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Barcode technology is becoming an essential tool for successful companies. Barcoding will
bring to the new millennium what the internet has done for us in the last decade. In order for
businesses to effectively utilize this technology, however, a base level of knowledge of how
barcoding works is necessary. This guide will lead new end-users of barcode technology
through the Barcode Basics and the devices that make them work.

BARCODE is a method of automatic identification & data collection, also known as
the Universal Product Code(UPC). BARCODE is use the Binary System for coding
& decoding. It has the series of bars & space representing alpha numeric
information. Each bar represent &space represent.
A barcode is an optical machine-readable representation of data, which shows
certain data on certain products. Originally, barcodes represented data in the
widths (lines) and the spacings of parallel lines, and may be referred to as linear or
1D (1 dimensional) barcodes or symbologies. They also come in patterns of
squares, dots, hexagons and other geometric patterns within images termed 2D (2
dimensional) matrix codes or symbologies. Although 2D systems use symbols
other than bars, they are generally referred to as barcodes as well. Barcodes can be
read by optical scanners called barcode readers, or scanned from an image by
special software.

History of Barcoding
Barcoding, also known as Automatic Identification (Auto ID), was invented in the
early 1970s. It was created to help large retail and grocery stores process their goods.
It used to be that Cashiers would take a product, enter the price into the register by
hand, and the Cash Register would calculate change and print a receipt. Today, with
the help of sophisticated computer systems, a series of numbers representing the
product in the form of a barcode is scanned. The computer looks up the price in a
master database (the price of a product is not in the barcode!), subtracts it from the
store inventory, and calculates the change. The software also creates reports
regarding inventory levels, shows what products are the most and least popular,
creates demographic reports on individual products and customers, and tracks much
more. The key to the whole system is accurate reporting of the product purchased.
Cashiers are inherently fallible and slow. Barcoding is neither.

In the 1970s and 1980s, companies would hire teams of data entry professionals to
enter repetitive information concerning warehouse inventory, shipping, and
receiving. This laborious process took a lot of time and money and was grossly
inaccurate. Barcoding became very essential for inventory tracking for many large
and mid-size businesses throughout the 1980s. As the technology was adopted for
industrial and warehousing applications, more commercial enterprises realized the
value of improved data management and accessibility via barcoding. The use of data
collection through barcoding expanded exponentially and standards were adopted.
Barcoding Today
Barcoding is happening everywhere. Doctor's offices and hospitals are
revolutionizing patient care. Barcodes on medication and patient ID bracelets ensure
medication is given tothe right patient and surgery is performed on the correct body
part. Law firms are barcoding their case files to help manage account files and more

accurately report billable hours. Post Offices are extensively using barcodes to track
packages all over the world. Rental car companies use barcodes to help facilitate
quicker car rental/returns. Virtually every mid-size and large company employs
barcoding in some manner; usually in shipping and receiving stations. And the retail
industry is dependent on the valuable data barcodes provide concerning product
purchasing patterns. There isn't one day when the majority of Americans do not
come into contact with barcoding in some manner or another.

A short description on how barcode technology works.

Barcode technology works of off a principle called symbology. Symbology at its basic
form is what defines the barcode; it determines the mapping and interpretation of
the encoded information or data. This encoding allows the scanning device to know
when a digit or character starts and when it stops, similar to a binary representation.
We recognize barcodes as an array of parallel lines alternating between white and
black lines. Barcode technology provides a simple and inexpensive method of
recording data or information in a number of applications.

The symbologies of the barcode technology can be arranged or mapped in a variety of

ways. A continuous symbology is marked by the characters beginning with a black
line and ending with a white line or space, while discreet symbologies have
characters encoded as a black line a space and then another black line. This takes
care of the characters and how each individual number or letter is read. The lines of a
barcode also have variances in encoding the widths of the lines. Some barcode
technology systems use two separate widths to determine the character while others
use multiple width lines. The use of any of these encoding styles depends, of course,
on the application for which the barcode technology is being used.

