| A Bar Code Primer, ©1997-2016
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This primer from Worth Data® is to help you understand bar codes so that you can
better plan for your bar coding applications. The use of bar
coding has been growing dramatically over the last 25 years.
With the adoption of UPC/EAN as the standard for retail grocery stores
in the late 70's, bar codes have become an everyday experience
for most people. Bar codes are a fast, easy, and accurate data
entry method. The correct use of bar codes can decrease employee
time required and increase an organization's efficiency.
One thing to remember with bar codes: the application software that
accepts the bar code data is in 95% control of the success or failure
of an application. Bar codes are the sizzle on the software steak.
You can eat steak without sizzle, but you can't eat sizzle without
steak. Remember that bar codes are just another data input method;
what you do with the data is most important. With the introduction
of the IBM PC in the early 80's, bar coding applications expanded
along with the PC explosion. Worth Data was and is a pioneer in providing
bar code hardware and printing software to the PC (and Macintosh)
user. Most of this primer is devoted to bar coding in the microcomputer
We hope this information proves of benefit to you in understanding bar
codes and its associated technology. We wish you well in your undertakings
and hope to be able to supply you with bar code equipment and software to
meet your needs.
There is a mystique surrounding bar codes which intimidates many
people. Let's eliminate it quickly. First the bar code usually
doesn't contain descriptive data, (just like your social security
number or car's license plate number doesn't have anything about
your name or where you live). The data in a bar code is just
a reference number which the computer uses to look up associated
computer disk record(s) which contain descriptive data and other
For example, the bar codes found on food
items at grocery stores don't contain the
price or description of the food item; instead
the bar code has a "product number" (13 or 14 digits in Europe) in it. When read
by a bar code reader and transmitted to the computer, the computer
finds the disk file item record(s) associated with that item number.
In the disk file is the price, vendor name, quantity on-hand, description,
etc. The computer does a "price lookup" by reading the bar code,
and then it creates a register of the items and adds the price to
the subtotal of the groceries purchased. (It also subtracts the quantity
from the "on-hand" total.)
Another example of bar code data might be
in a quality reporting application, the bar
code may have only a single digit in it,
but it may be titled "Failed Vibration Test".
The computer associates the single digit
with the test result.
So, bar codes typically have only ID data in them; the ID data is
used by the computer to look up all the pertinent detailed data associated
with the ID data.
A standard 1D bar code is a series of varying
width vertical lines (called bars) and spaces. Bars
and spaces together are named "elements". There
are different combinations of the bars and spaces which represent
When a bar code scanner is passed over the bar code, the light
source from the scanner is absorbed by the dark bars and not
reflected, but it is reflected by the light spaces. A photocell
detector in the scanner receives the reflected light and converts
the light into an electrical signal.
As the wand is passed over the bar code (in the above illustration), the scanner
creates a low electrical signal for the spaces
(reflected light) and a high electrical signal
for the bars (nothing is reflected); the duration
of the electrical signal determines wide vs.
narrow elements. This signal can be "decoded" by
the bar code reader's decoder into the characters
that the bar code represents. The decoded data
is then passed to the computer in a traditional
There are lots of different bar codes.
Some bar codes are numeric
only, (i.e. UPC, EAN, GTIN, GS1 DataBar, ITF Interleaved 2 of 5).
Some bar codes
are fixed length, (i.e. UPC-A is 12 digits, UPC-E is 6 digits,
EAN-13 is 13 digits, EAN-8 is 8 digits, and GS1 DataBar is 14 digits).
Some bar codes
can have numbers and alphabetic characters, (i.e. Code 93,
Code 128, and Code 39). One bar code allows you to encode
all 128 characters, (Code 128)
2D bar codes allow
you to encode a lot of data into a small space (PDF417, Data Matrix, QR, and
Many were invented some time ago
and have been superseded by newer bar codes.
Some industries standardized on older bar codes
before the better ones had been invented, thus
there is a continuing requirement for their use
in particular industries.
|AT&T pre 1990
|Blood Banks, Cotton, Transportation, Libraries
|Shelf Labels, Libraries
||2 of 5
|UPC Shipping Container, ITF-14
|Food/Discount Store Items - Now called GS1-12, GS1-13 etc...
(2 character pairings for Full ASCII )
|LOGMARS, HIBCC, AIAG,TCIF
|UCC-128, EAN-128, GS1-128
(2 character pairings for Full ASCII)
|HIBCC Alternative, Canadian
is a the new GS1 retail bar code - GS1 DataBar will enable GTIN identification. There are several versions of the GS1 DataBar: Omni-directional, Truncated, Stacked, & Stacked Omni-directional for hard-to-mark products
expanded versions of the GS1 retail bar code will enable GTIN identification for products and also can carry additional Application Identifiers such as serial numbers, lot numbers, weight, country of origin, and even expiration dates for drugs and food.
is a “stacked” 2D code, used mainly
by AIAG, LOGMARS, USPS, US DOD MIL-STD and for identification card
is a 2D "matrix" code
created and used primarily for limited space marking and for trace ability in the aviation industry, HIBC and by the Department of Defense.
is a “bulls-eye” type 2-D code
created and used primarily by UPS.
is a “matrix” type 2-D code
created and used primarily for tracking purposes and is popular for mobile applications.
Many readers have to comply with
their customer's or industry's bar coding specifications;
no choice is possible, just compliance. Look
at the following samples of printed bar codes:
The classic bar code type is Code
39, (also called Code 3 of 9) which has 9 bars
and spaces; three are wide, and the other 6 are
narrow. In Code 39, 3 of 9 total bars and spaces
are wide; hence the name, Code 3 of 9. For example,
look at the following character representations
with Code 39:
Notice there are two widths
of bars and two widths of spaces. If you wished
to print a bar code of ABCD, you would need to
start and end it with a special Start/Stop code
character - the * (asterisk) is used for Code
39. So to print a bar code of ABCD, it would
need to be printed as *ABCD*. There should be
at least 1/4" of white space to the left and
right of the code; this helps the reader pick
out where a bar code begins and ends.
