Barcode Label and Pre-printed Colour Label


barcode-labels

 

Art Paper Label – For normal carton label application with semi gloss surface

Thermal Transfer Label – For shipping label and with good smurdge resistance. Matt Surface material.

Matt PP Label – Synthetic label for chemical application and water proof

PET Label – High gloss surface material suitable for electronic industry require UL approve material.

Other type of special label also available such as cold room label, high temperature label. Call/Email for enquiry

 

 

 

PSA adhesive types

Pressure-sensitive label adhesives are commonly made from water based acrylic adhesives, with a smaller volume made using solvent based adhesives and hotmelt adhesives. The most common adhesive types are:

  • Permanent – Typically not designed to be removed without tearing the stock, damaging the surface, or using solvents. The adhesion strength and speed can also be varied. For example, full adhesion can be nearly instant, or the label can be almost removable for a short period with full adhesion developing in minutes or hours (known as respositionable adhesives).
  • Peelable – Adhesion is fairly strong and will not fall off in normal circumstances, but the label can be removed relatively easily without tearing the base stock or leaving adhesive behind on the old surface. The adhesive is usually strong enough to be applied again elsewhere. This type is frequently known as ‘removable’. There are many different types of removable adhesives, some are almost permanent, some are almost ‘ultra peelable’.
  • Ultra-peelable – Designed principally for use on book covers and glass, when removed these adhesives labels do not leave any residue whatsoever. Adhesion is weak and only suitable for light duty applications. Normally these labels have very little adhesion to anything once they’ve been removed.
  • Freezer or Frost fix – Most permanent and peelable adhesives have a service temperature limit of -10 degrees Celsius, whereas freezer (otherwise known as frost fix) adhesives have a service temperature -40 degrees Celsius and are suitable for deep freeze use.
  • High Tack – A type of permanent adhesive that exhibits a high initial grab to the application surfaces, and is commonly used at higher coat weights to enable labels to adhere strongly to difficult, rough or dirty surfaces.
  • Static Cling – This is not actually an adhesive at all. The material (usually PVA) has a static charge to enable its adhesion to flat, smooth surfaces such as glass. It is not sticky as such and is commonly used for window advertising, window decorations, oil change labels, etc.

Stock types

The “label stock” is the carrier which is commonly coated on one side with adhesive and usually printed on the other side. Label stocks can be a wide variety of papers, films, fabric, foils, etc.

  • Litho – one of the most common base stocks
  • Latex – a litho stock with some added latex allows the label to be much more flexible and form around certain curved objects more easily than standard litho.
  • Various plastics such as acetate, vinyl, and PET film allow a variety of features, such as greater strength,flexibility [disambiguation needed] transparency, resistance to tearing, etc. They typically require special equipment and printing methods (ultra-violet curing is common) as they do not normally print well with conventional ink. A bumper sticker is usually a vinyl label with a very strong, durable adhesive and lightfast inks. Embossing tape is “printed” by pressing raised elements similar to printing type onto it, which produces raised glyphs that look white due to discoloration of the plastic. A type known as ‘Destructible Vinyl’ is commonly used for asset labels. It combines a very thin frangible face stock with a very strong high tack adhesive, thus making the label impossible to remove without damaging it. Engraved multi-layer Traffolyte labels are frequently used in industrial situations due to their durability.
  • Foil – has the shiny properties of a metal foil.
  • Thermal – direct thermal label stock will change color (usually black) when heated. A heating element in the shape of letters or images can be used to create an image on the label. Custom labels can be easily be made on location in this way. A disadvantage is durability, because another heat source can ruin or obscure the image, or it may fade completely over time.
  • Thermal Transfer for applications that cannot use Thermal (Thermal Direct) label material because of heat source proximity or short label life, a more widely used material is Thermal Transfer Label printer. This material has the advantage of a much longer readable life and does not fade with time or heat. Most major manufacturers of Thermal Printers can be used for either Thermal Transfer (TT) or Thermal (DT) labels. A thermal transfer ribbon will be required to print the labels. The cost of the ribbons + TT labels is similar to that of the DT labels on their own.

Some labels designed on a notebook.

  • None – labels can be printed directly on adhesive without using a substrate. Labels made in this manner are extremely fragile, however, and have been rendered virtually obsolete by other printing methods such as silk screen.
  • Thermal Transfer Ribbon Types
    • Wax is the most popular with some smudge resistance, and is suitable for matte and semi-gloss paper labels.
    • Wax / Resin is smudge resistant, suitable for semi-gloss paper and some synthetic labels.
    • Resin is scratch and chemical resistant, suitable for coated synthetic labels.

The stock type will affect the types of ink that will print well on them.

Corona treating or flame treating some plastics makes them more receptive to inks and adhesives by reducing surface tension.

Application and use

Labels can be supplied:

  • separately
  • on a roll
  • on a sheet

Many labels are pre-printed by the manufacturer. Others have printing applied manually or automatically at the time of application.

Some labels have protective overcoats, laminates, or tape to cover them after the final print is applied. This is sometimes before application and sometimes after.

Labels are often difficult to peel and apply. Most companies use a Label dispenser to speed up this task.

Specialized high speed application equipment is available for certain uses.

A typical Label dispenser

Color

Ink and base stock color choices commonly conform to the Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors. The Pantone system is very dominant in the label printing industry. Additionally specialty inks such as metallic, UV ink, magnetic ink, and more are available. Ink is usually transparent however it can be made opaque. It has been known for certain companies to patent “their own” color.[1] Digital labels use process colors to replicate Pantone solid colors.

