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Sensible use and reuse of PCBs

Printed Circuit Board´s (PCB) Lifecycle Management with UHF RFID
Olaf Wilmsmeier
Olaf Wilmsmeier
Business Development Manager RFID, HARTING IT Software Development

In the last issue of our technology magazine, we reported on our partnership with UHF RFID transponder manufacturer muRata. muRata embeds transponders directly into the raw board and thus pursues the concept of improved transparency and traceability of printed circuit boards in the manufacturing process and beyond. This gives the PCB its memory. Here, efficient automated identification is achieved in conjunction with UHF RFID readers, antennas and high-performance software from HARTING.

The use of an RFID transponder entails numerous benefits throughout the entire life cycle. Nokia, for example, already takes advantage of UHF RFID-based PCB manufacturing in its new modular Industry 4.0 production line. The first products produced there are already equipped with UHF RFID transponders and the manufacturing machines are equipped with HARTING RFID readers, antennas and software. This can be seen live at the Hannover Messe 2018 industrial trade show. The embedded transponder gives the board a memory and an identity. In addition, relevant process parameters are stored directly on the printed circuit board. As a result, the PCB knows its history, knows what it wants to become and can use this to actively intervene in the manufacturing process.

Reuse PCBs

Lifecycle Management through UHF RFID

However, there is one advantage that is still often overlooked today: the high value of recycling in the context of resource conservation and the value of the materials used. RFID transponders offer significant benefits here as well. Printed circuit boards contain important resources – rare earths, not to mention gold and platinum, are expensive and/or can only be extracted from mines with considerable effort. In addition, these raw materials must be processed in energy-hungry fashion. Recycling raw materials is therefore an important issue and will become even more important in the future. Circuit boards are also used in every country in the world, however the requisite raw materials for electrical products are not available in Europe. Consequently, recycling the already extant raw materials is of twofold value. For automated disposal of these important raw materials, including recycling, the component information for a printed circuit board must also be available during the disposal process. Typically, this information is already stored at the time of manufacture, which means it can be permanently available in databases. Thanks to the UHF RFID technology in the printed circuit board, it is automatically uniquely identified during the disposal process – even in bulk.

UHF RFID in the PCB enables complete Lifecycle Management. From manufacturing to disposal, many types of added value can be generated.

The embedded transponder gives the board a memory and an identity.

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