Finding a UID provider that can help from start to finish

With so many different methods available for applying a Unique Identifier symbol to equipment produced for the military, a defense contractor might easily start to feel overwhelmed. Therefore it can be a good idea to find a vendor that offers a variety of UID solutions — and can provide advice on which methods work best for a particular application.

One such supplier is ID Integration Inc. (id-integration.com). This company offers direct marking methods for applying the 2-D Data Matrix UID symbol to equipment. For example, they can supply a programmable, dot peen stamper that supports text as well as Data Matrix permanent markings. The pin stamp even comes with a 15-foot cable that provides a degree of portability. Other direct marking equipment they sell includes industrial ink jet (which also comes with a lengthy cable to make marking easier); laser marking using a polymer coating; and chemical etching systems.

No matter what the marking method, IUID verification is a critical step in the process. IUID verification assesses the quality of the Data Matrix symbol. The goal — as spelled out in defense department standards — is to create a mark that will last the life of the equipment. That can be a challenge, as military equipment often travels across the globe and may encounter a variety of harsh environments.

Other marking options

For contractors who want to apply the unique identifier to their products indirectly by attaching labels, ID Integration’s partner, Jet City Laser, sells a wide variety of UID labels. Whether you’re looking for etched or metalized polyester, anodized aluminum, thermal print labels, or tamper-resistant TESA tape, Jet City has a wide range of UID labels to choose from. Again, IUID verification is a crucial step to ensure the quality of the UID marking. UID labels from Jet City are 100% verified to meet DoD standards.

In addition to providing marking equipment or labels, ID Integration can help contractors with their entire UID system. They are UID integrators, meaning they can advise manufacturers on the best way to introduce the marking equipment into the existing production process. They sell UID hardware and software to streamline the process and help ensure compliance. They can provide a needs assessment for a defense contractor just getting started on UID systems, and even offer on-site training. In addition, their website is packed with educational material on UID topics.

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Mystified by IUID requirements? Turn to the experts for help.

Many defense contractors are experts in a particular field of engineering, such as aerospace, vehicle, electrical or industrial engineering. What they might not be experts on are defense department requirements for Unique Identification (UID) labeling of items being supplied to the military.

Item Unique Identification (IUID) is a system in which each piece of equipment receives a unique identifier that remains with the item throughout its life, greatly enhancing the military’s ability to track the equipment. Identifying information is contained in a 2D Data Matrix symbol that is applied to the equipment: Either directly, through a method such as laser engraving, electro-chemical etching or dot-peening the symbol onto the equipment; or indirectly, using a label that is attached to the item. The Data Matrix symbol is read with an automated device, and an important step in the IUID process is making sure the label is readable and within a compliant syntax. This is accomplished through the IUID verification  process.

IUID verification is itself complex. Hardware and software are used to grade the data matrix symbol on a number of parameters, including its contrast, uniformity or distortion from an ideal square pattern, and whether cells are incompletely filled or spill over their boundaries. An overall grade is assigned to the symbol as well. Verification should be used early in the IUID process if possible. Finding out when a project is completed that the IUID labels are defective can create major headaches for the supplier. Even worse is if the equipment is sent to the DoD and the department discovers the defective labels after receiving the shipment.

ID-integration.comis a comprehensive source of information on the entire IUID process. The website has information on the various standards that apply to IUID marking of equipment. At ID-integration.com, one can also find details of different IUID marking methods and IUID verification systems. A user can learn more through product videos and product literature that are available through the site.

The website belongs to ID Integration Inc., a company with more than 12 years of experience in IUID systems, that offers a range of services, from needs assessment to process development, template design and software development. As their name suggests, ID Integration will help a business integrate the IUID process into existing systems. Custom solutions are emphasized. Equipment installation and on-site training of personnel is also offered. Find a full list of services at ID-integration.com.  Visit id-integration.com to learn more about how their team of experts can help.

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UID labeling involves many steps: From design to IUID verification

Department of Defense contractors have many details to think about when determining how to comply with the department’s Item Unique Identification (IUID) requirements. The IUID program involves the marking of individual pieces of equipment with a Unique Identification (UID) that stays with the item throughout its life. The marking is accomplished using a 2D Data Matrix symbol that is read with an automated scanner.

Decisions to be made include how the UID labels will be applied to the item; where the labels will be located; and the size of the mark. Finally, IUID verification is needed to ensure the symbol is of high quality and will be readily readable and in the proper syntax.

According to DoD standards, the Data Matrix symbol should remain readable throughout the life of the item; withstand environmental conditions the item may encounter; and not harm the performance, durability or reliability of the item.

The latter concern may come up when one is deciding which labeling method to use. There are two methods of applying UID labels: Direct and indirect marking. Direct marking methods include dot peening, laser marking, electrochemical etching, and engraving. While these marks are durable, care must be taken that the marking process does not damage the equipment or affect its performance. In some cases, metallurgical testing may be required before the marking method is approved.