The line or linear barcode technology is sometimes referred to as 1D encoding. While

we are most familiar with these barcodes, there are more complex codes that employ
the use of dot matrixes to achieve a more complex encoding process that can store
and identify far more information. These are referred to as 2D or, in some cases
dataglyphs. They are comprised of miniature dots, like the old dot matrix printers,
which create patterns that are read in the scanning process. They are not limited to
this format and can be comprised of circular patterns or a collection of shapes and
modules inserted into a specified image for a user.

In order to read the data of barcode technology it needs to be scanned by a laser and
then interpreted. The scanners, or lasers, used to read the barcodes measures the
light reflected form the linear barcode technology and can distinguish between the
white and black lines. Calibration of the laser and system needs to be done to ensure
the proper interpretation of the code itself. This has to do with whether it is a
continuous or discreet symbology, 1D or 2D images, and whether it uses two width or
multiple width lines. The most common lasers used are helium neon lasers due to
their low energy consumption and efficiency.

The complex or 2D barcodes cannot be read by a simple laser as the linear barcode
technology can. The barcode needs an all-encompassing reader as the full image
needs to be read. Linear barcode technology only needs to be swept across to read it
as the lines are the same regardless of the position of the laser. 2D codes must be

read or scanned by an image based scanner, similar to the scanners used at home or
in offices to scan documents and images. They are costlier but supply more
information and data. These are used in encoding URLs for cellular phone use and
higher end applications.

Where do you barcode?

Retail Operations
Receiving & Shipping Operations
Manufacturing Operations
Asset Management
Office & Customer Service Applications

Types of barcodes



The most popular barcode format is the UPC (Universal Product Code) Format which
we find on all supermarket products. Available since the early 1970's, this format is
known worldwide and is universally recognized. A normal UPC code contains 12
numerical digits. The first digit tells what type of product the code is on (retail,
pharmaceutical, etc.). The next five digits identify a specific product produced by that
manufacturer. The last digit is a check digit used to tell if the barcode scanner read
the first eleven digits correctly. Manufacturers of retail products must apply for a
UPC barcode for that product by contacting the Uniform Code Council (UCC).
In Europe, the European Article Numbering (EAN) is used. It's like UPC, but
contains an extra digit as part of the identification of the country where the product
Code 39
Code 39 is a two level code that is designed to encode both letters and numbers. The
standard version encodes upper case letters A-Z, numbers and a few punctuation
marks. The asterisk (*) character is always used as a start and a stop character.
Extended Code 39 encodes all 128 ASCII characters. Code 39 has become standard

for Government, Manufacturing, Barcode Industry, Education, and Business

It is called Code 39 because each character is made up of nine elements, five bars,
and four spaces. Three of the nine elements are wide, while the remaining six are
narrow. Extended Code 39 uses certain character pairs to represent characters not
normally present in Code 39.
These added characters take the space that would normally yield two characters, so
the resulting code is longer than normal Code 39 for a given number of characters.
Code 128
Code 128 is the best code to use when all 128 ASCII characters are needed. It is a
four-level code, meaning that bars and spaces can have four different widths. There
are three versions of Code 128. The A version encodes all upper case alphanumeric
characters plus all the ASCII control characters. The B version encodes all upper and
lower case alphanumeric characters. The C version encodes numbers only. It is
possible to switch between character sets within the code by using shift characters.
The advantage of Code 128is that it can encode all ASCII characters in the shortest
possible code length. The disadvantage is, because it has four different bar and space
widths rather than two, more demands are put on printing and decoding