Specialized labels

  • Piggyback labels are made from combining two layers of adhesive substrate.[2] The bottom layer forms the backing for the top. The label can be applied to any object as normal, the top layer can be a removable label that can be applied elsewhere, which may change the message or marking on the remaining label underneath. Often used on Express mail envelopes.Other applications include price change labels where when being scanned at the till the till assistant can peel back the price-reduction label and scan the original barcode enabling stock flow management. Also, as the retained label is adhesive free it prevents customers from re-applying the cheaper priced labels to premium products.
  • Smart labels have RFID chips embedded under the label stock.
  • Asset Labels / Tags are used for marking fixed and non-fixed assets. They are usually tamper-evident, permanent or frangible and usually contain a barcode for electronic identification using readers.
  • Blockout labels are not see-through at all, concealing what lies underneath with a strong gray adhesive.
  • Radioactive labels The use of radioactive isotopes of chemical elements, such as carbon-14, to allow the in vivo tracking of chemical compounds.
  • Laser Labels are generally die cut on 8.5″ x 11″ sheets(US letter) and a4 size, and come in many different shapes, sizes,[3][4] and materials. Laser label material is a nonporous stock made to withstand the intense heat of laser printers and copiers. A drawback of laser labels is that the entire sheet needs to be printed before any labels are used; once labels have been removed the sheet cannot be put through the printer again without damaging the printing mechanism.
  • Inkjet Labels are generally die cut on 8.5″ x 11″ sheets (US letter) and a4 size, and come in many different shapes, sizes, and materials. Inkjet label material is a porous stock made to accept ink and dye from an inkjet printer. One of the more modern inkjet label material stocks is waterproof printable inkjet material commonly used for soap or shower gel containers.
  • Security Labels are used for anti-counterfeiting, brand protection, tamper-evident seals, anti-pilferage seals, etc. These combine a number of overt and covert features to make reproduction difficult. The use of security printing, holography, embossing, barcodes, RFID chips, custom printing, weak (or weakened) backings, etc. is common. They are used for authentication, theft reduction, and protection against counterfeit and are commonly used on ID cards, credit cards, packaging, and products from CDs to electronics to clothing.
  • AntiMicrobial Labels With the growth in hospital acquired infections such as MRSA and E-Coli the use of Antimicrobial labels in infection sensitive areas of hospitals are helping in combating these types of microbes.
  • Fold-out Labels also known as booklet, multi-page or extended labels, or lablets (combined label + leaflet). Where the pack is not large enough for a single label to carry all the required information, fold-out labels are often preferred to separate leaflets, which can easily be lost. These labels are frequently seen on agricultural chemicals and consumer pharmaceuticals.

Uses

Stickers

Main article: Sticker

Product label

Permanent product identification by a label is common. These labels need to be able to bond securely to the surface for its intended life and under in-use conditions. For example a label on an automobile engine needs to be resistant to the heat and oils encountered and to be secure for many years of use.

Removable product labels need to hold until they must be removed. For example, a label on a new refrigerator has installation and usage information: the label needs to be able to be removed cleanly and easily from the unit once installed.

An eco-label is used on consumer products (including foods) to identify products that may be less damaging to the environment and/or to humankind than other related products.

Asset labeling

In industrial environments, asset labeling is used to clearly identify assets for maintenance and operational purposes. Such labels are frequently made of engraved Traffolyte or a similar material.[5]

Textile labeling

See also: Laundry symbol

In certain clothing articles, a label or other affixed instructions that report how a product should be refurbished. This type of label is required by the FTC, Federal Trade Commission, for certain clothing items in the United States of America.[6] According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all sales of textiles containing pesticides as an ingredient must be properly labeled according to the United States labeling requirements and must be approved for sale by the EPA. The label has to provide the pesticide registration number, a proper statement of ingredients, as well as the storage and disposal information. The following statement has to appear on the label: “It is a violation of Federal Law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling”. It is hence essential for suppliers to ensure that pesticide-treated products provide the correct labels and use the language required and approved by the EPA for pesticide treated articles. The import, sale and distribution of mislabeled pesticide-treated products violate federal pesticide regulations and will be subject to fines.[7]

A label including a company name or identification number and a material content list may also be required for certain textile items.[8]

The common textile labels used on garments can be classified into four main groups – Woven labels, Leather labels, PVC/Plastic Labels, and Embroidered Labels. It is one of the primary tools used to establish brand identity.[9]

Package label

Packaging often has labels attached to (or integral with) the package. These communicate pricing, barcodes, UPC identification, usage guidance, addresses, advertising, recipes,[10] and so on. They also may be used to help resist or indicate tampering or pilferage. Often high speed label printer applicators are used to apply labels to packages.

Mailing label

Letters and packages need labels to identify the addressee and the sender. Many software packages such as word processor and contact manager programs produce standardized mailing labels from a data set that comply with postal standards. These labels may also include routing barcodes and special handling requirements to expedite delivery.

Price guns

Pricing gun is tool normally used in departmental stores, grocery and other retail businesses.[11] Pricing guns are used to label store products with a small sticker that indicates the current price of that item. While there are a wide variety of pricing gun manufacturers that offer different styles and features, most pricing guns operate in a similar manner.[12] The gun dispenses labels with adhesive backs, allowing the gun’s user to affix labels to merchandise. Periodically label rolls run out and need to be replaced.[13]

Using a pricing gun one can mark retail stock prices quickly. In order to use it, the label gun should be held by the handle with the sticker dispenser pointed towards the object which needs to be priced. The lever tabs on both sides should be held firmly from the upper cover and then the lever tab should be pulled gently.[14]

There are two types of tagging guns, fine fabric and standard guns. Fine fabric guns are used for delicate materials that would otherwise be damaged if a regular gun is used like silk and other delicate clothes, but are also used for every day items as well. Regular guns are normally used in grocery stores.[15]

Environmental considerations

Labels can aid in recycling and reuse by communicating the material content of the item, instructions for disassembly, recycling directions, etc.