Indirect labeling methods involve applying the Data Matrix symbol to a tag — made of a durable material — which is then securely attached to the item to be labeled. This method is often less expensive than direct labeling. The method of attachment also needs to be evaluated to be sure the label will remain on the item throughout its life. Light, heat and corrosion can weaken the attachment over time.

Where to place the UID labels is another issue to address. Ideally, the label will be readable both when the item is in use and when it is in storage. Applying the label to a flat, rather than curved, surface is preferable. If possible, avoid placing the label over an air vent or sensor, near a heat source, or on a component that may be replaced during maintenance.

A crucial step in the UID process is IUID verification. Hardware and software are used to evaluate the UID labels on several parameters related to its readability and overall syntax.It may be wise to consult with UID labeling experts such as ID Integration, Inc. (id-integration.com).

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Check compliance of your unique identification labels through IUID verification

Much effort goes into designing unique identification (UID) labels for equipment to be used by the military. How to label the items, where to place the 2D Data Matrix symbol that contains the Item Unique Identifier (IUID), what size the symbol should be and what information it should contain are all issues that must be evaluated.

But at the end of the process, what really matters is whether the symbol can be read by machines designed to do so. An IUID verification system,such as those available through ID Integration Inc.,will assess the readability of the Data Matrix symbols in addition to data contrast.

An IUID verification system will look at the contrast between the symbol and the background. Whether it’s a dark symbol on a light background or a light symbol on a dark background, if there’s not enough contrast, the mark will receive a low grade. If the mark is applied to an item whose surface color varies, placing the mark on an area where the color is uniform is recommended.

The UID symbol should be surrounded by a “quiet zone” — empty space that’s needed for the scanner to read the data matrix. The quiet zone should be at least as wide as a cell in the data matrix; a quiet zone whose width is 10% the length of the longest data matrix side is recommended.

The U.S. Department of Defense standard for UID labeling, MIL-STD-130, specifies the minimum and maximum size of a cell within the data matrix. The longest side of the Data Matrix should be 1 inch or less. Factors such as the size of the item being marked and how much flat, smooth surface is available may limit the size of the Data Matrix; but in general, it’s best to use the largest symbol possible. A larger symbol is better able to withstand damage and remain readable.

An IUID verification system will assess the symbol’s room for error, for example, if part of the symbol should become damaged and thus unreadable.

Consulting an expert in IUID systems can make the process much easier. ID Integration has more than 12 years of experience in this area. They sell a wide range of part-marking equipment as well as IUID scanners and verifiers, and can answer questions relating to the various government UID standards. They can also provide expertise on integrating UID labeling into a business’ existing systems.

For more information, visit the ID Integration website id-integration.com.

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High-quality labels ensure UID compliance

Labels that last a lifetime. That is a key component of the Item Unique Identification system, or IUID, developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. The idea is to mark each piece of DoD equipment with a Unique Identifier (UID) so the department can track the asset throughout its life cycle. The identifier is contained within a 2-D Data Matrix symbol that is applied to the asset.

The identifier is entered into the DoD’s IUID registry, a database that also contains information about each item, such as its date of purchase, location, maintenance history and other details. The system allows the DoD to better manage a massive inventory of equipment that is spread across the globe, thereby improving safety for military personnel. It also may save taxpayer money; in the past, the department sometimes ordered duplicate equipment unnecessarily because it lost track of assets.

For defense department suppliers, the IUID program means another step in fulfilling DoD contracts. Equipment valued at more than $5,000 must be marked with UID labels. The DoD’s MIL-STD-130 spells out requirements for the labeling process. A good resource for learning more is id-integration.com.

A variety of labeling methods exist. Importantly, the 2-D data matrix symbol must remain readable throughout the expected life of the asset. It must be able to endure environmental conditions the equipment will encounter during normal operation.

The Data Matrix symbol can be applied directly to the equipment through methods such as dot peening, laser marking, or etching. These methods are considered “intrusive,” and the contractor must ensure that the labeling does not adversely impact performance of the equipment.

Indirect methods involve applying the Data Matrix to a label, which is then attached to the equipment. Contractors might already be placing nameplates or tags on equipment; in many cases the data matrix can be added as another label element. UID labels are available in a variety of materials, including stainless steel, aluminum, acrylic or polyester.

In general, larger Data Matrix labels can better withstand damage and are preferred. For example, a scratch that renders a small symbol unreadable might have little or no impact on a larger symbol. But depending on the item to be labeled, the available marking area may be limited.

Another step in the marking process is IUID verification. Specialized hardware and software is used to ensure that the data matrix is readable. IUID verification involves assigning a grade to the symbol based on a number of parameters, such as contrast and uniformity. The staff at ID Integration Inc. and Jet City Laser Inc. is well versed on UID labels and IUID verification and is available to help contractors who have questions on the DoD requirements.

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