Interleaved 2 of 5
Interleaved 2 of 5 code is designed to encode numbers only. It is a two-level code,
meaning that the bars and spaces have only two widths. The code is interleaved in
that one digit is represented by a series of five bars, two of which are always wide.
The next digit is represented by five spaces, two of which are always wide. For this
reason, an I 2 of 5 code always contains an even number of digits. A leading zero is
usually added if an odd number of characters are to be encoded. All codes have
unique patterns at the start and end of the code. This tells the barcode reader which
direction it is reading the code. Most all codes can be scanned front to back or back to
front, if the scanner knows which way it's going.
Because of the simple start/stop pattern it is possible for a decoder, looking for an I 2
of 5 code, to mistake printing for the code and try and decode it. Many times, the
decoder will be successful in decoding a two-digit code. To avoid potential problems
with I 2 of 5 code, always use four digits or more. In addition, always try to use the
same number of digits and program your decoder to only accept a code with only that
number of digits.

In 1984 the trend to portable databases began when the Automotive Industry Action
Group (AIAG) published an application standard for shipping and parts

identification labels which consisted of four "stacked" Code 39 barcodes. These

contained part number, quantity, supplier, and serial number.
Intermec introduced the first truly two-dimensional barcode in 1988 called Code 49.
Since Code 49's introduction, six other codes have either been invented or have been
redesigned to meet the need to place a portable database in as little space as possible.
The main difference between a 2-dimensional code and a 1-dimensional code is that
the height as well as the length of the symbol stores information. In fact, a 2-
dimensional code is often referred to as a stacked symbology or multi-row code.
Initially, 2-dimensional symbologies were developed for applications where only a
small amount of space was available for an Auto ID symbol. The first application for
such symbols was unidose packages in the healthcare industry. The electronics
industry also showed an early interest in very high density barcodes because free
space on electronics assemblies was scarce.
There are well over 20 different 2-D symbologies available today. The following is a
list of a few of the more popular.

PDF 417
The PDF 417 and Data Matrix codes are the most commonly used 2-dimensional
symbologies today. PDF 417 is a stacked symbology and was invented by Ynjiun
Wang in 1991 at Symbol Technologies. PDF stands for Portable Data File, and the
symbology consists of 17 modules each containing 4 bars and spaces (thus the
number "417"). The structure of the code allows for an information density of
between 100 and 340 characters.
The code is in the public domain. General Motors announced in February of 2000
that all of its suppliers must convert to a PDF 417 standard for all parts and
Data Matrix
Data Matrix from CiMatrix is a 2-D matrix code designed to pack a lot of information
in a very small space. A Data Matrix symbol can store between 1 and 500 characters.
The symbol is also scalable between a 1-mil square to a 14-inch square. Since the
information is encoded by absolute dot position rather relative dot position, it is not
as susceptible to printing defects as is traditional barcode. The coding scheme has a
high level of redundancy with the data "scattered" throughout the symbol. According
to the company, this allows the symbol to be read correctly even if part of it is
The most popular application for Data Matrix is the marking of small items such as
integrated circuits and printed circuit boards. These applications make use of the
code's ability to encode approximately fifty characters of data in a symbol 2 or 3mm
square and the fact that the code can be read with only a 20 percent contrast ratio.
The code is read by CCD video camera (also called an Imager) or CCD scanner.
Symbols between one-eight inch square to seven inches square can be read at
distances ranging from contact to 36 inches away. Typical reading rates are 5
symbols per second.

There are many other 2-dimensional symbologies. Some are proprietary while others
have been introduced to the public. To ensure industry standards, not all of these
symbologies can be used. But the following list provides good examples of how 2-
dimensional symbologies have evolved into what are standards today. Here is a list in
alphanumeric order of many of the other 2-dimensional symbologies in use.


3-DI was developed by Lynn Ltd. and is a proprietary code. It is most suited for
identification marks on shiny, curved metal surfaces such as surgical instruments.

