US 20050068182 A1
Improved plastic article having an integral radio frequency identification (RFID) as an integral, permanent part of the article. The RFID can be molded onto an article; as a memory chip-antenna combination molded onto a desired location on an article.
1) A plastic article which comprises:
a plastic article having a wall portion thereof,
a radio frequency identification label integrally connected to said wall portion,
said identification label including a memory chip for storage of data;
wherein the said identification label generates electrical signals or pulses that are readable by a reader.
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This application is based on provisional application Ser. No. 60/506,750, filed Sep. 30, 2003.
Currently containers, such as hollow plastic containers, and the like are provided with bar codes to track inventory and to identify inventory and to identify products at point of sale. It would be highly desirable to provide a more efficient system for this purpose as well as for other purposes where-tracking and/or identification are desirable.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) may be effectively used for this purpose. It involves the use of a small computer or memory chip that may uniquely identify an item when read by a scanner. Thus, using RFID one may simply and conveniently, for example, locate and track items in stockrooms and in stores, minimize backroom storage of merchandise, accurately identify returned merchandise, allow customers to check out by simply scanning the carts, and facilitate identification, counting and location of items in a rapid manner. Moreover, RFID can provide numerous other advantages, such as monitoring product expiration dates and identifying when products need to be removed from shelves, tracking inventory, tracking temperature history, and warning when shoplifting occurs and counterfeiting of product.
Thus, RFID technology can be expected to replace the familiar product bar codes and indeed provide numerous advantages thereover, some of which are indicated hereinabove. These are small and unobtrusive and can be easily and readily tracked and monitored to provide simple and rapid identification and data for a variety of purposes.
However, it would be highly advantageous to inexpensively and permanently apply RFID to products such that the identification does not represent an aesthetically objectionable configuration and is tamper proof. Simply adhering the RFID by adhesive means or applying same to a label would clearly not be entirely satisfactory.
It is, therefore, a principal object of the present invention to provide an improved plastic article which has radio frequency identification (RFID) simply, conveniently and expeditiously applied thereto.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide an improved article as aforesaid with permanent application of RFID thereto and with the unobtrusive location of same on the article.
It is a still further object of the present invention to provide an improved article as aforesaid that enables the effective application of RFID to a wide variety of articles, such as consumer products, pallets and other articles where RFID would be advantageous.
It is an additional object of the present invention to provide an improved plastic article including RFID integrally applied thereto.
Further objects and advantages of the present invention will appear hereinbelow.
In accordance with the present invention the foregoing objects and advantages are readily obtained.
The present invention provides for an improved article having an integral RFID or transponder as a permanent part of the article. The article is desirably a plastic article, as a hollow container or a pallet, that is injection molded and/or blow molded with a small computer or memory chip applied thereto in the injection molding or blow molding process so that the chip is integrally and conveniently applied thereto in the molding process. The chip with connections for an antenna or possibly the antenna itself and possibly also a battery could be applied in this manner. If the RFID is applied to a container, one could apply same to a desired location, as for example, on the base where it would not be readily visible, or on a side wall where it would be covered by a label and yet would not be removed when the label is removed.
The present invention also contemplates permanently applying RFID to a plastic article so that the RFID becomes an integral and permanent part of the article, as by inserting the RFID in the mold when the plastic article is injection molded and/or blow molded and molding the RFID to a desired location on the article. The RFID may if desired be applied in the molding process so that it is flush with the outside surface of the article.
Further features and advantages of the present invention will appear hereinbelow.
The present invention will be more readily understandable from a consideration of the following illustrative drawings, wherein:
In accordance with the present invention one could form the chip as part of a product, as a container, during the injection molding or blow molding operation by placing the chip in the mold and forming the article with the chip integrally connected thereto in the molding process. The chip, with also possibly the antenna and also possibly a battery, could be applied on various places on the article as desired, as on the base of a container or on a side wall where it would be covered by a label and therefore not be visible. The chip could also if desired be placed on the neck of a container. If the frequency is difficult to read through the liquid contents of a container, application on the neck can obviate this difficulty. The chip, antenna and possibly a battery would become a permanent and integral part of the article in the molding process. The chip and antenna would desirably be mounted on a substrate as a plastic film or other desirable substrate, and integrally applied in this manner, with also a battery, if desired. Alternatively, the chip alone could be applied and the antenna printed post mold. Desirably, one can use a conductive material as at least a part of the application material or substrate, such as a silver or copper base ink.
It may be helpful to apply the chip with or without antenna by means of a magnet. A magnet would be placed in the mold to assist in registering the chip and antenna with or without battery in a desired location in the mold.
As a further alternative, chips with or without antennae could be delivered into the mold with air delivery and held in a desired location by a suitably positioned magnet. A recess area in the mold may be used to accommodate the chip and antenna. One may also use vacuum to position and hold the chip in place. The resultant chip and antenna would then be flush with the final article as the article is molded. Still further, the chips could be fed into the mold using a web with the chips, with or without antenna and battery, placed in register on the web and with indexing the web to the mold.