Other bar code types are similarly
constructed. UPC and EAN bar codes have four
widths of bars and spaces; so does Code 128.
For new bar coding projects
that don't have industry or customer standards, Code
39 is the typical non-food standard, because
almost all bar code equipment reads/prints Code 39. However,
Code 39 produces relatively long bar codes; it is not particularly
efficient in bar code density, (the maximum density is 9.4
characters per inch including 2 start/stop characters). Where
the label width is an issue and there is numeric data or
lower case data, Code 128 is the best alternative; Code 128
also has an extra efficient numeric only packing scheme to
produce very dense bar codes, and Code 128 has all 128 ASCII
characters. Not all readers read Code 128, so before you
settle on it as a standard, be sure that your reader is 128
capable (all Worth Data Readers read Code 128). Code 93 has been promoted by only one vendor; it
requires two characters to make Full ASCII; and it doesn't
have a numeric packing option. For these reasons, Code 128
is preferable over Code 93.
larger the width of the elements, the more space
it takes to print the bar code; therefore, the
lower the bar code density. The thinner the bar
and spaces, the less space is required and the
higher the bar code density. Look at the samples
below of different densities:
density bar codes are more reliably printed and
more consistently read than higher density bar
codes, because minor variations (due to printing
or damage) are much more serious with high density
bar codes - the percentage of distortion is larger.
There are three basic types of bar code readers: fixed, portable
batch, and portable RF. Fixed readers remain attached to
their host computer and terminal and transmit one data item
at a time as the data is scanned. Portable batch readers
are battery operated and store data into memory for later
batch transfer to a host computer. Some advanced portable
readers can operate in non-portable mode too, often eliminating
the need for a separate fixed reader. Portable RF Readers
are battery operated and transmit data real-time, on-line.
More importantly, the real-time, two-way communication allows
the host to instruct the operator what to do next based on
what just happened.
A basic bar code reader consists of a decoder and a scanner, (a
cable is also required to interface the decoder to the computer
or terminal). The basic operation of a scanner is to scan a bar
code symbol and provide an electrical output that corresponds to
the bars and spaces of a bar code. A decoder is usually a separate
box which takes the digitized bar space patterns, decodes them
to the correct data, and transmits the data to the computer over
wires or wireless, immediately or on a batch basis.
Keyboard Interface Bar Code Readers
more recent interface available for bar code reading
is the Universal Serial Bus interface. New Personal Computers, Laptops
with Windows® 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP, 2000, ME and 98SE and Macintosh® OS support USB HID keyboard attachment. Windows 95, 98 & NT and older computers do not support USB.
Data transmitted by the bar code reader to the USB
port appears just like data coming from a keyboard; in fact, USB keyboard interface can be used
to input data into the same applications that would
typically be used with a keyboard wedge reader.
Data offers integrated USB interface - enumerating as a standard USB HID Keyboard - on all
of our Integrated Laser Scanner models -LZ331-USB, LZ360-USB, and the 5202D-USB - as
well as the SLV-WDP slot badge scanners.
Worth Data also developed a USB interface adapter
that allows an existing legacy keyboard wedge reader from any manufacturer to attach to the USB port as a HID USB Keyboard. The Wedge Saver™ helps
the user avoid buying new readers simply for
USB interface (some new PC’s don’t
have keyboard ports; they only have USB).
TriCoder Portable readers also feature
a USB supporting both a HID Keyboard input mode as well as
lighting-fast full speed USB 1.1 uploading (40 times faster
than through the serial port) is supported for uploading of data files and even firmware updates.
Computer Keyboard Wedge Readers
On older computers, before USB ports and scanners were common, the bar code reader attached
through the keyboard interface, the bar code
reader sends data in key codes, exactly as though
the data had been keyed on the keyboard. Keyboard
interface readers are nicknamed "wedge readers", because they physically
wedge between the keyboard and the computer (or
mainframe terminal) and attach as a 2nd keyboard.
figure shows a keyboard wedge reader attachment.
A keyboard wedge reader which emulates
all of the keys including function keys, Ctrl,
Alt, Page Up, etc. is preferable.
Bar Code Readers
method of data transmission from the bar code reader
to the computer is by RS-232 Serial ASCII format.
If you have a multi-user computer, (for example a
UNIX system), with serial ASCII terminals for each
user, the bar code reader can attach between the
terminal and host computer, transmitting ASCII data
just like the terminal; in fact
the bar code data looks just like keyed data. when
attached like the following figure:
user computers without an external keyboard (older
notebooks without USB ports) must use the serial port for interface
of a bar code reader; to get the bar code data
to appear as keyed data, a TSR or device driver
program is also necessary. Our Portkey™ for Windows program takes data
from the COM port and places it into the keyboard
data buffer, so bar code data
appears to have been keyed. If your computer
program can read a serial port directly, no additional
program is necessary.
readers can be placed several hundred feet from
the computer, (keyboard wedge readers cannot
be placed beyond 10 feet.). Also multiple serial
readers can be attached to the same computer,
(keyboard wedge readers cannot). The PC runs
a program to poll the readers one at a time,
thus avoiding the "mish-mash" of data from multiple
Bar Code Readers
computers often have terminals with unique
data connectors and data formats, (different
from ASCII or PC key codes). The IBM
System 36-38, AS/400, 4300, 9000, etc.,
have such terminals. To use bar codes
with these computer systems, you must
use a keyboard wedge reader specifically
designed for the terminal to be attached
to. Vendors such as Compsee, Intermec,
and Welch-Allyn specialize in readers
which attach to mainframe terminals.
The alternative is to have a PC with a terminal emulation card
in it attached to the mainframe; then a less expensive PC bar code
reader and laser printer can be used on the PC.
readers are handheld battery operated
readers which store the data in memory
for later uploading. In addition to a
bar code scanner, a portable reader usually
has an LCD display to prompt the user
what to do; and they usually have a keyboard
to enter variable data such as quantities.