ArrayTag was invented by Dr. Warren D. Little of the University of Vistoria and is a
proprietary code. ArrayTags can encode hundreds of characters and can be read at
distances up to 50 meters and is optimized for reading at a distance or in variable
lighting situations. The principle application of the code is to track logs and lumber.
Aztec Code
Aztec Code was invented by Andy Longacre of Welch Allyn Inc. in 1995 and is in the
public domain. Aztec Code was designed for ease-of-printing and ease-of-decoding.
The smallest Aztec Code encodes 13 numeric or 12 alphabetic characters, while the
largest symbol encodes 3832 numeric or 3067 alphabetic characters.
Code 1
Code 1 was invented by Ted Williams in 1992 and is the earliest public domain matrix
symbology. The symbol can encode ASCII data, error correction data, function
characters, and binary encoded data. Code 1 can hold 2218 alphanumeric characters
or 3550 digits. This code is currently used in the health care industry for medicine
labels and the recycling industry to encode container content for sorting.

Code 16K

Code 16K was developed by Ted Williams in 1989 to provide a simple to print and
decode multiple row symbology. Williams also developed Code 128, and the structure
of 16K is based on Code 128. Not coincidentally, 128 squared happened to equal
16,000 or 16K for short. Code 16K resolved an inherent problem with Code 49. Code
49's structure requires a large amount of memory for encoding and decoding tables
and algorithms. 16K is a stacked symbology.
Code 49
Code 49 was developed by David Allais in 1987 at the Intermec Corporation to fill a
need to pack a lot of information into a very small symbol. Code 49 accomplishes this
by using a series of barcode symbols stacked one on top of another. The code is a
continuous, variable length symbology that can encode the complete ASCII 128-
character set. Its structure is actually a cross between UPC and Code 39. Intermec
has put the code in the public domain.
CP Code
CP Code is a proprietary code developed by CP Tron, Inc. It is made up of square
matrix symbols with a L-shaped peripheral Finder and adjacent timing marks. CP
Code is visually similar to a Data Matrix Code.
DataGlyph is a proprietary code developed by Xerox PARC. DataGlyphs are designed
to merge with the design of the product they are printed on. DataGlyphs can be logos
or tints behind text or graphics. Applications include questionnaires, direct-mail
reply forms and surveys and business cards. This symbol is read using an image

Datastrip Code
Datastrip Code was originally called Softstrip and was developed by Softsrtip
Systems. It is the oldest of the 2-dimensional symbologies. It is a patented encoding
and scanning system that allows data, graphics, and even digitized sound to be
printed on plain paper in a highly condensed format and read error-free into a
Dot Code A
Dot Code A (also known as Philips Dot Code) is one of a limited number of dot code
symbologies. This symbology was designed for unique identification of objects in a
relatively small area, or for direct marketing by low precision marking technologies.
The symbol consists of a square array of dots ranging from 6 x 6, to 12 x 12, the latter
enabling over 42 billion, billion, billion, billion individual items to be distinguished.
Applications include the identification of laboratory glassware and the marking of
Maxicode (originally called UPSCode) is a matrix code developed by United Parcel
Service in 1992. However, rather than being made up of a series of square dots,

MaxiCode is made up of an a 1-inch by 1-inch array of 866 interlocking hexagons.

This allows the code to be at least 15 percent denser than a square dot code, but
requires higher resolution printers like thermal transfer or laser to print the symbol.
Approximately 100 ASCII characters can be held in the 1-inch square symbol. The
symbol can still be read even when up to 25% of the symbol has been destroyed and
can be read by CCD camera or scanner.

SuperCode was invented by Ynjiun Wang in 1994 and is in the public domain. The
symbology uses a packet structure, a variant of a multi-row symbology. The
maximum number of data characters per symbol at the lowest level of error
correction is 4,083 alphanumeric data characters. SuperCode symbols have error
correction codewords, based on Reed-Solomon error correction algorithms, which
can be used not only to detect errors but to correct erroneously decoded or missing
codewords. A user may select one of 32 error correction levels.

Ultracode was developed by Zebra Technologies and is in the public domain. The
Ultracode symbologies differ from most 2-dimensional, error-correcting barcodes in
that they have a long, thin aspect ratio similar to existing linear barcodes and are not
positioned as highcapacity symbologies. Ultracode is especially suited for direct
printing with low linear precision.