Labels could be applied over the integral chip and antenna. Label graphics could be integrated with the chip so that they alter over time activated by the chip, as for example when a product is approaching its expiration time, or has exceeded temperature limits, or for a special sales promotion, or for a price change.
Referring to the drawings,
Stretch rod 34 is positioned within the preform 16 and blow nozzle 36 is placed above the preform engaging open mouth 26. If desired, the blow nozzle 36 may include downwardly extending flange 38 which is moved into engagement with the outside of neck portion 24. In accordance with conventional procedure, stretch rod 34 is preferably fully extended in the clamped; warm preform to extend the preform to the base of the blow mold and to provide an extended preform. High pressure air is then introduced into the extended preform from blow nozzle 36 from a high pressure air source (not shown) to expand or stretch the extended, warm preform into conformity with the cavity 40 of blow mold 18 and with RFID label 12 integrally connected to the sidewall 14 of the blow molded container 10 as discussed above. Holder 32 releases RFID label 12 after the blow molding process. The result is a blow molded container 10, desirably biaxially oriented, with RFID label 12 firmly connected to the sidewall surface of container 10, and preferably embedded in the sidewall so as to be flush with the outside surface of the article.
The RFID system can be integrally applied to a desired article as described above, as a plastic container, pallet, or other desired articles, to create a highly advantageous assembly.
Thus, for example, the above article-chip-antenna assembly can be used for inventory control, to automatically bill customers when they leave the store, for product temperature control, to alter product label designations, to track container returns, to alert one to product expiration dates, and many other uses. Moreover, this can be accomplished simply and expeditiously with a maximum of convenience for the store and customer.
Advantageously, the RFID label or transponder does not require direct contact or line of sight with the reader. The transponder simply is a device that generates electrical signals or pulses that are interpreted by the reader. The reader is a transmitter-receiver combination (transceiver) that activates and reads the identification signals from the transponder.
A part of the reader is preferably a microprocessor with functions that include decoding, performing simple calculations and forwarding the information to a computer system for record keeping and processing. The RFID label or tag is preferably an integrated circuit that is coupled to a small antenna to transmit data. The circuit contains a memory chip or computer chip that stores the pertinent data to be transmitted when the chip is activated. The reader can be either hand held or a stationary unit.
The tagging system may be classified by RF frequency bands, with high, intermediate and low frequency ranges. A low frequency transponder generates a strong and broad signal spread, and this would be preferred for the present application. It requires a shorter distance to communicate with the reader, typically no more than 10 feet and moving at a speed less than 20 miles an hour.
The medium range would not be as popular for tagging. This range is widely used by citizen band radios, automatic door openers and remote control toys, thus possibly interfering with other applications. However, many tagging applications, such as inventory control or asset tracking may rely on this range because of its versatility and strength.
High frequency systems are particularly suitable, for example, in the automobile and trucking industries. These systems often can communicate with readers at a distance greater than 250 feet while moving at speeds of more than 150 miles per hour.
RFID systems may also be categorized by their tag characteristics being active or passive.
Active tags include a power source,. such as a battery. Advantages are a longer read range and a reduced power requirement. Disadvantages include limited operating life, inability to be used in all environments and a cost exceeding that of passive tags. Thus, for example, one can employ integral power means, as power paper systems where the chip and antenna system is similar to
Passive tags have no integrated power source, but do have a chip and antenna, and these would be preferred for the present application. Thus, they are powered electromagnetically by the reader. Advantages are lower cost, a considerably smaller and lighter size, and a virtually unlimited life. However, they have a short read range of up to one meter and a higher powered reader is required to activate them.
The integral RFID labels of the present invention can be used to respond to conditions outside programmed parameters. For example, an RFID label of the present invention on a food item package can be set like a thermostat to signal when the temperature exceeds the point where thawing or spoiling begins. Also, the RFID labels in accordance with the present invention can be used where a bar code doesn't work, can withstand intense heat and cold, and can even withstand chemical exposure.
In addition to the significant advantages referred to hereinabove, the RFID labels of the present invention can be read through up to two inches of non-metallic debris, including paint, plastic, cloth, wood, smoke, grime and concrete. Moreover, line of sight is not required as with a bar code.
Thus, for example, using the RFID labels of the present invention a shopper can push a full cart of bagged or unbagged groceries past a reader and have a receipt therefore printed within seconds. A debit or credit card can be scanned and the shopper can quickly leave the store with purchased goods. At the same time, inventory data at the store can be updated and other management information collected. A rapid and efficient shopping system is thereby provided in a safe and effective manner.
It is to be understood that the invention is not limited to the illustrations described and shown herein, which are deemed to be merely illustrative of the best modes of carrying out the invention, and which are susceptible of modification of form, size, arrangement of parts and details of operation. The invention rather is intended to encompass all such modifications which are within its spirit and scope.