Ease of programmability is a key issue
in selecting a portable, and that depends
on your programming abilities; lots of
vendors say it's easy, (as long as you
can program in C++ or go to their two
week school). Other variables to consider
are: battery life (at least 20,000 scans),
ease of reading the display, size/weight
of the unit, who repairs it, and where
it is to be repaired in the event of
Worth Data has pioneered and patented voice prompt messages to
supplement the display messages in a portable unit, overcoming
lighting, language, and message clarity problems; this unit actually
announces when you have entered incorrect data and when to change
the batteries or upload data, plus you can customize any or all
voice prompts for your applications.
Most of you will want a unit that requires no programming for inventory
- a unit that has built-in inventory data collection programs -
on which you can easily create custom programs like the Worth Data 5000 TriCoder™ shown on the right.
Frequency Readers • RF Terminals
frequency readers are the ultimate solution
to many applications' needs - especially
any computer remote application that
can benefit from the computer checking
and instructing the operator. Warehousing
applications such as picking, put-aways,
shipping, order fulfillment, and receiving are typically
better performed by RF readers because
the computer can instruct the operator
where to go and what to do, plus the
computer files are current as to exact
status and location of available inventory.
RF Readers are like on-line terminals, but wireless. The user can
roam around his local facility scanning and keying data and getting
a response from the computer with each entry. Therefore the computer
can very carefully edit the data for errors as well as prompt the
user for what to do next considering the data that has just been
entered. The classic RF applications and associated advantages
- Picking -
routing of the picker; computer instructed
substitutions; real-time status of the order.
- Put-Aways -
inventory is available for sale or for manufacturing
- Receiving -
purchase order shortages can be immediately
determined. Critical parts can be routed to
- Shipping -
eliminating wrong or incomplete shipments by
computer checking before loading or even computer
There are a few basic types of RF Terminals on the market:
- Readers that emulate terminals
- Terminals running an operating system on them, and
- Simple Host Controlled RF Terminals.
that Emulate Terminals
These readers started
out as mainframe terminal emulators such
as IBM® 3270 or 5250 terminal emulation.
To emulate an IBM mainframe terminal
is no easy task, so the cost was very
high, (i.e. £6,000 per control unit,
£3000 per terminal).
There were also units made that emulated PC workstations
(i.e., Symbol Technologies and Intermec) on Local
Running an Operating System
Many modern RF readers are essentially small handheld personal computers running complex operating system like Windows CE, Windows Mobile, Linux, or any other application driven operating system. They require lots of memory
for the operating system and to run dedicated software applications that have to be downloaded to each individual unit. They are relatively
expensive, often costing over £2000-£3000 per terminal, typically require an already operating
LAN or WAN, require larger batteries, have short battery life, and are large in size & weight to accommodate the extra electronics needed to run the complex operating system and the individual programs. Some even work as web based terminals using web browser based applications for data gathering operations. These terminals almost always require
a C++ program to be written on the terminals, host programs
to be modified or written, plus competent network management IT personnel are also required for each
location to integrate the host side software and the terminal side software and make sure it functions on the network correctly.
Host Controlled RF Terminals
A host controlled RF Terminal is a simpler reader to install and develop applications for, plus it is generally a less expensive piece of electronics since you don't need a powerful operating system with lots of memory to run applications on the individual portable readers - instead you have a much smaller unit with long battery life all using simple host generated commands for real time input that is controlled and directed exclusively by the host computer. All of the power of the host computer is controlling each RF Terminal dynamically.
These readers require programming on the host computer only and any application that can read
and write to a serial port, USB port or TCP/IP address can control the operation of a host controlled RF Terminal. Such programming is relatively trivial
and can be written in almost any language on any computer platform. Existing
application packages can be more easily modified to use these simple RF
terminal commands. The
amount of effort is considerably less than with a terminal emulation reader, or a Windows Mobile or CE based device,
because all programming is only done on the host computer; whereas the terminal emulation
and Windows based devices require both host programming and programming on the terminals. Plus with the Worth Data 7003 RF Terminals there are no expensive site surveys, or complex IT integration issues with existing LAN's or WAN's - typically a user will just plug in the B557 Base Station access point, running their software on the host computer, and they are up and running in a matter of minutes.
RF Terminals that are host controlled and communicate
to the host by serial port are usually less than
half the price of the more complicated "Terminal Emulators", Windows Mobile, and Windows CE based devices;
they also often have faster response time due
to less software overhead, having no need for a complex operating system running on the handheld terminal, and they don't need dedicated application software running on each reader either
- even a slow 1980's 286 PC can easily drive a host controlled terminal system, using a RS-232 COM port, at maximum speed.
They are far simpler - thus less costly, BUT
they do require some programming to get their full
potential. Even though you can run them in "One-Way" mode
without programming, that misses the greatest
potential of computer-led real time activities, often
referred to "Event Driven Applications".
Terminals vs. Narrow Band Terminals
Narrow band refers to
radios that operate within a narrow band
of radio frequencies. Spread spectrum most commonly
refers to radios that jump around on
a wide band of frequencies to avoid interference (e.g. Wi-Fi) - direct sequence or frequency hopping.
Narrow band can be licensed at high power
and unlicensed at low power. The 7003 RF Terminals offer superior radio range of 450m, plus up to 64
terminals in the same building is possible with the 868Mhz radios in the Worth Data 7003 Series RF Terminals, where our older generation 70 series RF Terminal could only have 16 terminals in the same location.
really want to avoid is terminals
with a fixed frequency that cannot be changed
unless sent back to the manufacturer. More and
more devices are going wireless; so, the channel
interference is expected to increase substantially
in the future. This is where the Worth Data Terminals with our powerful multi-channel 868Mhz radios can solve these problems.
802.11 Wi-Fi RF Terminals
802.11 Wi-Fi is a spread spectrum radio format that operates in the 2.4Ghz band. It is the most common radio used on Windows Mobile, Windows CE, and other RF readers that are available on the market today. Worth data offers a Wi-Fi RF terminal as well to fit into any existing 802.11 Wi-Fi network. In addition, using our web tools and our "Cloud Server" technology along with an automatic batch collection mode the 7802 RF Terminals can operate anywhere - whenever the operator is out of range, or offline, data collection and processing can continue uninterrupted even in remote locations.