Barcoding benefits

Data Accuracy

Label Speed and Scanner Speed

Probably the most complicated part of a moving-beam scanner application is
determining whether the scanner is fast enough to scan a particular label reliably.

Although a scanner can successfully read a bar code in two scans, experts generally
recommend a minimum of fi ve scans to read a well printed label reliably.
The following formulas are useful for calculating how many actual guaranteed scans
will occur given any combination of label size,speed, and orientation. The number of
effective scans from a passing label is determined by:
Scan rate
Direction of label travel
Speed at which the label passes
Bar code label dimensions
Whether the bar code is presented to the scanner in ladder or picket-fence
orientation, the number of complete scans for each pass can be determined.
Ladder orientation
If the bar code label is presented to the scanner in a ladder orientation, the number
of scans for each pass can be determined from the following parameters:
LH = label height (inches)
LS = label speed (inches/second)
Scan rate = scans/second (specifi ed by manufacturer)
The following equation is used:
The 2 factor in this equation is to compensate for incomplete fi rst and last scans.
If the result of the calculations in the brackets is 3 or more, 2 applies. However, if it
is only 2, subtract 1, giving one good scan.

Picket fence orientation

If bar code labels are presented to the scanner in a picket fence orientation, the
number of scans for each pass of a label can be determined from the following
LL = label length
SW = scan width (inches)
LS = label speed (inches/second)
Scan rate = scans/second (specifi ed by manufacturer)

The 2 factor in this equation is to compensate for incomplete fi rst and last scans.
If the result of the calculations in the brackets is 3 or more, 2 applies. However, if it
is only 2, subtract 1, giving one good scan.
The common bar code printing technologies are dot matrix, ink jet, laser and
thermal printing.
Dot Matrix
Dot matrix print technology is one of the oldest techniques used for on-site label
printing. The typical dot matrix bar code printer is a modified line printer requiring
pin-feed paper stock. Solenoid-driven needles strike an ink-coated nylon ribbon,
transferring ink onto the paper or label. The image is built up dot-bydot
in a matrix as the needle and paper are moved relative to one another.
_ Dot matrix printers are readily accessible and inexpensive to purchase.

_ They can print on virtually any type of form, check or document and can print on
wide-web, multi-part (carbon) forms.
_ Dot matrix printers use multi-pass ribbons, which can result in reduced overall
cost for ribbons and label material.
_ Dot matrix printers print low- to medium-density bar codes that may not meet
certain end-user guidelines. The dot size on the matrix printer limits the narrow
element size and density of the bar code. The following example compares sufficient
dot overlap vs. unacceptable dot overlap on a dot matrix printer used to print bar
_ Continuous ribbon re-use on dot matrix printers requires close monitoring of
ribbon condition to ensure adequate bar code contrast. Ribbon ink that has become
exhausted can also produce an image that is inadequate for scanning, resulting in
a low read rate and high error rate.
_ Ink saturation can result in paper bleed which can cause image distortion.
_ A dot matrix-printed label is limited in durability. Dot matrix printers typically
cannot produce chemical- or water-resistant labels.
_ Printing of single labels results in significant waste. The design of the dot matrix
printers print carriage, sitting far below the media, also does not allow one to
maximize the label space.
_ Dot matrix printing offers no graphics printing capability.
_ Bar code print speed is greatly reduced when best ink coverage for optimal print
quality is specified.
Ink Jet
Ink jet printing is a common direct marking process and a favorite on high-speed
production lines. Ink droplets are selectively deflected between a moving product
and an ink return channel. Ink jet printing is used primarily for printing cartons or
product packages with bar codes and human-readable data at very high speed.
_ Direct ink jet printing requires only one step, while label printing requires two:
printing a label and then adhering it to the product.
_ High-speed ink jet printing is a favorite on highspeed production lines due to its
ability to mark on-the-fly.
_ System installation is costly because it is designed for high-volume bar code
printingnot for individual or small-batch printing.
_ Ink jet printing requires diligent supervision and maintenance to ensure consistent
print quality and to prevent ink jet clogging.
_ Dot placement accuracy and bar code density/resolution are limited due to ink
splatters and because the print surfaces are in continual motion.
_ The ink bleeds on some materials, restricting use to a limited variety of materials.
_ Bar codes printed on the dark background of corrugated box materials suffer from
poor contrast.
_ Scanning devices must be carefully chosen to ensure reliable bar code reading.
Laser The laser printer works much like a photocopier; it projects controlled streams
of ions onto the surface of a print drum, resulting in a charged image. The charged
image then selectively attracts toner particles, transferring the image onto the paper
substrate by means of pressure. The pressure from the printhead and drum then fuse
the image to the paper, creating the image.