Based on the solid waste hierarchy, the quantity and size of labels should be minimized without reducing necessary functionality. Material content of a label should comply with applicable regulations. Life cycle assessments of the item being labeled and of the label itself are useful to identify and improve possible environmental effects. For example, reuse or recycling are sometimes aided by a label being removable from a surface. If a label remains on an item during recycling, a label should be chosen which does not hinder the recyclability of the item.[16][17]

 

A barcode is an optical machine-readable representation of data relating to the object to which it is attached. Originally barcodes systematically represented data by varying the widths and spacings of parallel lines, and may be referred to as linear or one-dimensional (1D). Later they evolved into rectangles, dots, hexagons and other geometric patterns in two dimensions (2D). Although 2D systems use a variety of symbols, they are generally referred to as barcodes as well. Barcodes originally were scanned by special optical scanners called barcode readers. Later, scanners and interpretive software became available on devices including desktop printers and smartphones.

An early use of one type of barcode in an industrial context was sponsored by the Association of American Railroads in the late 1960s. Developed by General Telephone and Electronics (GTE) and called KarTrak ACI (Automatic Car Identification), this scheme involved placing colored stripes in various combinations on steel plates which were affixed to the sides of railroad rolling stock. Two plates were used per car, one on each side, with the arrangement of the colored stripes representing things such as ownership, type of equipment, and identification number.[1] The plates were “read” by a trackside scanner located, for instance, at the entrance to a classification yard while the car was moving past.[2] The project was abandoned after about ten years because the system proved unreliable after long-term use in the field.[1]

Barcodes became commercially successful when they were used to automate supermarket checkout systems, a task for which they have become almost universal. Their use has spread to many other tasks that are generically referred to as automatic identification and data capture (AIDC). The very first scanning of the now ubiquitous Universal Product Code (UPC) barcode was on a pack of Wrigley Company chewing gum in June 1974.[3]

Other systems have made inroads in the AIDC market, but the simplicity, universality and low cost of barcodes has limited the role of these other systems until the 2000s (decade), over 40 years after the introduction of the commercial barcode, with the introduction of technologies such as radio frequency identification, or RFID.

 

Contents

[hide]

  • 1 History
    • 1.1 Collins at Sylvania
    • 1.2 Computer Identics Corporation
    • 1.3 Universal Product Code
  • 2 Industrial adoption
  • 3 Use
  • 4 Symbologies
  • 5 Scanners (barcode readers)
  • 6 Quality control and verification
    • 6.1 Barcode verifier standards
  • 7 Benefits
  • 8 Types of barcodes
    • 8.1 Linear barcodes
    • 8.2 Matrix (2D) barcodes
    • 8.3 Example images
  • 9 In popular culture
  • 10 See also
  • 11 References
    • 11.1 Notes
    • 11.2 Bibliography
  • 12 External links

 

History

This article duplicates, in whole or part, the scope of other article(s) or section(s), specifically, Universal Product Code#History. Please discuss this issue on the talk page and conform with Wikipedia’s Manual of Style by replacing the section with a link and a summary of the repeated material, or by spinning off the repeated text into an article in its own right. (December 2013)

In 1948 Bernard Silver, a graduate student at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US overheard the president of the local food chain, Food Fair, asking one of the deans to research a system to automatically read product information during checkout.[4] Silver told his friend Norman Joseph Woodland about the request, and they started working on a variety of systems. Their first working system used ultraviolet ink, but the ink faded too easily and was rather expensive.[5]

Convinced that the system was workable with further development, Woodland left Drexel, moved into his father’s apartment in Florida, and continued working on the system. His next inspiration came from Morse code, and he formed his first barcode from sand on the beach. “I just extended the dots and dashes downwards and made narrow lines and wide lines out of them.”[5] To read them, he adapted technology from optical soundtracks in movies, using a 500-watt incandescent light bulb shining through the paper onto an RCA935 photomultiplier tube (from a movie projector) on the far side. He later decided that the system would work better if it were printed as a circle instead of a line, allowing it to be scanned in any direction.

On 20 October 1949 Woodland and Silver filed a patent application for “Classifying Apparatus and Method”, in which they described both the linear and bullseye printing patterns, as well as the mechanical and electronic systems needed to read the code. The patent was issued on 7 October 1952 as US Patent 2,612,994. In 1951, Woodland moved to IBM and continually tried to interest IBM in developing the system. The company eventually commissioned a report on the idea, which concluded that it was both feasible and interesting, but that processing the resulting information would require equipment that was some time off in the future.

