What is the difference between NFC stickers, tags, labels, key fobs, discs, cards, and NFC wristbands?

How to select the best NFC tag or other NFC transponder for your application?

07. April 2021
The term ‘NFC tag’ is commonly used when searching for different kind of NFC transponders like NFC stickers, key fobs, discs, cards, labels, and even wristbands. This article hopes to clarify the differences so you know which transponder best suits your needs, and you will get the appropriate NFC product. 

Each NFC transponder contains the NFC chip and the antenna. Depending on the applications, the two are built in different kinds of housing. 

A ‘NFC sticker’ or ‘NFC label’ contains a chip is between thin paper or plastic layers.

The top layer can be just white or printed, the bottom layer contains an adhesive.  The desktop label printers are ok to print variables or simple logos, but they cannot print high quality artwork. So, the printed NFC stickers are printed with other printing technology during the manufacturing process. Such NFC stickers usually have a thin transparent foil on top which protects the print against scratches. If you like to print on NFC stickers, you have to mind that the release paper is transparent and suitable for desktop printers.

The difference between NFC stickers and NFC labels is not 100% defined and some people would say that are both the same, others will define NFC sticker as low-cost stickers with logos and NFC chip, used for marketing applications and NFC labels as more sophisticated, made from plastics, and used to mark items or assets for a longer period of time.

The transparent NFC stickers are also called ‘NFC Wet Inlays,’ and the chip and antenna are on the thin plastic layer containing just an adhesive at the bottom.
There is also ‘Dry Inlay,’ which is similar to a wet inlay but it does not have an adhesive. Such inlays are used for some applications like NFC business cards or NFC tickets where the inlay with a chip is placed between paper layers, etc. 

A ‘NFC tag’ has a chip is inside die-cut plastic and it is usually thicker than a sticker.
There are many ways to print on NFC tags. The best way is to do the print with offset technology during the production of the NFC tags. There is also the possibility to print on the finished tags, but is usually more expensive than the first option.
Our printed NFC tags are usually made from PVC and are printed with color logos, background artwork, and they can contain the variable data like serial number, chip ID number, etc. We have various cutting molds so that the tag shape and dimension best suit the client’s needs. 

There are several special made NFC tags like the NFC Laundry tags, NFC Epoxy tags, Tire tags, Windshield tags, Jewelry tags, Animal tags, Tie Tags, Cable Tags... 

‘Laundry tags’are made from PPS material (Polyphenylene sulfide) or special silica gels and are designed to withstand heat, pressure, and chemicals. They are ideal to track the laundry, warehouse assets, for tracking production objects, pallets, tools, etc. The usual PPS laundry tag has a shape of disk with diameter 20 mm or more and the thickness of 2 mm, the silicone laundry tags are rectangular shape like 50x20 mm with a thickness of 1 mm. These tags can be printed as well, but the printing requires special printing technology and the options are limited.

‘NFC Epoxy tags’ are printed plastic NFC tags which have on top a dome of epoxy layer and are called ‘Domed NFC tags’ or ‘Domed NFC stickers’ as well. ‘Tire tags’ are made from rubber and they are designed for automotive tracking applications. ‘Widshield tags’ are designed for an application on a car’s windshield and are used for ticketing applications. ‘Jewelry tags’ are made from thin plastic material and are designed for jewelry management.  ‘Animal tags’are also a NFC transponder in special housings. The usual Animal tag contains a chip operating on a frequency 125 kHz or 134,4 kHz chip, but we can produce Animal tags with NFC chips which are better option for custom applications. ‘Tie and Cable tags’ are self-locking, waterproof NFC tags which are used for warehouse management, product protection, inventory management, and other industry and logistics applications. 

If you place a NFC tag on a metallic surface, they will not work because the magnetic fluxes of the reader will induce eddy currents within the conductor and they will kill a RF signal. If a NFC tag is to be used on a metallic surface, we have to add the special layer made from ferritic material called the ‘on-metal or anti-metal layer’ which redirects the magnetic fluxes and the chips are working. These variation of NFC tags are called NFC on-metal tags or NFC anti-metal tags. You have to be aware that the metal is affecting the reader as well, and so some readers work better in this condition than others.

Another kind of NFC transponder are ‘NFC cards’ which die-cut plastic tags with the shape and dimensions of a credit card which are approximately 86x54x0.85 mm. NFC cards are made form multiple layers of PVC which are thermally laminated into sheet. In the next step, the cards are cut out to their final size and shape according to the ISO standard ISO/IEC 7810 ID-1. You can order white blank cards or printed cards. We usually print smaller quantities (1–-500 pcs) with Thermal Retransfer Printers, while larger quantities of printed NFC cards are printed with offset printing technology during the manufacturing process.  

‘NFC Key fobs’ are more convenient to use than NFC cards and are increasingly popular. The Key fobs come with a number of standard housings and they can be die-cut from plastics as well. NFC key fobs can be personalized with serial numbers or printed with color artworks.

‘NFC wristbands’ are especially useful where we do not carry a wallet (swimming pools, saunas, etc.), or where we must always have it on hand (waiters to enter the cash register, open the door, etc.). They are usually made of a silicone material which is very comfortable to wear, and they are available in various shapes. We can print on NFC Wristbands as well, but it requires special printing technology or laser engraving.

The simplest NFC transponder is a ‘NFC COB’ (Chip On Board), where there is only a small rectangular tie containing the NFC chip and the copper winding. This product is usually built-in other products from plastics, wood, or other non-metallic materials. The difference between COB and Dry inlay is that the Dry inlays has a smaller chip and they have the antennas printed on a plastic sheet. The Dry inlays are very thin.

If you have any questions send an email to info@rfidspecialist.eu or call +38641 884 124 and we will be happy to help you.
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