_ Laser printers are good at producing plain-paper documents that require bar
_ They can print high-quality text and graphics on paper documents and can double
as a document printer when not being used to print bar codes.
_ Bar code density and resolution are also quite high on laser printers, resulting in a
scannable code at virtually any wavelength using an infrared scanner.
_ Laser printers are not well suited for industrial or individual-product labeling
applications. They can be wasteful, as they cannot produce single or small labels. A
minimum of half a page of media is typically required for the printer to maintain
control of the sheet. Unless the label is at least that size or multiple labels are needed
at once, the remainder is wasted.
_ Laser printer label adhesives must be carefully selected to ensure stability under
the heat and pressure of the fuser. Otherwise, the adhesive may extrude onto the
printer mechanism, where it will capture stray toner, or may cause the labels to curl
at the edges. Because of the pressures used in the laser printer image transfer
process, many laminated label materials are not compatible with this technique.
Those materials that are compatible may not always be available in the sheet form
necessary for laser printing.
_ A laser-printed paper label has limited durability. Laser printers cannot produce
chemical- or water-resistant labels and images, for example.
_ With laser printers, toner, drum and supply costs can skyrocket when printing bar
codes instead of typical text. While text requires only about 5% black, bar code needs
can exceed 30%. Toner costs alone could be six times higher when printing bar codes
rather than text.
Thermal printing is classified as either direct thermal or thermal transfer. The two
technologies are suited to different applications.
Direct Thermal Printing
Direct thermal printing is an old technology, originally designed for copiers and fax
machines, that utilizes chemically coated paper. It has since been transformed into a
highly successful technology for bar coding. The direct thermal printhead consists of
a long, linear array of tiny resistive heating elements (about 100 to 300 per inch) that
are arranged perpendicular to the paper flow. Each printhead element locally heats
an area directly below it on the chemically coated paper. This produces a chemical
reaction that causes a black dot to form in that area. The image is built by rows of
dots that are formed as the media passes beneath the active edge of the printhead.
_ Direct thermal printing produces sharp print quality with good scannability.
_ Direct thermal is ideal for applications requiring only a short shelf lifemeaning
the label image does not need to last very long. Shipping labels and receipts are ideal
applications, for instance, while product labels are not.
_ Direct thermal printers are simple to operate compared to most other print
technologies, with no ink, toner or ribbon to monitor or replenish.
_ With no supplies to replace other than the material to be printed, long-term
maintenance costs remain low.
_ Direct thermal enables batch or single label printing with virtually no waste.
_ With recyclable materials available, direct thermal printers offer environmental
_ Direct thermal printers, like thermal transfer, are typically built more durably than
dot matrix or laser printers, allowing reliable operation in industrial as well as office