IBM offered to buy the patent, but its offer was not high enough. Philco purchased their patent in 1962 and then sold it to RCA sometime later.[5]

Collins at Sylvania

During his time as an undergraduate, David Collins worked at the Pennsylvania Railroad and became aware of the need to automatically identify railroad cars. Immediately after receiving his master’s degree from MIT in 1959, he started work at GTE Sylvania and began addressing the problem. He developed a system called KarTrak using blue and red reflective stripes attached to the side of the cars, encoding a six-digit company identifier and a four-digit car number.[5] Light reflected off the stripes was fed into one of two photomultipliers, filtered for blue or red.[citation needed]

The Boston and Maine Railroad tested the KarTrak system on their gravel cars in 1961. The tests continued until 1967, when the Association of American Railroads (AAR) selected it as a standard, Automatic Car Identification, across the entire North American fleet. The installations began on 10 October 1967. However, the economic downturn and rash of bankruptcies in the industry in the early 1970s greatly slowed the rollout, and it was not until 1974 that 95% of the fleet was labeled. To add to its woes, the system was found to be easily fooled by dirt in certain applications, which greatly affected accuracy. The AAR abandoned the system in the late 1970s, and it was not until the mid-1980s that they introduced a similar system, this time based on radio tags.[6]

The railway project had failed, but a toll bridge in New Jersey requested a similar system so that it could quickly scan for cars that had purchased a monthly pass. Then the U.S. Post Office requested a system to track trucks entering and leaving their facilities. These applications required special retroreflector labels. Finally, Kal Kan asked the Sylvania team for a simpler (and cheaper) version which they could put on cases of pet food for inventory control.

Computer Identics Corporation

In 1967, with the railway system maturing, Collins went to management looking for funding for a project to develop a black-and-white version of the code for other industries. They declined, saying that the railway project was large enough and they saw no need to branch out so quickly.

Collins then quit Sylvania and formed Computer Identics Corporation.[5] Computer Identics started working with helium-neon lasers in place of light bulbs, scanning with a mirror to locate the barcode anywhere up to several feet in front of the scanner. This made the entire process much simpler and more reliable, as well as allowing it to deal with damaged labels by reading the intact portions.

Computer Identics Corporation installed one of its first two scanning systems in the spring of 1969 at a General Motors (Buick) factory in Flint, Michigan.[5] The system was used to identify a dozen types of transmissions moving on an overhead conveyor from production to shipping. The other scanning system was installed at General Trading Company’s distribution center in Carlstadt, New Jersey to direct shipments to the proper loading bay.

Universal Product Code

Main article: Universal Product Code

In 1966 the National Association of Food Chains (NAFC) held a meeting where they discussed the idea of automated checkout systems. RCA had purchased rights to the original Woodland patent, attended the meeting and initiated an internal project to develop a system based on the bullseye code. The Kroger grocery chain volunteered to test it.

In mid-1970s, the NAFC established the U.S. Supermarket Ad Hoc Committee on a Uniform Grocery Product Code, which set guidelines for barcode development and created a symbol selection subcommittee to help standardize the approach. In cooperation with consulting firm McKinsey & Co., they developed a standardized 11-digit code to identify any product. The committee then sent out a contract tender to develop a barcode system to print and read the code. The request went to Singer, National Cash Register (NCR), Litton Industries, RCA, Pitney-Bowes, IBM and many others.[7] A wide variety of barcode approaches were studied, including linear codes, RCA’s bullseye concentric circle code, starburst patterns and others.

In the spring of 1971 RCA demonstrated their bullseye code at another industry meeting. IBM executives at the meeting noticed the crowds at the RCA booth and immediately developed their own system. IBM marketing specialist Alec Jablonover remembered that the company still employed Woodland, and he established a new facility in North Carolina to lead development.

In July 1972 RCA began an eighteen-month test in a Kroger store in Cincinnati. Barcodes were printed on small pieces of adhesive paper, and attached by hand by store employees when they were adding price tags. The code proved to have a serious problem. During printing, presses sometimes smear ink in the direction the paper is running, rendering the code unreadable in most orientations. A linear code, like the one being developed by Woodland at IBM, however, was printed in the direction of the stripes, so extra ink simply makes the code “taller” while remaining readable, and on 3 April 1973 the IBM UPC was selected by NAFC as their standard. IBM had designed five versions of the UPC symbology for future industry requirements: UPC A, B, C, D, and E.[8]

NCR installed a testbed system at Marsh’s Supermarket in Troy, Ohio, near the factory that was producing the equipment. On 26 June 1974, Clyde Dawson pulled a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum out of his basket and it was scanned by Sharon Buchanan at 8:01 am. The pack of gum and the receipt are now on display in the Smithsonian Institution. It was the first commercial appearance of the UPC.[9]

In 1971 IBM had assembled a team for an intensive planning session, day after day, 12 to 18 hours a day, to thrash out how the whole system might operate and to schedule a roll-out plan. By 1973 they were meeting with grocery manufacturers to introduce the symbol that would need to be printed on the packaging or labels of all of their products. There were no cost savings for a grocery to use it unless at least 70% of the grocery’s products had the barcode printed on the product by the manufacturer. IBM was projecting that 75% would be needed in 1975. Even though that was achieved, there were still scanning machines in fewer than 200 grocery stores by 1977.[10]

Economic studies conducted for the grocery industry committee projected over $40 million in savings to the industry from scanning by the mid-1970s. Those numbers were not achieved in that time-frame and some predicted the demise of barcode scanning.[who?] The usefulness of the barcode required the adoption of expensive scanners by a critical mass of retailers while manufacturers simultaneously adopted barcode labels. Neither wanted to move first and results were not promising for the first couple of years, with Business Week proclaiming “The Supermarket Scanner That Failed.”[9]

Experience with barcode scanning in those stores revealed additional benefits. The detailed sales information acquired by the new systems allowed greater responsiveness to customer needs. This was reflected in the fact that about 5 weeks after installing barcode scanners, sales in grocery stores typically started climbing and eventually leveled off at a 10–12% increase in sales that never dropped off. There also was a 1–2% decrease in operating cost for the stores that enabled them to lower prices to increase market share. It was shown in the field that the return on investment for a barcode scanner was 41.5%. By 1980, 8,000 stores per year were converting.[10]

