Industrial Barcode Reading

What is a Barcode

A barcode is a machine-readable pattern applied to products, packages, or parts. Barcodes contain data used for informational and marketing purposes as well as for tracking products throughout their lifecycle.

> Back-to-Basics: Introduction to Barcode Reading and Symbologies

Although barcode technology was originally patented in 1952, it wasn't until 1974 that the first product – a package of Wrigley's gum – was scanned at a Marsh supermarket in Ohio. Today, barcodes come in dozens of different formats, from a row of simple lines called a 1-D (one-dimensional) barcode to dots and squares that form a 2-D (two-dimensional) code; QR (Quick Response) and DataMatrix codes are among the most popular 2-D codes.

The more advanced 2-D code allows users to store and retrieve significantly more data than they could with a 1-D code. This is because 1-D codes only contain data in the horizontal direction whereas 2-D codes contain information both vertically and horizontally.

How Laser Scanners Work

Traditionally, 1-D barcodes have been "read" by laser scanners. With this technology, a laser beam hits a rotating prism that directs the beam onto the barcode, where a sensor is used to capture the light intensity that is reflected back, distinguishing between black and white bars. Unfortunately, this scanning method has several limitations. For example, laser scanners cannot read 2-D codes, which are increasingly used in consumer and industrial applications ranging from aerospace and automotive to food and pharmaceuticals. Laser scanners also use mechanical rotating or oscillating mirrors or prisms that wear out and can easily be damaged from shock or vibration.

How Vision-enabled Barcode Readers Work

Alternatively, vision-enabled barcode readers have no moving parts and therefore are far more robust for industrial applications. Image-based readers can also read 1-D and 2-D barcodes at any orientation. Single-line laser scanners, on the other hand, are not omnidirectional; the barcode must be oriented in front of the laser scanner.arcode must be oriented in front of the laser scanner.
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