Omnitrol, TI Team on Real-Time RFID Traceability for PCB Manufacturing

Omnitrol Networks and Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) (NYSE: TXN) announced an alliance to deliver a radio frequency identification (RFID) real-time traceability solution for printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing applications. The new offering, which integrates Omnitrol Networks’ Work-in-Process visibility software and TI’s Gen 2 chip technology, provides electronic and contract manufacturers a highly automated method of simultaneously identifying and tracking PCBs from the manufacturing floor to customer delivery.

The demand for higher quality, flexibility and efficiency in PCB manufacturing is driving the need for non-line of sight RFID work-in-process tracking that offers several improvements over relatively large, fixed memory barcodes. RFID’s small chip size can effectively be used on increasingly scarce board real estate, and its programmable memory allows PCB manufacturers real-time work-in-process visibility into parts, labor and finished goods throughout their manufacturing operations. In addition, RFID solutions provide a highly accurate and comprehensive view of manufacturing data throughout the product lifecycle which can help reduce warranty, safety and liability costs.

The complete solution integrates Omnitrol Networks’ award-winning Work-In-Process (WIP) visibility software and industrial sensor integration appliance, Gen 2 RFID readers and Texas Instruments’ RFID Gen 2 UHF chips. The off-the-shelf solution provides automated real-time visibility and maintains complete electronic pedigree (e-pedigree) for traceability on parts and WIP providing real-time dashboards, alerts and reports for the shop-floor management. The manufacturing pedigree information is automatically programmed into the RFID tag for rapid access to critical data without the need to be connected to a back-end database.

“Electronic manufacturers need an automated, affordable, and customizable solution to improve productivity by tracking PCBs throughout the manufacturing process,” said Mikael Ahlund, director of asset tracking for Texas Instruments RFID Systems. “The PCB tracking solution combines Texas Instruments’ experience in electronics manufacturing along with our core competency in RFID with Omnitrol Networks’ Work-In-Process application appliance.”

The solution provides manufacturers with highly accurate information on units in production including location, status, and time metrics.

As a fully-integrated hardware and software solution, the PCB tracking solution can be rapidly deployed and scaled at a low cost by simply adding readers where required. By creating a complete e-pedigree for each unit produced, the system can assist manufacturers in identifying products impacted by defective parts, equipment or processes, including tracking counterfeit and diverted products in the market.

The new PCB tracking solution is in pilots with several electronic manufacturers including TQ Components, a leading technology service provider for advanced electronic subsystems and systems in Germany.

“Traditional barcode-based tracking systems are prone to human error and difficult to process due to board real estate, required manual intervention and lack of automation,” said Heinz Hornung, general manager at TQ Components. “The OMNITROL PCB tracking solution using TIâ€(TM)s RFID chips allows us to automatically maintain traceability on each component that goes into the products we build. We have been able to replace tedious manual scanning with a completely automated process.”

The PCB tracking solution will be demonstrated at the IPC/APEX Conference in Las Vegas, April 1-3 in the Omnitrol Networks booth #1885 and at RFID Journal Live in Las Vegas, April 16-18 in the Omnitrol Networks booth #330.

More info: TI white paper