802.11 Wi-Fi 2.4GHz vs. Worth Data 868MHz RF Terminals
802.11 Wi-Fi is a spread spectrum radio format that typically operates in the 2.4GHz band and is very popular around the world. However 802.11 b/g only has around a short 30-90m range in most applications, plus it requires extensive site surveys and precise locating of the access points to correctly cover a large building or to get more range. Even the more powerful Wi-Fi 802.11n radios can only cover around 200m at best.
Our 868MHz 7003 Series RF Terminals use a very powerful 868MHz radio that can easily cover many thousands of square feet with a single base station, plus you can expand the coverage even further using relays - in an open area it goes over 450m! Our radio has 2-4 times the range of even the best Wi-Fi radios. It is very common for a customer to install just one B557 Base Station in even a corner of a large warehouse and still get complete coverage. We feel that our 868Mhz 7003 series RF terminal is the best solution for any location that doesn't already have a working Wi-Fi based radio network covering the entire working area required.
If you already have endured the expense of surveys, wiring, and installing a working 802.11 Wi-Fi radio network in your location then Worth data does offers Wi-Fi RF terminals. The 7802 RF Terminals are perfect for use on any existing 802.11 b/g network and can even talk to a 802.11n access point since they also support b/g protocol radios.
7003 R/F Terminal
The Worth Data 7003 Series RF Terminal has a very powerful radio that has 5 user selectable channels available to avoid any
interference with other devices that
might operate in the same 868mHz band. Because
its receiver is so sensitive, and the radio so powerful, the coverage
is outstanding - over 450m outdoors and it can typically cover large buildings indoors without relays, and much more with relays. Each base station
can handle 300 transactions per minute!
Our product cost is easily half of most other Spread Spectrum radio systems. All programming
is on the host computer using any platform and language that can
read/write to the host's serial port. With one base station the number of terminals per site can easily
go up to 64 terminals operating at the same time. The 7003 Series Models are currently for most of Europe (868Mhz), plus models available for the US & Canada (911MHz).
For complete R/F Terminal programming
CCD Bar Code Scanners
With a CCD bar code scanner the bar code "image" is
captured and then the array elements are transmitted
to form a signal pattern similar to the "scanned" pattern
from a laser - it is just a different way of obtaining the bar code optically. There are typically no moving parts
in a CCD scanner which could be touted as an advantage by some, however our laser scanners have a lifetime warranty on the moving element.
Traditional CCD scanners
have a "depth
of field", (how far you can be away from the
bar code and still get a read), of only a few inches. Modern CCD scanners have been developed
with a depth that is closer to the range of a laser scanner. These CCD scanners are so
unique that they have been termed "Linear Imager" scanners.
However, Laser Scanner in general offer better range and can decode wider bar codes than CCD's, since the laser beam can be moved over a longer range and it uses the more focused laser light source for picking up bar codes from further away.
We are no longer offering LED based CCD scanners as our laser scanners have dropped in price and offer improved performance when compared to the CCD technology.
With Laser scanners and CCD
scanners now sharing the same range, it is important
to know the difference between them. Laser scanners
use a single spot of light that sweeps across
the bar code in a linear fashion this creates a laser line that is placed across the code. In a sense,
lasers act like a wand, transmitting the signal
for each bar and space as it "scans" across.
This "scanned" pattern is then decoded. A CCD
scanner on the other hand, uses an LED array
to light up the scanning zone and has hundreds of CCD "detectors" to receive a linear image of the bar code from the reflected LED light. The LED light pattern of a CCD lights up a larger area of the bar code and is a much less defined when compared with a laser beam. Below is a comparison of the difference between using a laser scanner and using a CCD scanner.
on Width of Bar Codes Readability
||up to 3-4" for
medium density codes (may be larger for
||CONTACT - 0.1"
||0" - 18 "
Surface Reading Capability
Many older bar code readers had
separate decoders boxes that a bar code scanner plugged into. Many new bar code scanners have the decoders integrated
right into the scanner, usually the handle. An integrated
reader is usually less expensive and saves the space
of the separate decoder. The disadvantages of integrated
readers are: 1) you can't have a 2nd scanner such
as an inexpensive wand for backup to a laser or CCD,
and 2) power supplies cannot be added for low power
keyboard ports or low power USB ports.
Laser scanners have a very precise beam of light
which can be reflected accurately several
inches to several feet to read bar codes. Almost all laser
scanners today have a moving beam which
sweeps back and forth or a beam that automatically spreads across the bar code. Some very low cost laser
scanners require the user to move the
beam across the bar code much like a wand, there is even one scanner that uses a spring loaded button that the user pushes to make the scan beam move. The advantages
of automatic electronic laser beam scanners are:
- Reading bar codes from
a distance - anywhere from 1-18 inches away,
or even up to 25+ feet when reading low density
retro-reflective bar codes.
- Reading moving objects
on an assembly line.
- No-hands operation.
Some lasers can be mounted to turn
on automatically when an object passes
under the scanner. Typically used in
blood banks, library check out, automated warehouses, shipping docks etc...
- Reading through glass
windows or thick laminates.
- Reading bar codes on
curved surfaces, (bags of parts).
- Reading bar codes inside
difficult to reach enclosures or small confined spaces.
Laser scanners emit a
laser light beam which sweeps back and
forth or is projected across the bar code anywhere from 36 times per
second to over 100 times per second. At this rate, unsuccessful reading
attempts go unnoticed; you will only
be aware of the one successful decode.
Once a read has occurred, the laser turns
off, requiring you to release and pull
the trigger again to reactivate the laser
scanner and scan another bar code.
The lower the density of the bar code, the further the laser scanner
can read a bar code. The higher the density of the bar code, the
closer to the bar code the laser scanner must be.
Triggered Laser Scanners
are virtually "can't miss". Just "point
and shoot". Face the bar code so that the bars point up (the laser
light will then form a red line across the bar code when the trigger
is pulled). Aim the gun scanner at a bar code and pull the trigger;
reading is instantaneous. You may have to move the scanner closer
to the bar code to get a read, but that's it. Triggered laser scanners
are only a little more expensive than a wand scanner, but scanning
is significantly easier. Pay attention to the length of the warranty
on laser scanners; it could prove to be very important with heavy
the left is pictured the Worth Data LZ360
Laser Scanner, which has a 3 year warranty.
