Barcoding 101 – Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?

Barry BarcodeBarcoding 101 – What you need to know!
by Barry Barcode

Time for a quick review of the ins and outs of barcoding … my favorite topic!

barcoding 101Key Benefits Barcoding provides:

  • improved data accuracy and reduced errors
  • operational efficiencies – faster, automated processes, data collection, processing and tracking
  • consistency – for product quality, and on the line within operations
  • standardization – compliance labeling – universally understood and accepted
  • improved inventory and asset management – locate, track and trace in real time
  • product and consumer safety

Various types and options available for barcode labels and printers:

Labels:labels

Pre-printed labels

  • used in operations that require a low volume of identical (fixed, non-variable data) labels, with colors or graphics
  • restricted flexibility, the use of preprinted labels prevents companies from including variable customer data or combinations of text and barcode information.

On-demand labels:

  • have customized information on each label
  • for high-volume, mission-critical labeling needs
  • higher initial cost

Printers:

Dot-Matrix Printer:dot-matrix printers
Benefits:

  • readily accessible and inexpensive
  • can print on virtually any type of form, check or document and can print on wide-web, multipart (carbon) forms
  • use multi-pass ribbons, which are low cost materials. Limitations

Disadvantages:

  • generally unusable for barcoding due to inaccuracy of dot placement and low resolution and density
  • continuous ribbon re-use on dot-matrix printers requires close monitoring of ribbon condition to ensure adequate barcode contrast and proper read rate and error rate
  • ink saturation can result in paper bleed causing image distortion
  • label has limited in durability
  • print carriage sits far below the media not allowing the label space to be maximized thus printing of single labels results in significant waste
  • no graphics printing capability
  • low barcode print speed

InkJet Printer:inkjet printer labels
Benefits:

  • prints directly on product eliminating need and cost of labels

Disadvantages:

  • difficulty in reproducing barcodes with acceptable accuracy
  • costly for individual or small batch printing
  • requires close supervision and maintenance to ensure consistent print quality and prevent ink jet clogging
  • dot placement accuracy and barcode density/ resolution are limited due to ink splatter and continual motion
  • water-based inks tend to streak, run or blur when they come in contact with water; and non-water-soluble inks are too shiny for barcode scannability
  • scanning devices must be carefully chosen to ensure reliable barcode reading

laser printer labelsLaser Printer: (projects controlled streams of ions onto the surface of a print drum, resulting in a charged image, which selectively attracts toner particles, transferring the image onto the paper substrate, and the heat and pressure of the fuser cause the image to adhere to the media)
Benefits:

  • good at producing plain-paper documents that require barcodes
  • able to print high-quality text and graphics on paper documents and can double as a document printer when not being used to print barcodes
  • high barcode density and resolution

Disadvantages:

  • not well suited for industrial or individual-product labeling operations
  • wasteful when printing single or small labels
  • not all laminated label materials are compatible and label adhesives must be carefully selected to ensure stability under the heat and pressure of the fuser.
  • laser printing is susceptible to toner flaking and smudging, making the technology unsuitable for long-term barcoding
  • laser-printed paper labels have limited durability
  • high toner costs

Direct Thermal Printerthermal label printer
Benefits:

  • produces sharp print quality with good scannability
  • ideal for applications requiring only a short shelf life
  • simple to operate and low cost – no ink, toner or ribbon to monitor or replenish
  • enables batch or single label printing with virtually no waste
  • durable and versatile in many environments – industrial and office applications

Disadvantages:

  • extremely sensitive to environmental conditions such as heat and light (fluorescent and/or direct sunlight) so thermal labels often require top coat laminate to resist UV light exposure, chemicals and abrasion

Thermal Transfer Printer:
Benefits:

  • provides crisp, high-definition text, graphic and barcode print quality for maximum readability and scannability and long-life image stability
  • enables batch or single label printing with virtually no waste
  • low long-term maintenance costs compared to dot-matrix, ink jet and laser printing
  • can print on a nearly unlimited variety of media stock (except multiform)
  • built more durably than dot-matrix or laser printers, allowing reliable operation in industrial as well as office applications
  • require ribbons so supply costs are higher than direct thermal, but printheads last longer than direct thermal printheads
  • printers are smaller, compact, simpler, more durable and less expensive than laser or dot-matrix printers, making them ideal for distributed printing
  • low operating costs – have higher initial cost but a lower maintenance cost compared to other print technologies, resulting in a lower cost of ownership, and lower long-term maintenance costs
  • can quickly offset the higher initial investment

Disadvantages:

Key Questions when selecting the Right Printer to meet your needs:

  • What are the intended uses of the barcode labels?
  • What environment(s) will the labels be used in (will there be temperature fluctuations, abrasion, high humidity, exposure to chemicals, etc.)?
  • What are the dimensions of the labels to be used?
  • How frequently will label specifications change?
  • Will the printer(s) be connected to a network or to stand-alone terminals?
  • What are the anticipated duty cycles?
  • Are there minimum speed requirements?
  • Where will the printers be located, and in type of environment will they operate (temperature fluctuation, vibration, high humidity, exposure to chemicals, etc.)?
  • What is the budget for the project?

For more information on barcoding and all your barcoding and label printing needs, call us as (800) 643-2664 and immediately talk to one of our friendly representatives; or chat us up on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn!

800-643-2664