Data Matrix Codes


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What is a Data Matrix barcode? A Data Matrix is a 2D matrix code, capable of encoding very large amounts of data in a compact space. Data Matrix codes are made up of small black and white squares that form a big square or rectangle. They're used in a variety of industries, including aerospace, component labeling, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, defense, mail, and printed media because those organizations often run complicated operations where tracking and traceability is critical.

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Specifications: A Data Matrix is capable of encoding up to 2,335 alphanumeric characters, or up to 3,116 numerical characters. It's composed of several blocks of black and white cells, that form a square or rectangular pattern. Each Data Matrix has a perimeter finder and a timing pattern. It can also encode symbols of various sizes, both large and small. Along the edges of each data matrix code is a quiet zone.

Advantages: A Data Matrix barcode is designed to be read even when it's up to 30% damaged, due to a built in error correction system. It's also capable of encoding either letters, numerical data, or other ASCII characters. Data Matrix codes can be read with image-based barcode readers or mobile devices; a lower resolution is acceptable for scan readability in any position. 

Disadvantages: Although it can store a lot of characters, far more than most 1D barcodes, Data Matrix codes still have an overall character limit and cannot be read with traditional 1D barcode scanners. 

Origin: Data Matrix codes were created by International Data Matrix, Inc. (ID Matrix) in 1987. These codes are now covered by the standard ISO/IEC 16022. The newest version of Data Matrix is ECC 200, which uses the Reed-Solomon method for error and erasure recovery. ECC 200 enables codes that have been 30% damaged to be reconstructed. Data Matrix barcodes have an error rate of less than 1 in 10 million characters scanned. 

Components of a Data Matrix code: 

  • Clocking pattern: provides a count of the number of rows and columns in the code
  • Cell or module: interior components of the code that make up the pattern
  • Data region: can be text or numeric data up to 2,335 alphanumeric characters, redundant data is often included so even if one or more cells are damaged, the code is still readable
  • Finder or 'L' pattern: helps a barcode reader locate and determine the orientation of the code
  • Quiet zone: the margin of white space around the entire code; Data Matrix codes must have a quiet zone to be decoded correctly

The diagram below outlines the different features and symbol terminology for a 2D Data Matrix barcode.

2D Code diagram

Related Bar Codes:
QR - QR is also made up of blocks of black and white cells, along with finder patterns.


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