Blurred background of Omron Microscan scanning bar codes on vials.

General BarCode Scanner FAQs

Barcode Scanner FAQs. ​Frequently Asked Questions about the technical requirements for Zebra, Omron, and Microscan products

Technical Barcode Scanner FAQs

A barcode essentially is a way to encode information in a visual pattern that a machine can read. The combination of black and white bars represents different text characters that follow a set algorithm for that barcode type. Also, if you change the succession of elements you will get a different text. A barcode scanner can read this pattern which is then turned into a line of text you can understand.

A barcode can hold any type of text information, but with product labels, the price is not usually encoded. Although the barcode will indicate what product it is and your software or database will have the pricing information.

1D (linear) code is the typical “picket fence” style barcode that people are most familiar with. Thereupon, are several versions of 1D codes and some inscribe only numbers while others can inscribe any keyboard character. All the information in the code is organized horizontally from left to right. Furthermore, these types of codes can be read by any type of barcode scanner.

One Dimensional (1D) Barcode

1D barcode example for

2D barcodes are a bit more complex as they organize information vertically and horizontally. This allows 2D codes to hold much more information and take up less space than a 1D code. 2D codes require an imager scanner to be read properly.

Two Dimensional (2D) Barcodes

2D barcode example for
QR Code
1D barcode visual example for
2D barcode visual example for

Depending on the specific barcode type, 1D barcodes can have from 20-25 characters while 2D codes can go up to 2,000 characters. Therefore, the concern is that as you increase the amount of information in the barcode the bigger it will become. Because this is especially the case with 1D barcodes, most people encode 8-15 characters.

Barcodes can come in a wide range of sizes and can get down to a 1/8th inch square when using a 2D code. There is a trade-off since making such a small code can limit the number of characters you use. This will require a high-resolution label printer to ensure the quality of the print is still readable by a scanner. Also, the smaller a code becomes the more difficult it is to read.

UPC Number and UPC Barcode Scanner FAQs

If you sell products to a distributor or a retailer, you will need a UPC barcode. Although it is best to contact the company selling your product to find out their policy on UPC barcodes. When you obtain your UPC number, you will also get a certificate authenticating your number. Most retailers require proof of the certificate to verify that your number is unique and authorized. Here are some examples:

  • Tracking internal inventory-No
  • Selling products directly to customers-No
  • Selling products through a distributor or retailer-Most of the time
  • Selling products through a major national store-Yes

Only GS1 US can issue you a globally unique “GS1 Company Prefix” that is used to create UPC numbers.

Follow this link for all the information you need to start this process: Apply for a UPC Barcode

The fee is determined by the number of unique products you need to identify as well as gross sales revenue. the prices vary so greatly, only GS1 can give you an accurate cost for this.

Barcodes on packaged foods are an example of the UPC-A code format. It is 12 digits long and looks something like this:

1D barcode example for with explanation of UPC, company profix and item reference.

The UPC number itself is referred to as the GTIN (Global Trade Item Number). The GTIN is made up of two parts: The UPC Company Prefix and the number that you have assigned to that unique product.

This first component, the UPC Company Prefix, is between 6 and 10 digits and is assigned to you by GS1. Also, the number of digits is determined by how many products you will need to assign numbers to. But, if you have thousands of products, your company prefix will need to be fewer digits. If you have just a few products, your company prefix will likely be closer to 10 digits long. This company prefix number will define you as the manufacturer of all of your products, as well as in any EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) applications.

The next component is a unique number used to reference a specific product. It is called an “Item Reference Number.” This number is not assigned by GS1, it is up to the manufacturer to assign the unique Item Reference Number for a given product.

The last component is a number check digit calculated from the previous 11 digits. It is not randomly assigned. The barcode label printing software you use will calculate this check digit for you.

Yes! Once you have your unique GS1 number, contact High-Mark Systems for assistance with selecting a barcode label printer.

Barcode Printing FAQs

Direct thermal is a printing process that uses a label coated with a heat-sensitive layer and does not use a ribbon or ink to print. An image is burned into the paper where with the thermal transfer you use a ribbon to print onto the label. Because direct thermal will fade in approximately 1 year and is not a good choice for environments with higher temperatures or exposure to sunlight. Also, thermal transfer print is a more permanent solution and will not fade.

DPI stands for Dots Per Inch and is a measure of a printer’s resolution. The higher the number, the finer the print will be. Most applications are suitable at 203 dpi but in cases where logos/images or very small labels are being made, you will want 300 or 600 dpi.

The number of labels per roll will depend on how tall the label is. But the shorter the label the more you will get per roll.

Once you have a barcode label printer and media you will need barcode label design software to create and print a label. In this software, you can place barcodes, text, and images to fit your design requirements and then send the print job to your printer.

A dispenser is an accessory feature available on most label printers that will peel the backing off of the label as it comes out of the printer. This is very useful for applications that will apply the label immediately after print since it saves time for the user. Because it can also be disabled if not needed.

Label printers are divided into two categories based on their size and maximum print duty cycle. Desktop printers are smaller and best for low-volume applications such as office labeling or small retail store. Tabletop printers are meant for making hundreds or thousands of labels daily and are physically more robust to handle harsher environments.

Barcode Scanning FAQs

barcode scanner picks up the black and white elements of the barcode which follow a specific algorithm that is turned into a corresponding text string by the scanner. Then this information is then sent over to your computer by the scanner no different than a standard keyboard does. And this string of text will populate where ever your cursor is on the screen at that time.

Barcode scanners do not require any special software or driver to function properly. They will mimic a keyboard and will be recognized by your computer as a general input device.

The range of a cordless barcode scanner does vary by model but most units use Bluetooth (Class 2) technology and have a range of 33 feet. Also, some of the rugged barcode scanners will use Class 1 Bluetooth which has a range of over 300ft.

In order to read a barcode off of a screen, you will need to have a 2D imaging scanner as it processes images as opposed to reflected light. A standard laser barcode scanner will not be able to read anything from a screen.

Barcode scanners use a Class II laser which is not harmful to your body or eyes.

Most barcode scanners come with a 6-foot cable. But longer lengths are available for many models.

2D barcodes do require a specific type of scanner called a 2D Imager. The common laser barcode scanner reads codes by reflecting light from the black and white lines of a barcode and since the laser is a single line it only reads horizontally across the barcode. And an imager takes a picture of the barcode and analyzes this to decode the information. But since 2D barcode data are organized vertically and horizontally only an imager can properly decode all the information.

Additional Questions About Barcode Scanner FAQs

1D codes are the most familiar. The common UPC code found on grocery and consumer items is a linear code that uses variable-width lines and spaces to encode the data. These codes hold a limited number of characters; in order to add more numbers, the barcode itself has to be longer. 2D barcodes use a matrix or pattern to encode data. These patterns of squares, dots, hexagons and other shapes can be much smaller than linear codes but hold significantly more data (thousands of characters) because the information is encoded in both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the pattern.

1D barcodes usually encode a string of numeric such as product number, production date, type, size, and so on.

The modern-day one-dimensional barcode is read using a scanner. This scanner sends out a laser that detects the pattern. When the laser of a particular frequency sweeps across the barcode, some light is absorbed while the rest reflects.

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Great Lakes Barcode logo with picture of lake superior and 2d bar code