The global public launch of the barcode was greeted with minor skepticism from conspiracy theorists, who considered barcodes to be an intrusive surveillance technology, and from some Christians who thought the codes hid the number 666, representing the number of the beast.[11] Television host Phil Donahue described barcodes as a “corporate plot against consumers”.[12]

Industrial adoption

In 1981, the United States Department of Defense adopted the use of Code 39 for marking all products sold to the United States military. This system, Logistics Applications of Automated Marking and Reading Symbols (LOGMARS), is still used by DoD and is widely viewed as the catalyst for widespread adoption of barcoding in industrial uses.[13]

Use

Barcodes such as the UPC have become a ubiquitous element of modern civilization, as evidenced by their enthusiastic adoption by stores around the world; most items other than fresh produce from a grocery store now have UPC barcodes.[citation needed] This helps track items and also reduces instances of shoplifting involving price tag swapping, although shoplifters can now print their own barcodes.[14] In addition, retail chain membership cards (issued mostly by grocery stores and specialty “big box” retail stores such as sporting equipment, office supply, or pet stores) use barcodes to uniquely identify consumers, allowing for customized marketing and greater understanding of individual consumer shopping patterns. At the point of sale, shoppers can get product discounts or special marketing offers through the address or e-mail address provided at registration.

Example of barcode on a patient identification wristband

Barcodes can allow for the organization of large amounts of data. They are widely used in the healthcare and hospital settings, ranging from patient identification (to access patient data, including medical history, drug allergies, etc.) to creating SOAP Notes[15] with barcodes to medication management. They are also used to facilitate the separation and indexing of documents that have been imaged in batch scanning applications, track the organization of species in biology,[16] and integrate with in-motion checkweighers to identify the item being weighed in a conveyor line for data collection.

They can also be used to keep track of objects and people; they are used to keep track of rental cars, airline luggage, nuclear waste, registered mail, express mail and parcels. Barcoded tickets allow the holder to enter sports arenas, cinemas, theatres, fairgrounds, and transportation, and are used to record the arrival and departure of vehicles from rental facilities etc. This can allow proprietors to identify duplicate or fraudulent tickets more easily. Barcodes are widely used in shop floor control applications software where employees can scan work orders and track the time spent on a job.

Barcoded parcel

Barcodes are also used in some kinds of non-contact 1D and 2D position sensors. A series of barcodes are used in some kinds of absolute 1D linear encoder. The barcodes are packed close enough together that the reader always has one or two barcodes in its field of view. The relative position of the barcode in the field of view of the reader gives incremental precise positioning, in some cases with sub-pixel resolution. The data decoded from the barcode gives the absolute coarse position. An “address carpet”, such as Howell’s binary pattern and the Anoto dot pattern, is a 2D barcode designed so that a reader, even though only a tiny portion of the complete carpet is in the field of view of the reader, can find its absolute X,Y position and rotation in the carpet.[17][18]

Some 2D barcodes embed a hyperlink to a web page. A capable cellphone might be used to read the pattern and browse the linked website, which can help a shopper find the best price for an item in the vicinity. Since 2005, airlines use an IATA-standard 2D barcode on boarding passes (BCBP), and since 2008 2D barcodes sent to mobile phones enable electronic boarding passes.[19]

Some applications for barcodes have fallen out of use; In the 1970s and 1980s, software source code was occasionally encoded in a barcode and printed on paper (Cauzin Softstrip and Paperbyte[20] are barcode symbologies specifically designed for this application), and the 1991 Barcode Battler computer game system used any standard barcode to generate combat statistics.

In the 21st century, many artists have started using barcodes in art, such as Scott Blake’s Barcode Jesus, as part of the post-modernism movement.

Symbologies

The mapping between messages and barcodes is called a symbology. The specification of a symbology includes the encoding of the single digits/characters of the message as well as the start and stop markers into bars and space, the size of the quiet zone required to be before and after the barcode as well as the computation of a checksum.

Linear symbologies can be classified mainly by two properties:

  • Continuous vs. discrete: Characters in continuous symbologies usually abut, with one character ending with a space and the next beginning with a bar, or vice versa. Characters in discrete symbologies begin and end with bars; the intercharacter space is ignored, as long as it is not wide enough to look like the code ends.
  • Two-width vs. many-width: Bars and spaces in two-width symbologies are wide or narrow; the exact width of a wide bar has no significance as long as the symbology requirements for wide bars are adhered to (usually two to three times wider than a narrow bar). Bars and spaces in many-width symbologies are all multiples of a basic width called the module; most such codes use four widths of 1, 2, 3 and 4 modules.

Some symbologies use interleaving. The first character is encoded using black bars of varying width. The second character is then encoded, by varying the width of the white spaces between these bars. Thus characters are encoded in pairs over the same section of the barcode. Interleaved 2 of 5 is an example of this.

Stacked symbologies repeat a given linear symbology vertically.

The most common among the many 2D symbologies are matrix codes, which feature square or dot-shaped modules arranged on a grid pattern. 2D symbologies also come in circular and other patterns and may employ steganography, hiding modules within an image (for example, DataGlyphs).

Linear symbologies are optimized for laser scanners, which sweep a light beam across the barcode in a straight line, reading a slice of the barcode light-dark patterns. Stacked symbologies are also optimized for laser scanning, with the laser making multiple passes across the barcode.

In the 1990s development of charge coupled device (CCD) imagers to read barcodes was pioneered by Welch Allyn. Imaging does not require moving parts, as a laser scanner does. In 2007, linear imaging had begun to supplant laser scanning as the preferred scan engine for its performance and durability.

2D symbologies cannot be read by a laser as there is typically no sweep pattern that can encompass the entire symbol. They must be scanned by an image-based scanner employing a CCD or other digital camera sensor technology.

