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I love being outdoors and enjoy days that aren’t monotonous. Perhaps that’s why I love working as an application engineer. I love the continuous challenge and ability to tinker with so many cool techy tools and gadgets. I also enjoy farming and have a thriving vegetable garden in my back yard. Interests: high tech anything, computers, RFID, systems integration, and gardening Hobbies: gardening and RC anything (planes, cars, boats…) Favorite books: I don’t read much fiction, but can’t resist a good manual or web tutorial. Favorite movies: Lawnmower Man, BladeRunner, and John Carter Favorite actors and actresses: Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry Favorite sport: Football

Attention to detail needed when implementing UID systems

Marking defense assets with unique identifiers that can be used to track the items throughout their lifetime is a straightforward concept. But when it comes to implementing Unique Identification of Items according to NATO standards, one must pay attention to numerous details. Many of these specifics can be found in two documents: AUIDP-1 (Allied Unique Identification of Items Publication) and a Standardization Agreement, STANAG 2290.

Benefits of UID

Unique Identification of Items (UID) is a standardized method for giving items a unique identifier that stays with them throughout their life. It’s useful for tracking ownership and location of an asset, which may be in use, in storage or in transit. AUIDP-1 also notes that UID can provide details of an asset’s age, condition, configuration, maintenance and repair history, and warranty status.

UID utilizes the 2D Data Matrix symbol for labeling items. The label is read with an automated device and provides a common format for storing and retrieving information among many different users. Errors are reduced as compared to manual data entry and the process is streamlined.

When to use UID

Implementing UID makes the most sense for items that are newly purchased. In that case, the benefits of UID will be realized throughout the item’s entire life for a greater return on investment. Items that are already in inventory might also be good UID candidates if their remaining life is substantial. Other factors to weigh include whether the item has significant value; is repairable; requires calibration or confirmation of disposal; or is mission critical.

Preferred UID methods

The Unique Item Identifier, or UII, assigned to an item must not change over the item’s life, even if other identifiers such as the part number change. It must be globally unique and cannot be reused, even if the item it’s attached to is disposed of.

Data associated with the UII is entered into a registry. Annex 6 of AUIDP-1 lists the recommended data elements to include. Some of these are: Unique Item Identifier; type of item (either end item or embedded item); whether it’s marked using UID Construct 1 or Construct 2; part number; serial number; batch or lot; description; and issuing agency code.

Methods for marking items include direct marking using laser, electro-chemical etching or dot peen indenting. STANAG 2290 contains standards for minimum cell sizes and quality levels for the various methods. The label should last for the expected life of the item, STANAG 2290 notes.

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Verification of IUID labels boosts MIL-STD-130 compliance

A common requirement for contractors doing business with the Department of Defense is to label each piece of equipment with an item unique identifier, or IUID. The DoD uses this IUID to track the equipment throughout its lifetime. MIL-STD-130spells out requirements forthe IUID, which is typically a 2D Data Matrix bar code. The label must last the lifetime of the equipment — potentially decades — and withstand a variety of environments. While that’s a key consideration in designing the labels, even more fundamental is ascertaining that the label can be reliably read and interpreted in the first place. That’s where IUID verification comes in.

How a contractor incorporates verification into the overall manufacturing process depends on whether the labels are purchased from an outside supplier or produced in-house. For those making labels themselves, it’s a good idea to verify the labels as soon as possible after they’re produced. That way, problems are detected and can be fixed before many more defective labels are produced. This prevents the waste of time and resources. Continuous monitoring of the IUID verification labels may also indicate when the labeling equipment needs maintenance — before the labels become unreadable.

A prime contractor receiving items from a sub-contractor for a DoD project must also make sure those items are labeled in compliance with MIL-STD-130.Not doing so can result in delays in fulfilling the contract and added expense for the contractor.

IUID verification covers a wide range of parameters. An ideal IUID label will be perfectly square with good contrast between dark and light areas. Dots will be round rather than oval. Dots will stay within the boundaries of the square, and will be surrounded by an empty “quiet zone.” The quiet zone is needed in order for automated Data Matrix readers to be able to read the code. Verification software assigns a grade to a number of aspects of the label as well as an overall grade for the code.

Another option is to purchase labels from a manufacturer who will take care of verification for you. For example, Jet City Laser provides 100% verification of Data Matrix labels. Syntax validation is also included. Every shipment of labels includes a CD with IUID verification and validation results. Jet City produces labels in a wide range of materials to suit nearly any application. Laser marking, chemical etching and dot peen are among the options.

Contractors can spot check the labels received from a supplier for readability as an additional quality control measure.

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