It reads from 12 inches from a typical
medium density bar code. Most laser
scanners read up to 4-12" distance,
depending on the brand of the laser scanner.
There are hand held triggered long range
laser scanners that can read up to 33
feet away using retro-reflective
low density bar codes, or from 17 feet away
using low density bar codes printed on paper or a box. Long
range laser scanners are naturally more
expensive than the standard laser scanners.
We have tested the Worth Data LZ330 and the LZ360 by hard throwing
(not just dropping) them to the floor. They survived every repeated
throw. The moving scan element of the LZ330 and the LZ360 lasers have a lifetime warranty on the scan element and both scanners
use a scan engine which is rated
to withstand 2000G's of force on impact. We developed this laser
scanner after years of frustration with other laser manufacturers'
poor product reliability. Therefore, when we decided to manufacture our own laser scanners we selected the best laser engine components for our laser scanners we could. Being
the manufacturer of the entire assembly, we can now more closely control function and reliability.
Below is a chart showing the reading range of most of the scanners we sell - including some of our products with laser scanner built right into the units like our TriCoder's and our RF Terminals.
These devices are continuously
emitting multi-directional light beams
to maximize the reading of a bar code
regardless of the orientation of the
bar code to the scanner. Unless the bar
code is on the surface of the item pointing
straight up, the bar code reader has
a good chance of reading it. These devices
are required to be integrated into the
sales counter. They typically directly
interface with a retail POS terminal.
are the smaller cousins of the Supermarket
Slot Scanner. They were developed
for the convenience stores that wanted
automation but didn't have the counter
space required for a slot scanner
installation. They also have a omni directional
light source to free the user to
present the bar code in any orientation.
They sit on a counter, or they sit
on a stand that sits on the counter.
Items are passed a few inches in
front of the scanner to get a successful
There are also
a whole line of scanners made just for
industrial applications including small
under £1000 scanners that read a few inches
distance and large £20,000 long range scanners
that read twenty feet away. These are typically
mounted adjacent to conveyor lines to read
bar codes on passing items; the host computer
then directs the items to the appropriate
branching line. A classic example of such
scanners use is airport baggage sorting;
(those bar codes that are placed on your
luggage are actually used in the large
airports to get your luggage to the right
place). This type of equipment
is almost always sold with turnkey hardware
(including conveyors) and software by specialty
integrators. Sources for industrial laser
Lazerdata Corp. +407-843-8975
2D Bar Code Scanners
The Worth Data 5202D scanners are designed to read both standard 1D bar codes like UPC, Code 39, and Code 128, plus they can also read the 2D matrix bar codes like PDF-417, DataMatrix, QR Code, MaxiCode, Postnet, IMBC, and many others. The 2D Scanners have a very precise camera and high speed CPU that process the large amount of date required to decode a 2D bar code.
Our 2D Scanners are also omni-directional, which means that they can read a bar code in any orientation. All the operator needs to do is frame the bar code in the aiming area and it will read.
The 5202D-USB Scanner operates as a USB keyboard, outputting the data as keyboard entry. It is also available as a serial unit that can attach to our other scanners. The 5202D is a powerful yet easy to use reader if you need to read 2D bar codes - it even reads postnet postal codes including the new Intelligent Mail bar code from the USPS®.
We also now offer the same powerful 2D Scan Engine integrated into our 5000 TriCoders and RF Terminals (Both the LT7003 and the LT7802 Wi-Fi Terminals)
Wand Scanners are the least expensive and
the oldest type of bar code scanner.
A wand is typically made from 1/2" stainless
steel tubing or from plastic; optics
are in the front with a cord out the
back. The wand scanner must be moved
by the user's hand across and in contact
with the bar code. While the wand is
moving across the bar code, the reflected
light is converted to electrical signals
through a photocell in the wand.
wand requires a little technique; it
is not a "can't miss" scanner.
Even without directions, most people
can master the use of a wand in 30-45
seconds; but some need directions and
training for a few minutes to learn the
proper wanding techniques.
can read any length of bar code. Wands
typically can read through laminates
of thickness up to 1/10" inch. Many
wands can read through CD cases and audiocassette
Slot badge scanners require only one hand
for operation; the user simply slides
his badge with a bar code on the bottom
edge through the scanner. These are typically
used in unattended entry/exit stations
for payroll, club membership accounting,
school lunch assistance programs, etc.
Slot badge scanners are similar to wand
scanners, but usually refined so that
one resolution can read most types of
bar codes with no difficulty; utilizing
the additional space for larger optics,
a slot badge scanner usually has a vertical
aperture to look at the elements, thus
allowing a high resolution slot badge
scanner to read almost all types of printed
bar codes, from dot matrix to high density.
Slot badge scanners also come with visible
or infrared light sources. Visible can
read any bar code which can be seen with
the eye including bar codes printed on
thermal printers, (infrared cannot read
thermal printed bar codes); infrared
slot badge scanners would be used for
security "black on black" bar codes,
(the black bar code is covered by a black
window on the badge, but the black window
looks clear under infrared light).
There are several methods of getting
printed bar codes; these are:
- Buying photo composed bar codes
from a label manufacturer.
- Printing your bar codes with
inexpensive labeling software on your personal
computer's dot matrix, laser, or inkjet printer.
- Printing bar codes on a specialized
bar code label printer.
- For manufacturers
who need bar codes printed in their product's
packaging, use purchased film masters or use
bar code fonts suitable for PostScript® film
Whatever printing source you decide
upon, there are a few common sense tips to pass
- Stay away from colored bar
codes (use black) and colored backgrounds (use
white). Any other colors lower the contrast
between bars and spaces and therefore lower
- Do thorough readability testing
on any labels before distribution. Be careful.
