RFID Media and Printers

RFID tags come in thousands of shapes and sizes. The most common form factor is the printable label
which can be printed and digitally encoded before being attached to items using the adhesive backing.
Because there are many types of RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification), there are many types of gateways,
routers, readers, and antennas available to collect RFID data. The below guide is designed to help you
understand these differences and select the right fit for your project needs.

RFID Inlays


RFID Inlays come either as dry (no adhesive) or wet (adhesive sticker) and typically allow you to see the underlying Integrated Circuit (IC) and RF Antenna. Inlays are typically used when embedding RFID capabilities into an object or when visual printing is not required by the end user. Inlays offer very little protection to the IC and are not recommended outside of short-term or embedded applications.

Benefits include:

  • Lowest Cost
  • Reduced weight and materials
  • Small profile for embedding
  • Smart Labels


    Smart Labels are constructed by adding a printable face layer and adhesive backing to RFID Inlays. For labels which must be read in close proximity to liquids or metals, a foam or plastic backing must be added to insulate the RFID Inlay from RF interference. RFID Printers allow for both the digital encoding of data to the Smart Labels as well as the printing and correlating of visual data onto the label surface. These printers are available as either UHF (RAIN) or HF (NFC) configurations.

    Benefits include:

  • Matching of Printed and Encoded Data
  • Configure new labels on-demand
  • Limited physical protection of the IC
  • Hard Tags


    Hard Tags come in a wide variety of materials and form factors which may be fully encapsulated or show the underlying RFID Inlay. Hard tags typically are made of plastic, ceramic, or PCB materials and cannot be printed by RFID printers.

    Benefits include:

  • Wide range of form factors
  • Greatest performance on metals
  • Best physical protection of the IC
  • General Guidance - RFID Media

    RFID performance greatly depends upon selecting the proper RFID tag/label to match the attachment surface as well as the environment in which the tag/label will be operating. If using a printable smart label, the printer and application system should also be considered early in the tag selection process to ensure compatibility and best performace.

    Most successful RFID implementations involve significant attention to detail related to selection, testing, and verification of the RFID tag/label. Afterall, if tags/labels are falling off of assets, unable to be read, or not surviving the full lifecycle then there is incomplete or missing data.