Scanners (barcode readers)

Main article: Barcode reader

The earliest, and still the cheapest, barcode scanners are built from a fixed light and a single photosensor that is manually “scrubbed” across the barcode.

Barcode scanners can be classified into three categories based on their connection to the computer. The older type is the RS-232 barcode scanner. This type requires special programming for transferring the input data to the application program.

“Keyboard interface scanners” connect to a computer using a PS/2 or AT keyboard–compatible adaptor cable (a “keyboard wedge”). The barcode’s data is sent to the computer as if it had been typed on the keyboard.

Like the keyboard interface scanner, USB scanners are easy to install and do not need custom code for transferring input data to the application program. On PCs running windows the HID interface emulates the data merging action of a hardware “keyboard wedge”, and the scanner automatically behaves like an additional keyboard.

Barcode scanners can be used in Google’s mobile Android operating system via both their own Google Goggles application or third party barcode scanners like Scan.[21] Nokia’s Symbian operating system features a barcode scanner,[22] while mbarcode[23] is a QR code reader for the Maemo operating system. In the Apple iOS, a barcode reader is not natively included but more than fifty paid and free apps are available with both scanning capabilities and hard-linking to URI. With BlackBerry devices, the App World application can natively scan barcodes and load any recognized Web URLs on the device’s Web browser. Windows Phone 7.5 is able to scan barcodes through the Bing search app.

Quality control and verification

Barcode verification examines scanability and the quality of the barcode in comparison to industry standards and specifications. Barcode verifiers are primarily used by businesses that print and use barcodes. Any trading partner in the supply chain can test barcode quality. It is important to verify a barcode to ensure that any reader in the supply chain can successfully interpret a barcode with a low error rate. Retailers levy large penalties for non-compliant barcodes. These chargebacks can reduce a manufacturer’s revenue by 2% to 10%.[24]

A barcode verifier works the way a reader does, but instead of simply decoding a barcode, a verifier performs a series of tests. For linear barcodes these tests are:

  • Edge Determination
  • Minimum Reflectance
  • Symbol Contrast
  • Minimum Edge Contrast
  • Modulation
  • Defects
  • Decode
  • Decodability

2D matrix symbols look at the parameters:

  • Symbol Contrast
  • Modulation
  • Decode
  • Unused Error Correction
  • Fixed (finder) Pattern Damage
  • Grid Non-uniformity
  • Axial Non-uniformity[25]

Depending on the parameter, each ANSI test is graded from 0.0 to 4.0 (F to A), or given a pass or fail mark. Each grade is determined by analyzing the scan reflectance profile (SRP), an analog graph of a single scan line across the entire symbol. The lowest of the 8 grades is the scan grade and the overall ISO symbol grade is the average of the individual scan grades. For most applications a 2.5 (C) is the minimum acceptable symbol grade.[26]

Compared with a reader, a verifier measures a barcode’s optical characteristics to international and industry standards. The measurement must be repeatable and consistent. Doing so requires constant conditions such as distance, illumination angle, sensor angle and verifier aperture. Based on the verification results, the production process can be adjusted to print higher quality barcodes that will scan down the supply chain.

Barcode verifier standards

  • Barcode verifiers should comply with the ISO/IEC 15416 (linear)] or ISO/IEC 15426-2 (2D).

This standard defines the measuring accuracy of a barcode verifier.

  • The current international barcode quality specification is ISO/IEC 15416 (linear) and ISO/IEC 15415 (2D). The European Standard EN 1635 has been withdrawn and replaced by ISO/IEC 15416. The original U.S. barcode quality specification was ANSI X3.182. (UPCs used in the US – ANSI/UCC5).

This standard defines the quality requirements for barcodes and Matrix Codes (also called Optical Codes).

  • As of 2011 the ISO workgroup JTC1 SC31 was developing a Direct Part Marking (DPM) quality standard : ISO/IEC TR 29158.[27]

International standards are available from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).[28]

These standards are also available from local/national standardization organizations, such as ANSI, BSI, DIN, NEN and others.

Benefits

In point-of-sale management, barcode systems can provide detailed up-to-date information on the business, accelerating decisions and with more confidence. For example:

  • Fast-selling items can be identified quickly and automatically reordered.
  • Slow-selling items can be identified, preventing inventory build-up.
  • The effects of merchandising changes can be monitored, allowing fast-moving, more profitable items to occupy the best space.
  • Historical data can be used to predict seasonal fluctuations very accurately.
  • Items may be repriced on the shelf to reflect both sale prices and price increases.
  • This technology also enables the profiling of individual consumers, typically through a voluntary registration of discount cards. While pitched as a benefit to the consumer, this practice is considered to be potentially dangerous by privacy advocates.

Besides sales and inventory tracking, barcodes are very useful in logistics and supply chain management.

  • When a manufacturer packs a box for shipment, a Unique Identifying Number (UID) can be assigned to the box.
  • A database can link the UID to relevant information about the box; such as order number, items packed, qty packed, destination, etc.
  • The information can be transmitted through a communication system such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) so the retailer has the information about a shipment before it arrives.
  • Shipments that are sent to a Distribution Center (DC) are tracked before forwarding. When the shipment reaches its final destination, the UID gets scanned, so the store knows the shipment’s source, contents, and cost.

Barcode scanners are relatively low cost and extremely accurate compared to key-entry, with only about 1 substitution error in 15,000 to 36 trillion characters entered.[29][unreliable source?] The exact error rate depends on the type of barcode.