Don't discover a problem after you have distributed
10,000 labels that need to be recalled.
the only bar code application you are doing
is an application such as fixed asset inventory
tracking and employee badges, pre-printed
serialized labels make a lot of sense. Photo composed
labels are usually very high quality and
you can buy 5000 for around £300. Libraries
typically use pre-printed labels. Why? Because
the labels need to last for 25 years and
the volume is usually 100,000 per library.
High quality, durable, laminated photo composed
labels are usually used. Worth Data supplies custom Pre-printed Polyester Bar Code Labels - We can even ship the same day an order is placed!
You can also print high quality durable labels on a thermal transfer
printer using XT Polyester label stock or on a laser printer with
a poly label stock - call Worth Data for our Worth
Poly™ Polyester Laser Label stock; such stock is more
expensive than paper, but worth it is you need more durability. We also offer our popular LabelRIGHT Ultimate for Windows bar code labeling software so that you can make your own labels on your computer with your printer.
on PC Printers
With the proper PC software,
today’s printers are capable of
printing excellent quality bar codes.
Ink Jet and Dot Matrix printers cannot
print high- density bar codes, but laser
printers can. Laser printers actually
print the best quality bar codes of any
commonly available printing technology.
Laser printers can produce
outstanding quality bar codes. The
quality is consistent even when toner gets low;
it is obvious and is not subject to
interpretation. (When the toner cartridge is changed,
it is important to follow the replacement
cleaning instructions, including cleaning
the corona wire, especially for high
density bar code printing.)
Labels are sectionalized
on a 8 1/2" x 11" page in multiple columns
and/or rows. For example, mailing labels
(1" by 2.8") appear in 3 columns and
11 rows, 33 labels per page. Since laser
printers feed one sheet at a time, it
is impractical to print one label at
There is an unprintable area 1/4" inch
to the left, right, top, and bottom of
any form; this makes full labels impossible
unless you sacrifice the top row and
maybe the bottom row of labels. One trick
in laser printing is to use label stock
with the laser's unprintable areas cut
as a border picture frame around the
printable label's area.
the previous example of 33 mailing labels
per page would be 30 labels per page with the unprintable area
isolated as a picture frame border. The top and left margin settings
in the program would adjust the labeling program to the picture
frame label stock's unprintable borders.
Laser printers are great
for producing batches of labels, but
if you need only one label (where there
are multiple labels per page) at a time,
dot matrix or thermal transfer printers
are required. Laser printing is the best
quality of all types. There are several types
of label stock available for laser printers.
If you need to print durable labels,
Worth Data offers a polyester label stock
designed especially for laser printers. Worth
Poly is made from a special white,
matte finish, heat stabilized polyester
film designed for laser printers. When
printed on a laser printer, the resulting
label is heat resistant, water-resistant,
light resistant, scuff resistant, smudge
resistant, and stain resistant. These
labels are ideal for any labels that
you want to last through rough handling
harsh environments. The permanent adhesive
is designed to keep your label adhered
to wood, metal, plastic, or glass for
years. You pay a little more, but you
get a lot more label for the money.
Windows programs usually give you rich text fonts, more rotations,
and excellent image graphics printing. The labeling programs for
Windows often support Postscript printers.
printers are getting better and better.
They print pages of labels, so refer
to the page label stock discussion
below regarding page laser label stock. Also,
use label stock specifically meant
for inkjet printers – the stock is
usually coated to minimize ink bleed.
Always test your bar code labels for
readability before printing in bulk.
Inkjet printers are almost exclusively
supported by Windows programs. If you
have problems, check to make sure you
are using the latest driver version
from the printer manufacturer. Also,
be sure to select a printer that has
a separate black cartridge in addition
to the color cartridge.
labels you are printing are going to
be exposed to water, don't use the inkjet
printers – most inkjet ink is water-soluble.
Inkjet printers are NOT the best printer
to use to print labels that need to withstand
the weather or are subjected to constant
the inkjet cost per page in color is
twice the cost of a black and white print.
printers are required when you need either
to print one label at a time or when
you need to print a roll of labels so that
labels can be applied by applicators
directly to boxes. Volume industrial printing is done mostly by thermal transfer
printers. They are fast and produce excellent
quality bar codes.
Thermal transfer refers to the printhead
heating up and melting a ribbon onto
the label surface. Most thermal transfer
printers can also produce "direct thermal" labels,
but paper instead of a soft ribbon
wears out the printhead 10 times faster;
another disadvantage of thermal printing
is that most thermal labels cannot be read
with IR light and deteriorate in sunlight
to non-readability over time. The media cost
is about the same as laser and direct thermal.
Therefore thermal transfer printing is far
more popular than thermal printing for serious
Beware of the CoStar, Brother and Seiko thermal
printers for producing serious bar
codes. They have two problems:
- The bar codes are just
a little off. (The naked eye can often
see three sizes of bars when only two
are supposed to be possible).
- They are thermal printers
producing bar code labels that will
deteriorate to un-readability in sunlight.
- They are inexpensive,
so they are very attractive, but beware.
Most popular thermal
transfer printers can produce labels
up to about 4" wide (more expensive models can print
at 6" or even 8") and lengths up to 8
inches plus. Smaller widths can of course
be accommodated. Popular thermal transfer
printers are manufactured by Citizen,
Sato, Zebra, and Datamax; these are the
You can get almost any type of label stock imaginable for thermal
transfer printers; high temperature, weather proof, surface laminated,
jewelry ring stock, card stock, tag stock, etc.
The basic paper labels with inexpensive ribbons produce bar codes
that can be smeared or smudged with hard rubbing by the fingers.
Smudge proof labels can be produced with more expensive synthetic
label stock and a ribbon with less wax and more resin (hybrid or
P2 Ribbon). Scratch- proof laminated labels can be produced with
XT Polyester and a high resin ribbon; when heated, the resin and
polyester coating fuse to make a very durable label.
These printers generally print from 2" to 12" per second; at any
width up to the maximum, the printers print 2" to 12" lengths per
second. Find out if the rated speed quoted for the printer you
are considering is to be expected when printing bar codes or graphics
- for this, many printers slow down to less than 1/2 their quoted
The print heads wear out on thermal or thermal transfer printers.
