IBM Debuts RFID-capable Printer

Big Blue's Infoprint 6700 is bar code-ready, upgradeable to handle radio frequency identification

Big Blue's Infoprint 6700 is bar code-ready, upgradeable to handle radio frequency identification

Boulder, CO  June 15, 2005  IBM this week debuted a radio frequency identification (RFID)-capable printer designed to help customers reduce costs, improve reliability and streamline supply chain operations.

The new Infoprint 6700 R40 printer can print both traditional bar codes and RFID verified tags1, offering a solution that can be used in current supply chain infrastructures and then be upgraded to RFID technology when needed, IBM said.

With the introduction of the Infoprint 6700 R40, IBM said it can now offer end-to-end RFID solutions that include hardware, software, support and services.

"RFID technology can offer significant advantages in supply chain management," said Doug Oathout, vice president, IBM Printing Systems Division. "We're helping clients make the transition to RFID with a printer that can help lower costs, improve inventory operations and more closely link suppliers and retailers."

Faster Operating Speed

RFID printers are an important component of the supply chain. If tags are printed inaccurately, products may not be delivered. IBM said that the Infoprint 6700 R40 can verify each RFID tag before any mission-critical information is encoded on the chip or printed on the label. If a tag is faulty, the printer can move to the next tag and continue output without operator intervention, eliminating the unreliable tag.

According to IBM, this improved reliability can help customers reduce lost revenue due to returns, distribution errors and missed schedules.

The Infoprint 6700 R40 employs an IBM POWER microprocessor to deliver the performance necessary to rapidly transfer information to each RFID tag. This information can include manufacture date, destination, product shelf life and location, inventory data, product handling details and much more. Using the POWER processor, the Infoprint 6700 can perform certain operations as much as 60 percent faster than previous IBM models, Big Blue said.

The Infoprint 6700 R40 can integrate with existing operating systems or enterprise resource planning (ERP) infrastructure environments. It can also integrate with IBM WebSphere software to provide a real-time view of the RFID supply chain from a single location. The IBM solution can share supply chain information between the printer and the network to update the status of inventory, shipping and tracking details, according to IBM.

6700 Family Functionality

IBM also announced two additional members of the Infoprint 6700 family. The Infoprint 6700 R60 and R80 offer rugged print solutions that can produce six-inch and eight-inch bar codes, respectively.

The entire family of Infoprint 6700 industrial printers comes with one of the largest ribbon capacities on the market today, so the printer can produce greater volumes of output with less operator intervention to lower the total cost of printing, according to IBM. The printers are capable of printing up to 10 inches per second for faster throughput and users can also change print heads to produce 203 dots per inch (dpi) or 300 dpi, depending on the image quality required for the print job.

Additional functions of the Infoprint 6700 family include:

  • Connectivity  Operators are offered a range of connectivity options, including Ethernet, wireless, coax/Twinax, serial and parallel ports.

  • Manageability  Using the Printer Management Utility (PMU), operators can manage and configure multiple printers through a single user interface. Infoprint 6700 models also offer remote management capabilities.

  • Flexible Media  Customers can choose from three models to produce four-, six- or eight-inch output, depending on the needs of their supply chain.

  • Bar Code Validation  The Infoprint 6700 models also offer optional barcode validation to help ensure output is accurate and reliable.
IBM plans to offer the Infoprint 6700 R40 at an entry-level price of $3,025, with RFID upgrades for a total cost of $5,525, and the Infoprint 6700 R60 and R80 at $4,399 and $6,475, respectively. The entire line of printers is scheduled to be available September 9.

IBM said it has made a $250 million investment in RFID technology.

Additional Articles of Interest

 RFID technology has the potential to change the way supply chains are managed, but in order to be effective businesses need to take a holistic look at the deployment. Read more in the article "Time for RFID: Applying RFID in the Supply Chain."

 For a contrary view of the future of the RFID market, see the article "The O'RFID Factor: A 'No Spin' Look at Where Radio Frequency Identification Is Headed," in the October/November 2004 issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive.

 For more information on trends relating to radio frequency identification (RFID), follow this link for an extensive listing of articles, featuring the latest research findings on the RFID, including adoption, return on investment and barriers to implementation.