. Some brands, advertisers or other companies require Near Field Communication (NFC) tags, or high-frequency (HF) RFID tags compliant with the ISO 15693 standard. Others may require UHFEPC RFID tags. In addition, the tag chips that a customer requires can come from a variety of vendors.
Many of the label and packaging companies are already using label-converter and printing equipment valued at a million dollars or more, and need to incorporate one or more RFID-based based systems to verify the integrity of RFID tags at the time of printing. So during the past two months, Lake Image has been partnering with Feig to build its UHF or HF RFID reader hardware into its customers’ existing printer systems.