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I Needed Some RFID Tags So I Went to the Factory

Joe Heitzeberg
May 12, 2013

At a Hack Things meetup a couple of months ago, Niall Smart presented his “Tactile Music Player,” a device that uses an RFID reader and a Raspberry Pi to play music by simply placing physical album covers on a stand, which are recognized by an RFID sticker on the back, and played via Spotify. I wanted to build one of these (but with gesture interfaces; see concept video here) and one thing I therefore needed was a bunch of RFID tags.

It turns out that on Adafruit, RFID labels are $2.50 apiece – ouch. For a collection of say 50 albums and a hobby project that’s spendy. Since I was going to be in Shenzhen anyway, I decided to try to buy direct from a factory. I searched on Aliexpress.com and emailed a couple listings:

I am visiting Shenzhen tomorrow and would like to buy RFID tags (tags for 13.56MHz RFID/NFC readers). Do you sell them in the Huaqiangbei market? If so, where are you located? How much do they cost? Do you have the flat sticker type? I would like to buy 200 of them.

Someone named Joyce wrote back in under an hour:

Many thanks for your Email. We are a NFC tag manufacturer in China and certified ISO9001, SGS

We also cooperated with Samsung, Nokia, and Singapore Airlines for NFC tags projects.

We have 35MM,38MM round,20*30MM,40*25MM square. The price for sIze smaller than 86*54MM are all the same, Different chips with different price and Mifare 1K is the most inexpensive one. 200pcs $0.55

We are at Jindi industrial Area which is near by Huaqiang bei and just take 15 mins by taxi from Huaqiangbei. You can go and visit our factory tomorrow and let’s talk NFC tags detail together.

Address in Chinese: 深圳福田区[snipped]

I hopped in a taxi the next day and visited the factory. They showed me a big room where they were doing basic assembly type tasks like cutting smart cards out of sheets of plastic using big cutting machines. I saw Hyatt hotel cards being produced, and wristbands for amusement parks around the world.

People were quite friendly and they had a ton of photos of employees at company gatherings playing volleyball along with employee recognition awards. It seemed like a very well managed place. This brief tour was enough to make me trust that my tags would actually work.

In the sales and marketing area they were playing Green Day’s “American Idiot” album (see photo above with the cult-like company mission on the wall.)

Joyce led me to the warehouse area and I handed her about $100 worth of RMB in exchange for a plastic bag of RFID labels. Success!

Employee bios helped me to believe their RFID tags would be high quality.

Employee bios helped me to believe their RFID tags would be high quality.</dd> </dl>

(Unfortunately they would not let me photograph the factory floor)

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