To maximize the print head life, clean it between every ribbon
change with a cleaning card or with a lint-free q-tip soaked in
alcohol - a MUST to avoid continually replacing print heads. Unlike
most dot matrix and laser printers, the thermal transfer printers
discussed have scalable text fonts and bar code fonts resident
in the printers firmware. The software necessary to print the bar
codes is a series of special command sequences. So you can add
printing on a thermal transfer printer to one of your existing
programs, providing there is someone semi-skilled at programming.
However, most users want a general purpose design labeling program
which requires no programming. Our LabelRIGHT™ Ultimate for Windows label printing software supports many Thermal Transfer Printers that have a Windows print driver. LabelRIGHT Ultimate is very powerful and easy to use.
Dot matrix printers can
produce good quality low volume bar
code labels. When printing low-medium (3.7cpi
or lower for Code 39), the labels can
be excellent quality. The Epson®, IBM,
and Okidata® printers have adequate
graphics capability to yield good quality bar
codes. You will need a dot matrix printer
with a pin feed platen to successfully
print the variety of label sizes.
catch though - you must not wait too
long to change the ribbon. The
printer operator must make a judgment
call on when to change the ribbon.
It's best to tape a bar code of minimum acceptable
darkness on the printer, so the operator
can't make a judgment error. Programs
that can strike the bar codes multiple
times can keep the ribbon expense down.
Both 24-pin and 9-pin
printers can produce good quality bar
codes. The 24- pin printers produce
better bar codes than 9-pin printers, especially
as the ribbon is getting low on ink.
The 24-pins simply put more ink on
dot matrix, Inkjet and Laser printers are in such widespread
use, labeling software to make these printers capable of printing
bar codes has become readily available. There are two general
types of bar code printing programs available:
- Menu-driven programs for operators
to design and print labels.
- Bar code font programs to allow
printing of bar codes within other Macintosh
or Windows programs; no programming is necessary
by the user.
These programs allow the
user to design different label formats
and save them to disk for label runs.
Usually there is a WYSIWYG design interface
to view the label on screen as it is
being designed, especially Windows programs.
These programs usually have most of the
following features: scalable fonts, graphic
image import, all popular bar codes,
data file import, easy custom operator
interface, popular data base access,
and/or built-in label data base. Look
for a program that combines support
for laser/dot matrix with thermal transfer printers like our powerful LabelRIGHT Ultimate for Windows software.
the ability to design and print labels, you should
look for a program with a simple operator interface.
The label designer creates custom prompts for
a label format; then the operator answers simple
questions that lead him to enter the variable
data for the labels to be printed. With a label
database, you can select which labels to print.
You don't want the operator to have to deal with
the more complicated label design screens.
In Windows and Macintosh environments,
any font based program can select fonts for
printing. This makes it possible to use bar
code fonts from such programs (i.e. Word®,
Excel®, PageMaker®, Quark®, etc.). Problems
which must be overcome are:
- Scaling - when scaling,
Windows and the Mac can make little
adjustments that really mess up the
bar codes; most programs give you fonts
at a certain point size and density
that will be very accurate for the
point size and printer for which they
were designed; however if you change
printers or change point sizes, almost
anything can happen. Be careful when
straying outside the standard point
size for printer specific fonts.
- When printing UPC,
a "0" could be represented by four
different bar/space patterns, depending
on where it is in the code and the
computed parity of the data. Therefore
it is necessary to have a translator
program which you can switch to, enter
the data you wish to print, copy it
to the clipboard, and then copy the
translated strings into your application.
At least one program has a "hot-key" sequence
which can copy the bar code into your
application without having to first
translate and then copy from the clipboard;
after setting the bar code type and
density from the translator, any highlighted
data in the application is translated
with the "hot key".
Using fonts, labels
can be printed from your favorite word
processing program, or you can add bar
codes to a form from almost any font-based
Windows program, (provided your program
can call our DLL). Our LabelRIGHT Ultimate for Windows software package has a powerful font package called BarFont™ that simplifies using fonts in other Windows software.
Codes on Packaging or Film Masters
How to Get a UPC Number
If you haven't already been assigned your manufacturer's
GTIN, EAN, or GS1 number . Call the GS1 UK +44 (0)20 7655 9000, or email: email@example.com, or the appropriate GS1 authority for your country by contacting GS1-in Europe, or GS1-US at +1 937-435-3870 to get a registered GS1 number assigned. You will pay a charge
to get a manufacturer's number assigned, (digits 2-6 in the GS1
code), plus you will get an information packet. You will be assigned unique GS1 numbers for all your products.
For users who wish to
have the bar codes printing as an integral
part of their packaging (such as sugar
bag) there are three ways:
- Create your packaging
design with a Windows or Mac based
program and use a postscript bar code
fonts package like LabelRIGHT to add the bar codes
to the whole packaging design. The
film for the packaging would include
the bar code.
- Order separate film
masters from organizations that specialize
in bar code film masters (such as Symbology
Have your printer strip in the bar
code film to the packaging film so
that the whole packaging prints with
the bar code included.
- A third method that
must be done with caution is to print
bar codes on paper with a good bar
code printing program, photograph or scan the
printed bar code, and then use the
film as specified above.
After printing, the ink
in bars tends to bleed slightly into
the spaces. Therefore, bars on film should
be slightly narrower, (probably 1/1000
inch narrower), to allow for the spreading
of the ink in printing. (Turn down the
darkness on the laser printer if printing
bar codes on paper to be photographed.)
Whatever method you use, you should have your printer make test
print runs. If you don't use a verifier to test the accuracy of
the bar codes, at least:
- Test them with a bar
code reader for readability. You should
get 20 out of 20 reads with reasonable
attention in wanding. Don't accept
any bar code that has less than 100%
- Have your printer (the
person doing the printing) microscopically
inspect the narrowest bar and narrowest
space after printing (wait about 30
minutes to 1 hour for any bleeding
of the ink to complete). They should
be very close to equal. If they vary
by more than 10% from each other, then
the exposure on the film must be changed;
if the bars are too big, expose less;
if the spaces are too big, increase
Don't forget to leave
a 1/4" white space to the left of the
leftmost bar and a 1/4" white space to
the right of the rightmost bar, (no text
or other graphics in these areas).
