AND HOW TO PRINT BARCODE LABELS WITH SUCCESS.
Can you imagine a world without barcode technology? Quick scanning retail checkout lines, automated delivery messages for online ordering and quick customer / vendor connection are just a few of the common day to day interactions the general public has with barcoding. Additionally, industrial and supply chain tracking initiatives have made barcoding and its peripheral products and services commonplace. So, it’s hard to imagine that the first viable scanning of a UPC product code was only about 50 years ago. Here’s a short timeline of what transpired prior to the first commercialized scan.
The first use of the barcode was to label railroad cars.
The first barcode symbology was patented in 1952 and looks like a bullseye.
The very first scanning of a UPS code was on a pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum.
Today, barcode technology is used across a variety of industries, in many differing applications, each with unique traceability initiatives and process goals. From shipping and manufacturing to military and consumer products, barcodes have become a undeniable necessity as we continue to push for improved transparency.
One dimensional barcodes, or 1D for short, utilize parallel lines in varying widths and spacing to encode and transmit data horizontally only. A wide variety of codes fall into this category, as shown above. Most commonly recognized include UPC barcode labels in retail environments and Code 128 and Code 39 in many industrial sectors.
Where 1D barcodes are linear in design, two dimensional, or 2D barcode labels, store data in both directions and can also be scanned either vertically or horizontally. The two most common 2D codes in use in manufacturing and consumer goods are Data Matrix and QR Code, pictured here. 2D barcode labels offer two main advantages to their 1D counterparts:
- They have a much higher capacity for data storage. For example, a 1D barcode can store 85 characters while the 2D code can store over 7,000.
- 2D codes can be scanned successfully at very small sizes and error correction is inherent to the code… meaning that even if a small part of the code is damaged or missing, they will still scan successfully. Sometimes with up to 30% error correction!
Goal #1 in all barcode applications is a successful scan. That, above all else, needs to be the priority when incorporating any style of barcode into product labeling. While design, location, label aesthetics are all “nice to have” the ultimate goal of scannability is key.
There are several factors that play a role in the ability to scan a barcode successfully. When partnering with an experienced print partner, each of these should be addressed throughout design and testing.
- Spacing, size, shape of application surface and label
- Necessary quiet zone dependent on barcode type
- Ink and material selection (including varnishes, overlaminates, etc)
- Overall label design and marketing guidelines
- Chosen print process (thermal transfer, inkjet, etc)
For example, color selection can drive successful results. Please see below for just a few options that are acceptable and unacceptable:
Evolving from barcode traceability, many industries are now moving towards RFID labels, smart labels and intelligent label tracking. Intelligent labels by definition are labels that can store and capture information and wirelessly transmit that data. Examples include: UHF RFID Inlays, HF RFID Inlays, Temperature Sensing Labels and other smart label technologies. These are truly “beyond the barcode” and serve unique application purposes all on their own. For more information on TLP’s RFID label options, contact our engineering team directly by clicking HERE.
Check out the following infographic to find out what makes TLP unique as your variable print partner. Interested in learning more? Check out our variable print and barcoding page by clicking HERE.