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Big Blue printer makes RFID

IBM is getting wild about its use of radio frequency identification, or RFID technology. So much so that Big Blue launched its first business printer that makes traditional bar codes as well as RFID tags.

The Infoprint 6700 R40 is a thermal printer that turns out stickers as fast as 10 inches per second and can print either 203 dots per inch or 300 dots per inch. The smallish black rectangular box runs on an IBM Power microprocessor and includes a reader that verifies each RFID tag before any information is encoded on the chip or printed on the label. If a tag is faulty, the printer moves on to the next tag.

IBM Infoprint 6700 R40
Credit: IBM

The new printer line is part of IBM's recent $250 million investment in RFID technologies. The company is hoping to entice its customers to transition to RFID technologies, which encourages more interaction and dependency on a company's network.

RFID chips are beginning to enter the mainstream business world as companies look at new ways of tracking product information such as manufacture date, destination, product shelf life, inventory data and product handling details. RFID includes everything from battery-powered "active" tags, such as those used in highway toll booths, to "passive" RFID tags that could fit on the tip of your finger.

The new 6700 R40 comes with an entry-level price of $3,025. The RFID upgrades bumps up the price to $5,525.

IBM also launched two other bar code printers designed to withstand the rigors of industrial sites. The Infoprint 6700 R60 and R80 are priced at $4,399 and $6,475, respectively.

All three printers are scheduled to be available Sept. 9, 2005.