RFID Printers are devices that simultaneously print and encode information on RFID inlays or labels. These devices are the only way to print on labels, and they also save time by automating the manual process of encoding each tag. RFID Printers have the ability to print not only human readable numbers and information, but graphics and 1D and 2D barcodes as well.
Even for applications that do not require printing, RFID Printers can add value by saving time on encoding. Industrial printers, for example, can print up to 14 inches per second in certain operations, which would be a little over 6 tags per second for 2-inch tags (including breaks).
Types of RFID Printers
There are several different ways to breakout and differentiate types of RFID printers. The most common is by the usage of the printer. Under printer usage there are three main categories: Industrial, Desktop, and Mobile. Another common way that RFID printers are categorized is according to RFID tag compatibility, usually by tag frequency or, sometimes, specialized tag types.
Industrial (10,000+ tags per day)
Industrial printers are manufactured to be durable and able to be used in most application environments. Industrial printers stand out because of the sheer volume of labels they can print in a day, week, or month. For demanding applications with a large volume of labels, an industrial printer is the best-suited option.
Desktop (500+ tags per day)
As the name implies, Desktop printers are designed to be used in office-like environments. Typically, desktop printers are used to print a low-volume of labels a day and keep up with a mid-level quantity of items to be tagged. Desktop printers are also designed to be aesthetically pleasing, so they can be used in customer-facing applications.
Mobile (200+ tags per day)
Mobile RFID printers are not as common as Desktop and Industrial printers, but they can be very convenient, especially in large spanning applications such as warehouses or shipping yards. The availability of using a mobile printer when covering a large space is much more convenient than relying on a printer in a central location. Due to their compact size, mobile printers typically require specialized media.
The most common type of RFID printer is a UHF Passive RFID printer. UHF Passive RFID printers have an encoder that operates at the 860-960 MHz frequency range. However, there are also NFC and HF printers available. These printers often look visually identical to their UHF Passive counterparts, but they have an encoder that operates at the 13.56 MHz frequency range.
Another tag-based printer option is a specialized printer for tags like RFID cards and badges, foam backed tags, and all-surface labels that have a metal backing. RFID cards and badges generally aren’t on a roll, but sold individually; so, normal RFID printers will not be able to read, write, or print on these. Instead, a specialized card printer is required along with specialized ribbon to print on the thick, plastic cardstock. Because the industry is growing and new types of tags are being made, new specialized printers and printer settings are being released to keep up with demand (e.g. printers designed for foam-backed and metal-mount tags).