Bar Code applications are growing by the day as creative people
find ways to enjoy data entry efficiency possible with bar
codes. The following is a brief discussion of some major
applications: (the key to all of these applications is the
software; the software is the steak, the bar code is the
usually done with
custom assemblies, a terminal leads the
operator in what to assemble; as the
operator scans each part or subassembly
added, the computer can monitor for correct
organizations have multitudes of furniture,
PC's, fixtures, etc. The exact location
for each item determines cost allocations.
Bar codes are placed on all items and
bar codes are placed on walls of each
location. With a portable bar code reader,
the location is wanded and then all items
in that location are wanded; the data
is then uploaded to the computer for
accurate depreciation cost allocation.
are completed, scanning results into
a terminal. (Multiple operators use a
Again using employee badges,
as employees move from department to another, the
employee scans in his badge at the new
department's terminal. This allows payroll
cost allocation to departments.
codes on ID cards of patrons and bar codes on books.
Automatic check out.
Similar to a pick list, but downloading
to portable terminal the list of addresses
to be read, along with the bar code ID
of the meter, so that the terminal checks
that the operator is indeed reading the
Catalogs of items with associated
bar codes. Used for order taking, estimating
car repair costs, route accounting, etc.
Point of Sale
At the cash register (or equivalent),
scanning the bar code into a computer
which looks up the item scanned and displays
the description and price plus decreasing
the on-hand inventory by the quantity
For patient records, case
records, loan records, etc., a bar code is placed
on the folder. Then as the units are checked
out, the folder is scanned and the
borrower's ID card is scanned. As the unit is passed
from one station to another, the item
is scanned so that it can be tracked
through the organization.
Printing a bar code on the remittance
stub or the invoice stub so that when
the customer returns the stub with
his payment, it can be wanded to bring up
the data or to complete full payments.
The classic portable bar code
reader application. The operator scans the
codes of the items (perhaps scanning only one
of multiple items and then entering
the quantity for that item) and then uploading
the stored scanned data to the computer
later, thereby correcting the computer's
files for what is actually on the floor.
Time and Attendance
Employee badges with bar codes are
read at clock-in and clock-out into a computer
or terminal to provide attendance data
to the computerized payroll program.
The computer downloads a table to a portable
terminal and the operator is prompted
to pick a list of items associated
with a specific order. After picking the order,
the operator goes back to the terminal
to upload the data and receive his
next order to pick. As locations are reached
or items are picked, the bar codes
are scanned and the terminal compares what
was scanned to be sure the right location
or item is being picked.
As the operator stores items in a warehouse,
the operator scans the items and the
location. This data is then uploaded
to the computer so it can keep track of
the inventory quantity on hand and
are received, the bar code on the case
of the unit is scanned, bringing up the
computer history for that unit. As the
unit is repaired, scanning what failures
and what new parts are required to repair
for costing and failure analysis.
on-line readers or portable readers,
scanning the routing sheets with bar
codes on them as parts or subassemblies
are completed, often including yield
data, so the work-in-process costs
and progress can be tracked. (Usually one
terminal per operator).
There is now a variety
of hand held bar code terminals which
are linked by Radio Frequency (RF) back
to a host computer. This makes possible
portable interactive applications in
the stock room, the warehouse, shipping,
Whatever the cost of the hardware, the application software investment
is intense for most companies. It is really an extension of MRP
II software into the portable hand held terminals.
Check in and Billing
Anyone who has
rented a car lately has experienced the convenience
and speed of RF Terminal check-in at the curb.
Massive Table Lookup
The simplest application is the
computer performing validity checks on data entered
from its large up-to-date computer files
and notifying the operator of any invalid
A classic example of this would be grocery
price validation. Instead of downloading
a 10 MB file into a hand held, the computer
does the table lookup and lets the operator
know what prices need to be changed on
the floor. Any store without prices on
the items must have price validation by
RF Terminal to be sure the prices on the
floor are the same as the price in the
computer. Direct Store Delivery by vendors
is also a must for RF Terminals, allowing the store to monitor
the price being charged by the delivery
personnel to the store.
The best example is stock taking. Based on the outage or overage,
the computer would instruct the operator in different things to
do: count again, see supervisor, etc. The counts could be double
checked on the spot, yielding a faster more accurate inventory
As a purchase order is received, the operator
scans and keys what has been received,
with the computer pointing out shortages that
are double checked on the spot rather than
after the items have been moved or partially
As items are loaded, they are scanned.
Shortages or miss-loads can be detected immediately.
As items are put away, the computer
has them immediately available for picking
to satisfy the next order.
The computer instructs each picker
what to do with up to the second stock status
from Put Aways. This would be especially
valuable with items in multiple locations
and where substitutions are possible.
get a manufacturer's number assigned for EAN, GTIN, GS1, or UPC
+44 (0)20 7655 9000, or
+353 1 208 0660
GS1 in Europe:
Telephone: +36 1 412 3947
Fax: +36 1 412 3959
GS1US: +1 937-435-3870
For industrial laser scanners,
Worth Data: +1 831 458 9938
Laser Labels, call
Worth Data: +1 831 458 9938
thermal transfer labels and thermal transfer
Data: +1 831 458 9938
For bar code verifiers, call
+ 1 714-847-6674
For Code 39, I 2of5, and Codabar Specifications,
ANSI Sales Dept.: 1430 Broadway,
NY, NY 10018. Enclose $9
For most other bar code specifications (fee),
AIM USA: +1 412-963-8588
For AIAG information
(Automotive Industry Action Group), call
PrePrinted Bar Code Labels, call
Worth Data: +1 831 458 9938
Bar Code Readers (USB, PC
Keyboard), +1 831 458 9938
Laser Scanners, +1 831 458 9938
+1 831 458 9938
Portable Bar Code Readers,
+1 831 458 9938
Labeling Software & Fonts for
Windows, +1 831 458 9938