How Snively Inc. and Vizinex RFID collaborated to co-develop and co-market a unique tag for medical devices.
The specifications were daunting, to be sure.
The RFID tag needed a form factor smaller than a toothpick. It needed to be mounted on metal precision surgical equipment, such as scalpels and hemostats (surgical clamps). Because of the delicate nature of the surgical procedures the instruments and devices would be used in, the tag’s form factor had to be nonintrusive, meaning it couldn’t protrude or add noticeable weight to the point where it would potentially interfere with surgery.
Adding to the degree of difficulty, the distance at which the tags could be read needed to be in the 4 to 6 foot range — much greater than the 1 to 2 inches that are common with most small RFID tags. And because the equipment must be sterilized after every use, the tag had to be able to withstand the high temperatures, high pressure and harsh chemicals used in autoclaving.
So when Snively Inc. needed a partner to finish developing and manufacture the challenging RFID tags, they turned to Vizinex RFID.
Snively, an Ohio-based company that serves as a single source for integrations of RFID, barcoding and various user interfaces, did the initial development of the tag internally. However, finalizing the design and bringing it into production was a task for which a partner was needed. Rich Snively, the company’s owner, brought design specifications to Vizinex to help get the product across the finish line. It took close to a year to develop a tag that met all of the demanding specifications, but it is now in commercial release, with both Snively and Vizinex marketing it under their own brands.
“The quality is outstanding,” Snively says. “Vizinex actually improved on our tuning and improved the performance of the tag. Their unique manufacturing capabilities enabled them to also make a few modifications to the manufacturing process that made the tag lower and more compact. The form factor is almost like the prong of a comb so it can be placed on any edge that’s about an inch long and it will have less than a millimeter of standout. As a final bonus, the cost of the tag in production was substantially lower than I had anticipated it would be.”
The final tag measures a mere 1.1 inch by 0.07 inch by 0.03 inch.
“This is a revolutionary tag,” says Snively, whose company specializes in the design and integration of custom automation solutions using best of breed hardware, software, and development techniques. “Its read range and form factor are spot on for what’s necessary in the medical industry.”
Automating a Tedious Process
As a software and hardware integrator, Snively’s company was interested in more than just co-developing a tag it could sell. Using TagMinder, an RFID-optimized inventory management software solution developed by Snively, the company developed an automated process to easily identify and track the medical devices that have the tag.
Anywhere from 30 to 50 of the medical devices can be placed on an RFID antenna that resembles a mat, and TagMinder can identify each and every device that’s on there by its unique RFID tag ID. “They can find and account for every instrument that went into surgery and every instrument that came out of surgery,” Snively says.
Previously, identifying and sorting these medical devices was often done by hand. Certain devices, for example, are used together for specific surgical procedures. Employees who know and recognize each instrument would examine them one at a time, identify them, account for them and put those specific instruments together in a group so they could be placed on a shelf in inventory and then pulled out the next time the same surgery is performed.
That time-consuming and tedious process of identifying and accounting for the devices can now be done instantly and automatically using the RFID tags, Snively says.
Another important benefit is the ability to determine how many times each instrument or device has been used. That enables hospitals and other medical settings to track when instruments need to be inspected, sharpened, refurbished or removed from use once they reach their sunset lifespan.
A Win-Win Collaboration
Snively says he approached Vizinex because of his previous experiences working with the RFID manufacturer and the company’s reputation, especially in creating metal mount tags tough enough to stand up to autoclaving.
Vizinex has supplied RFID tags to Snively for various purposes over the years, and the two companies also worked together on a project involving automation for a conveyor system production line. Vizinex supplied the RFID tags that, when read by handheld or static readers, triggered software programming written by Snively. The programming controlled certain processes on the production line, including labeling and painting varying sizes and shapes of cylinders, and the tags had to be able to withstand intense washing and heated drying cycles.
Snively has found Vizinex to be a creative and conscientious collaborator on their latest venture together.
“We have established a partnership between our two businesses where we co-developed this tag and are also co-marketing it,” Snively says. “I have this product branded as a product of Snively and Vizinex has the same product branded as its product. That way we can identify marketing efforts and customers. We are the only two that have this product.”
For both Snively Inc. and Vizinex RFID, that adds up to a true win-win.