RFID’s “Metal Problem” Has been Solved by Iowa’s Metalcraft, Inc.


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Have you ever considered the path a product takes before it lands on your office desk or manufacturing floor? When radio frequency identification (RFID) tags were developed, it became fun to track your package. Although the primary purpose of the tags was to track inventory, today, these tags are found on nearly everything from your new living room furniture to your summer festival wristband tied to your checking account. They’re affixed to almost every product; well, except those that are metal. Metal interferes with the genius of the RFID tracking technology — but not any longer. Mason City, Iowa-based Metalcraft Inc., has solved this problem.

Iowa Economic Development Authority

RFID tags are processed at Iowa-based Metalcraft, Inc. in Mason City.

According to Metalcraft, Inc. CEO Steve Doerfler, the company’s solution partner was Iowa State University’s (ISU) Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS). To solve the frequency interference issues, Metalcraft Inc. and CIRAS set to work. A team led by ISU engineering professor Robert Weber, developed a Universal RFID Asset Tag that can be affixed to any surface without signal interference – including metal. Metalcraft, Inc. then licensed the technology from ISU and today is one of the leading global providers of RFID tags.

“Once we designed this product, all of a sudden we gained a lot of credibility in the industry,” Doerfler added. “And it’s going to represent about 78 percent of our business this year. . . . the innovative spirit is what really impressed me, and it’s made me appreciate being in Iowa.”

In addition to research institutions and a highly skilled workforce, Iowa also offers companies financial assistance to develop new products and technologies. Iowa is one of the only states to offer a refundable research and development tax credit and Doerfler says Metalcraft, Inc. tapped into this capital resource while the RFID tag was in development.

“What Iowa has done is create a wonderful foundation of innovation, plus a very educated workforce, a lot of resources with the universities – Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa,” says Doerfler. “We have resources available to us [here in Iowa] that we couldn’t get on our own.”

The company has seen a 132 percent increase in its RFID business. This is quite significant as IDTechEX reports the global RFID technology market is $10.1 billion and expected to grow to $13.2 billion by 2018. And as Metalcraft Inc. continues to grow, more profits will stay in the business. How? Iowa has a single-factor, non-unitary tax, which exempts income earned outside the state from corporate income taxes.

“Our tax climate in Iowa is extremely favorable,” notes Doerfler.

Iowa is one of the most cost-effective locations for doing business in the country. Yet this isn’t all. Once Metalcraft, Inc. began manufacturing, the company designed and fine-tuned the production process with the assistance of another program called the Demonstration Fund, administered by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. The grant program allows companies to purchase the necessary equipment and technology to scale up production.

Iowa goes all-out to help its businesses thrive and Metalcraft, Inc. is just one example of success. When other CEOs reach out to Metalcraft, Inc. for public-partnership advice, he counsels them to look for universities with strong research and development programs, a qualified workforce and a state that works alongside your company for success.

Visit iowaeconomicdevelopment.com to read more about Iowa’s growing manufacturing industry.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) works to share valuable information about the advantages of operating a business in Iowa. The organization’s mission is to strengthen economic and community vitality by building partnerships and leveraging resources to make Iowa the choice for people and business. IEDA administers several state and federal programs to meet its goals of assisting individuals, communities and businesses.

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