Background- Purpose of the Project
Eccel worked with the customer, a leading manufacturer of High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) laboratory analysis machines to address the requirement of ensuring that the correct, genuine consumables are loaded and used by the HPLC instrument.
There are up to 10 consumable loading bays on the instrument and each of these is a possible source of incorrect consumable loading.
RFID tagging of consumables and locating RFID reader/writer devices in the consumable loading bays on the instrument would prevent incorrect consumable loading as well as enable full traceability and recording of usage of the consumables.
Furthermore, consumables verified and controlled by RFID would enable a business model for our customer and their customers that supported low cost supply of the high technology and expensive instrument by a repeat business supply of consumable products for the instruments. This would enable “expensing” of the product on a “pay as you use” basis.
Challenges to Address
The instrument is a high metalwork construction with variable levels of metalwork in the proximity of the different consumable loading bays.
This required that Eccel develop a RFID Reader/Writer that could work with sufficient RFID tag to reader separation distance in all loading bay locations.
A range of RFID labels for the consumables was also required to be developed that were partially pre-printed by Eccel and also allowed for batch printing and encoding by the customer on their production assembly line.
It was also required that the developed RFID reader/writer device was certified and approved for FCC (USA), ISED (Canada), and CE (RED) (Europe/ UK).
We modified our reader design to pass FCC, ISED and RED (CE) approvals and produced RFID tags for both mobile phase liquid consumables, and static phase solid consumables to be inserted into our customer’s high power blood analysis machine used for HBA1c diabetes patient high accuracy monitoring.
When consumables are loaded, our RFID tags transmit all the necessary information from the consumable to a display screen on the front of the machine automatically. This eliminates human error that could be caused by incorrect manual data input, saves associated operator time and enables full traceability for consumables used in the machine. Eccel’s RFID module transfers unique data in both directions to custom RFID non-volatile stickers located on the consumables.
Eccel’s RFID software routines are integrated seamlessly alongside other calibration software routines to enable our customer to provide end users with an analysis machine that can be operated with minimal human intervention.
Our RFID design also enabled the customer to implement a system where reagent consumables such as buffers can be changed as the machine is running, thereby maximising the throughput of samples for analysis. Again, necessary test parameters for each reagent are transferred to the machine automatically through reading the RFID tag when they are loaded without the need for manual input.
A Static Phase HPLC Consumable with Pre-Printed RFID Label
The RFID Reader/Writer With Enclosure Opened
The RFID Reader/Writer as Supplied to the Customer
Our custom design modifications enabled the customer to seamlessly market their machine across the US, Canada and Europe thanks to our embedded RFID designs already having the appropriate approvals from regulatory bodies prior to entering the production phase.
By enabling control of consumables our design also facilitates a business model for our customers that provides end users with machines that have a low up-front cost and repeat business from the supply of consumables to enable and enhance value for our customer and provide “pay as you use” expense for their end customers.