RFID tagged components in series production

In the prototyping and pre-series phase, several automotive manufacturers have already successfully used RFID at a components labelling level – this is also referred to using the name transparent prototype. The use of RFID in series production takes this to a whole new level, however: instead of just a few thousand, millions of RFID labels now have to be encoded, printed, applied and counter-checked for each supplier and component. The OEM as the customer can then record these automatically in the assembly lines. This not only eliminates the need for manual barcode scanning by the worker, but also enables traceability to a batch size of 1. Whereas in the past tens of thousands of vehicles had to be recalled in the event of a defect in a batch, with RFID it is possible to trace precisely the individual vehicles affected. RFID also offers even more potential that OEMs can leverage, right down to the authorised workshop.

Picture: BMW Press Release 26.02.20, P90384783

BMW and VW as drivers for RFID in series production

While Porsche introduced RFID for pre-series production together with Data Elektronik in 2012, VW and Audi jumped onto the technological bandwagon after many years of trials and established a basis in the automotive environment in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Today, more then 500 automotive suppliers equip their components in pre-series production with RFID labels and/or hard tags as customers of Data Elektronik. The VW core brand is now weighing up the next step forward into production in the millions, with series production. Development had been slowed due to other Group activities, but can no longer be stopped.

Working together with Data Elektronik, BMW has developed the foundations for RFID in the Munich-based Group. The German manufacturer of premium vehicles received consulting support from Data Elektronik in the provision of test equipment to RFID readers, handhelds, printers and tags, as well as in the commissioning of gates and software for test readings. It was also able to take advantage of the many years of experience for consulting in coding standards. The Bavarian automotive manufacturer is pursuing another strategy, however, and has started directly with series production.

The complete range of accessories

All of the equipment and consumable materials that are required as a supplier can be provided by Data Elektronik. This includes:

  • RFID printers and/or applicators
  • RFID labels and carbon ribbons
  • RFID reading devices for automated end-of-line inspections
  • Stationary barcode scanners for DataMatrix inspection, where required
  • Software for the creation of RFID print jobs and interfaces
  • Integration of the complete solution into your production/assembly lines

Server solution or black box at the belt

Support for RFID printing, plausibility assessment and interfaces to external customer systems can be fully implemented via our RCOM VDA 5509 software package. There is also an integrated control unit for an RFID reader especially for series production which can be attached to an assembly line together with light-sensitive barriers and signal lights. The end-of-line inspection module from Data Elektronik thus combines all processes in a pre-fabricated and standardised black box: receive RFID print trigger, create RFID print command with appropriate coding, send to the printer/applicator and finally check the printed RFID label for correctness of data. Missing serial numbers can therefore be reported directly and only valid RFID numbers will be accepted at the belt. With our solution, there is no need to adapt the PLC control on your assembly line!