Types of barcodes

Linear barcodes

A first generation, “one dimensional” barcode that is made up of lines and spaces of various widths that create specific patterns.

Symbology Continuous or discrete Bar widths Uses
Codabar Discrete Two Old format used in libraries and blood banks and on airbills (out of date)
Code 25 – Non-interleaved 2 of 5 Continuous Two Industrial
Code 25 – Interleaved 2 of 5 Continuous Two Wholesale, libraries International standard ISO/IEC 16390
Code 11 Discrete Two Telephones (out of date)
Code 39 Discrete Two Various – international standard ISO/IEC 16388
Code 93 Continuous Many Various
Code 128 Continuous Many Various – International Standard ISO/IEC 15417
CPC Binary Discrete Two
DUN 14 Continuous Many Various
EAN 2 Continuous Many Addon code (magazines), GS1-approved – not an own symbology – to be used only with an EAN/UPC according to ISO/IEC 15420
EAN 5 Continuous Many Addon code (books), GS1-approved – not an own symbology – to be used only with an EAN/UPC according to ISO/IEC 15420
EAN-8, EAN-13 Continuous Many Worldwide retail, GS1-approved – International Standard ISO/IEC 15420
Facing Identification Mark Continuous One USPS business reply mail
GS1-128 (formerly named UCC/EAN-128), incorrectly referenced as EAN 128 and UCC 128 Continuous Many various, GS1-approved -is just an application of the Code 128 (ISO/IEC 15417) using the ANS MH10.8.2 AI Datastructures. Its not an own symbology.
GS1 DataBar, formerly Reduced Space Symbology (RSS) Continuous Many Various, GS1-approved
HIBC (HIBCC Health Industry Bar Code) Discrete Two Healthcare[30] – is a datastructure to be used with Code 128, Code 39 or Data Matrix
Intelligent Mail barcode Continuous Tall/short United States Postal Service, replaces both POSTNET and PLANET symbols (formerly named OneCode)
ITF-14 Continuous Two Non-retail packaging levels, GS1-approved – is just an Interleaved 2/5 Code (ISO/IEC 16390) with a few additional specifications, according to the GS1 General Specifications
JAN Continuous Many Used in Japan, similar and compatible with EAN-13 (ISO/IEC 15420)
KarTrak ACI Discrete Coloured bars Used in North America on railroad rolling equipment
Latent image barcode Neither Tall/short Color print film
MSI Continuous Two Used for warehouse shelves and inventory
Pharmacode Neither Two Pharmaceutical packaging (no international standard available)
PLANET Continuous Tall/short United States Postal Service (no international standard available)
Plessey Continuous Two Catalogs, store shelves, inventory (no international standard available)
PostBar Discrete Many Canadian Post office
POSTNET Continuous Tall/short United States Postal Service (no international standard available)
RM4SCC / KIX Continuous Tall/short Royal Mail / Royal TPG Post
Telepen Continuous Two Libraries (UK)
U.P.C. Continuous Many Worldwide retail, GS1-approved – International Standard ISO/IEC 15420

Matrix (2D) barcodes

A matrix code, also termed a 2D barcode or simply a 2D code, is a two-dimensional way to represent information. It is similar to a linear (1-dimensional) barcode, but can represent more data per unit area.

