Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A simple guide to barcoding equipment (Part 2)

A simple guide to barcoding equipment (Part 2)

As mentioned in my last blog I will expand on various elements of barcoding equipment, their applications and how to use them as I write. Here we will talk a little more about barcodes, their scanning, and verification.

Talking 1D and 2D barcodes

1D barcodes

A 1D barcode is a set of black and white lines/bars and can be only be printed horizontally or vertically. There are many 1D barcodes e.g. UPC A, UPC E, Code 39, code 11, Codabar, Code 128, Interleaved 2-of-5 and many more. The most important thing to remember about 1D barcodes is they are just a reference or look up for data held somewhere else in the customer's system. So if you look at the human readable under the 1D barcode generally you don’t know much about that item unless you have access to the database that the number references.
2D barcode - 1D barcode
scanning with a laser - scanning with an imager
When it comes to scanning a 1D barcode, they can be scanned by a laser scan engine or an imager engine. If a laser scanner is used to scan a 1D barcode it is important to know that the laser line must fall perpendicular to the bars in order for the code to read. An imager can be used to scan a 1D in any rotation.

2D barcodes

A 2D barcode looks like a lot of small black and white boxes that make up a bigger box and you will see on your FedEx shipping label. These codes can hold a lot of information so though they may refer data stored elsewhere they may also hold a lot of information about the item they are on. You may also see the QR code and other 2D codes used in marketing pieces, which can be scanned by a phone app and will take the user to a landing page or offer for that product. 
scanning a 2D barcode

2D codes can also be etched onto the surface of a product so that it can be tracked, as with the UDI requirements for items like pacemakers.When it comes to scanning 2D barcodes cannot be scanned by lasers, but only by imagers. 

Laser vs Imagers

Laser scanners have been around for a long time and so have been much lower cost than imagers, though imager prices have reduced considerably recently. Laser scanner will only scan 1D codes and with the increased use of 2D codes in many applications this type of scanner can be limiting.  
Imagers will scan 1D and 2D codes and do not care about the rotation of the code being scanned, helping speed up the scan process. 
The latest imagers can scan large distances like the one offered in the Zebra TC8000, DS3600 or MC9200, which will scan up to 70ft and down to 3 inches. Imagers are also a lot more flexible than lasers, scanning through shrink wrap and off monitor screens. The addition of this technology has also enabled devices to take pictures of items e.g. shipping damage, or even scanning content on forms and signatures. Zebra offer Simulscan as a feature of some of their hardware, that will scan multiple text and barcode elements directly from a form simultaneously with one scan. 
Zebra Technologies Simulscan functionality

Scanners vs Verifiers

Just because you can scan a barcode, does not mean it is a good code. If you are a manufacturer you may be required to have barcodes that meet certain specifications by your customers. 1D codes might be checked against the GS1 or ISO/IEC standards and 2D codes may be checked against GS1 or ISO standards.
verifiers vs scanners
A scanner’s software is designed to get the data from the code in the worst condition, so it is not a good check for the code’s ability to meet any standards. A different piece of equipment should be used for verifying a barcode. For instance, the Microscan range of verifiers provides reliable verification to application standards such as GS1, HIBC, USPS, FDA UDI (Unique Device Identification) compliance for Medical Device Manufacturers and Labelers, as well as ISO/IEC 15415/15416. The system will also provide a report for codes checked so activity can be logged and recorded if needed later. These types of verifiers can be handheld for use with checking sample labels, or a unit can be connected directly to the front of a label printer, so checking the validity of every label and stopping the printer if an issue arises.

This blog is written as a rough guide and we recommend researching the product you need in more detail before making a purchasing decision. We hope that it is helpful and if you have any questions on anything in the blog or want more information please feel free to call the RedLine Solutions team at 408-562-1700 or email us at Images are provided by courtesy of Zebra Technologies and Microscan. 

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