Example Name Notes
3-DI Developed by Lynn Ltd.
ArrayTag From ArrayTech Systems.
AugTag Designed by Alex Wissner-Gross at Harvard University and Tim Sullivan.[31]
Azteccodeexample.svg Aztec Code Designed by Andrew Longacre at Welch Allyn (now Honeywell Scanning and Mobility). Public domain. – International Standard ISO/IEC 24778
Small Aztec Code Space-saving version of Aztec code.
A Beetagg example. Beetagg Proprietary 2D barcode from Connvision.[32]
Codablock Stacked 1D barcodes.
Code 1 Public domain. Code 1 is currently used in the health care industry for medicine labels and the recycling industry to encode container content for sorting.[33]
Code 16K Based on 1D Code 128.
Code 49 Stacked 1D barcodes from Intermec Corp.
ColorCode ColorZip[34] developed colour barcodes that can be read by camera phones from TV screens; mainly used in Korea.[35]
Color Construct Code Color Construct Code is one of the few barcode symbologies designed to take advantage of multiple colors.[36][37]
Compact Matrix Code From Syscan Group, Inc.
CP Code From CP Tron, Inc.
CyberCode From Sony.
d-touch readable when printed on deformable gloves and stretched and distorted[38]
DataGlyphs From Palo Alto Research Center (also termed Xerox PARC).[39]Patented.[40] DataGlyphs can be embedded into a half-tone image or background shading pattern in a way that is almost perceptually invisible, similar to steganography.[41][42]
Datamatrix.svg Data Matrix From Microscan Systems, formerly RVSI Acuity CiMatrix/Siemens. Public domain. Increasingly used throughout the United States. Single segment Data Matrix is also termed Semacode – Standard: ISO/IEC 16022.
Datastrip Code From Datastrip, Inc.
digital paper patterned paper used in conjunction with a digital pen to create handwritten digital documents. The printed dot pattern uniquely identifies the position coordinates on the paper.
Dot Code A Designed for the unique identification of items.
Example of an EZcode. EZcode Designed for decoding by cameraphones;[43] from ScanLife.[32]
Grid Matrix Code From Syscan Group, Inc. Resembles a checkered flag; designed for Chinese-speaking markets, but also suitable for others.
HD Barcode Developed by Complete Inspection Systems, Inc.
High Capacity Color Barcode.svg High Capacity Color Barcode Developed by Microsoft; licensed by ISAN-IA.
HueCode From Robot Design Associates. Uses greyscale or colour.[44]
INTACTA.CODE From INTACTA Technologies, Inc.
InterCode From Iconlab, Inc. The standard 2D barcode in South Korea. All 3 South Korean mobile carriers put the scanner program of this code into their handsets to access mobile internet, as a default embedded program.
JAGTAG From JAGTAG, Inc. Optimized for use with mobile device cameras.
MaxiCode.svg MaxiCode Used by United Parcel Service. Now Public Domain
mCode Developed by Nextcode Corporation specifically for camera phone scanning applications. Designed to enable advanced cell mobile applications with standard camera phones.
MiniCode From Omniplanar, Inc.
MicroPDF417 Facilitates codes too small to be used in PDF417.
MMCC Designed to disseminate high capacity mobile phone content via existing colour print and electronic media, without the need for network connectivity
NexCode.png NexCode NexCode is developed and patented by S5 Systems.
Nintendo e-Reader#Dot code Developed by Olympus Corporation to store songs, images, and mini-games for Game Boy Advance on Pokémon trading cards.
Optar Developed by Twibright Labs and published as free software. Aims at maximum data storage density, for storing data on paper. 200 kB per A4 page with laser printer.
PaperDisk High density code, used both for data heavy applications (10 K – 1 MB) and camera phones (50+ bits). Developed and patented by Cobblestone Software.[45]
Sample PDF417.png PDF417 Originated by Symbol Technologies. Public Domain.
PDMark Developed by Ardaco.
Qode example. Qode American proprietary and patented 2D barcode from NeoMedia Technologies, Inc.[32]
Wikipedia mobile en.svg QR Code Initially developed, patented and owned by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave for car parts management; who have chosen not to exercise their patent rights. Can encode Japanese Kanji and Kana characters, music, images, URLs, emails. De facto standard for Japanese cell phones. Also used with BlackBerry Messenger to pickup contacts rather than using a PIN code. These codes are also the most frequently used type to scan with smartphones. – International Standard : ISO/IEC 18004
Example QuickMark code. QuickMark Code From SimpleAct Inc.[46]
Secure Seal Used in signature blocks of checks from the United States Treasury.
SmartCode From InfoImaging Technologies.
Snowflake Code From Marconi Data Systems, Inc.
Shotcode.png ShotCode Circular barcodes for camera phones. Originally from High Energy Magic Ltd in name Spotcode. Before that probably termed TRIPCode.
SPARQCode-sample.gif SPARQCode QR Code encoding standard from MSKYNET, Inc.
SuperCode Public domain.
Trillcode From Lark Computers. Designed to work with mobile device’s camera or webcam PC. Can encode a variety of “actions”.
UltraCode Black-and-white & colour versions. Public domain. Invented by Jeffrey Kaufman and Clive Hohberger.
UnisCode also called “Beijing U Code”; a colour 2D barcode developed by Chinese company UNIS
VeriCode, VSCode From Veritec, Inc.
WaterCode High-density 2D Barcode(440 Bytes/cm2) From MarkAny Inc.

Example images

  • First, Second and Third Generation Barcodes
  • GTIN-12 number encoded in UPC-A barcode symbol. First and last digit are always placed outside the symbol to indicate Quiet Zones that are necessary for barcode scanners to work properly

  • EAN-13 (GTIN-13) number encoded in EAN-13 barcode symbol. First digit is always placed outside the symbol, additionally right quiet zone indicator (>) is used to indicate Quiet Zones that are necessary for barcode scanners to work properly

  • “Wikipedia” encoded in Code 93

  • “*WIKI39*” encoded in Code 39

  • ‘Wikipedia” encoded in Code 128

  • An example of a stacked barcode. Specifically a “Codablock” barcode.

  • PDF417 sample

  • Lorem ipsum boilerplate text as four segment Data Matrix 2D

  • “This is an example Aztec symbol for Wikipedia” encoded in Aztec Code

  • Text ‘EZcode’

  • High Capacity Color Barcode of the URL for Wikipedia’s article on High Capacity Color Barcode

  • “Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia” in several languages encoded in DataGlyphs

  • Two different 2D barcodes used in film: Dolby Digital between the sprocket holes with the “Double-D” logo in the middle, and Sony Dynamic Digital Sound in the blue area to the left of the sprocket holes

  • The QR Code for the Wikipedia URL. “Quick Response”, the most popular 2D barcode in Japan, is promoted by Google. It is open in that the specification is disclosed and the patent is not exercised.[47]

  • MaxiCode example. This encodes the string “Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia”

  • ShotCode sample

  • detail of Twibright Optar scan from laser printed paper, carrying 32 kbit/s Ogg Vorbis digital music (48 seconds per A4 page)

  • A KarTrak railroad Automatic Equipment Identification label on a caboose in Florida

In popular culture

In architecture, a building in Lingang New City by German architects Gerkan, Marg and Partners incorporates a barcode design,[48] as does a shopping mall called Shtrikh-kod (the Russian for barcode) in Narodnaya ulitsa (“People’s Street”) in the Nevskiy district of St. Petersburg, Russia.[49]

In media, the National Film Board of Canada and ARTE France launched a web documentary entitled Barcode.tv, which allows users to view films about everyday objects by scanning the product’s barcode with their iPhone camera.[50][51]

In professional wrestling, the WWE stable D-Generation X incorporated a barcode into their entrance video, as well as on a t-shirt.[52][53]

In video games, the protagonist of the Hitman video game series has a barcode tattoo on the back of his head.

In the films Back to the Future Part II and The Handmaid’s Tale, cars in the future are depicted with barcode licence plates.