applications. Shorter label image life limits their applications compared to thermal
transfer printers, however.
_ Direct thermal printing is extremely sensitive to environmental conditions such as
heat and light (fluorescent and/or direct sunlight).
_ Direct thermal paper remains chemically active after printing. Because of this,
thermal labels, tags or ticket stock are often top-coated to resist UV light exposure,
chemicals and abrasion.
Thermal Transfer
Thermal transfer printers use the same basic technology as direct thermal printers,
but replace the chemically coated material with a non-sensitized face stock and a
special, inked ribbon. A durable, polyester ribbon film coated with dry thermal
transfer ink is placed between the thermal printhead and label. The thermal
printhead transfers the ink onto the label surface, where it cools and anchors to the
media surface. The polyester ribbon is then peeled away, leaving behind a stable,
passive image.
_ Thermal transfer delivers crisp, highdefinition text, graphic, and bar code print
quality for maximum readability and scannability.
_ Thermal transfer printing produces longlife image stability.
_ Thermal transfer enables batch or single label printing with virtually no waste.
_ Long-term maintenance costs are low compared to dot matrix, ink jet and laser
_ Thermal transfer technology can print on a nearly unlimited variety of media stock
(except multi-form).
_ Thermal transfer printers are typically built more durably than dot matrix or laser
printers, allowing reliable operation in industrial as well as office applications.
_ Since thermal transfer printers require ribbon, supply costs are higher than direct
thermal. Thermal transfer printheads last longer than direct thermal, however.
_ Single-pass thermal transfer ribbon can be wasteful if little is printed on it.
_ Thermal transfer ribbon is a poor candidate for recycling.
_ To obtain optimum print quality in thermal transfer printing, the ribbon and
media substrate MUST be compatible. Otherwise, the heat from the printhead could
melt the ribbon onto the label causing internal printer problems.
Direct thermal or thermal transfer printers are best when you need any of the
Point-of-Application System
Point-of-application means the printer is located where the label is to be applied.
By printing labels where needed and when needed (on demand), thermal printers
can increase productivity. Point-ofapplication printing is related to distributed
printing, whereby printers are placed at various points throughout a facility. Thermal
printers are smaller, simpler, more durable and less expensive than laser or dot
matrix printers, making them ideal for distributed printing.
Variable Data
Thermal printers are ideal for applications that require individual or batch labels
with variable data fields that change frequently. In such cases, thermal printers
promote efficient and flexible label production with virtually no label waste, enabling
users to print only what they need when they need it.
Varying Label Sizes

Thermal printers are ideal for labeling applications requiring varying label widths
and/or lengths because they adapt easily to a variety of label sizes. (In fact, on
thermal printers with wide print widths, labels of assorted sizes can be printed at
once.) Laser and dot matrix printers cannot make such claims because the
variety of label materials and sizes in sheet or pin-feed format is limited.
Graphics and Scalable Text Font Sizes
Thermal printers can cleanly print any graphic image, including logos. Additionally,
text fonts are scalable, meaning that they can be adjusted to any point size
requirement. (Bitmap fonts, by comparison, are only adjustable to a limited number
of point sizese.g. 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 or 18 points).
Laser and dot matrix printer software do not allow such flexibility.
High-definition Bar Codes
Thermal printing is ideal where high-definition bar codes are required. Bar codes
printed on direct thermal printersincluding complex, 2-D bar codesoffer the
highest first-time scan rates of any printing technology, reducing errors and
increasing productivity.
Compact Printers
Thermal printers are clean and quiet, and more compact than dot matrix, ink jet or
laser printers. Thermal printers come in three basic varietiestabletop, desktop and
Tabletop thermal printers are bigger than desktop thermal printers, primarily
because of their ability to hold a full 8 roll of media compared to the 3-5 roll
capacity of a standard desktop printer. (Larger roll capacity enables users to print for
a longer time without changing media, boosting productivity in high label print
volume applications.) Mobile printers are the smallest of all because they are
designed for portability, often hanging from a shoulder or belt strap.
Even tabletop printers that are comparable in size to some laser printers usually are
designed to have a smaller footprintthe amount of flat surface area that is
consumed. Desktop printers have a footprint about the size of an office phone or
mouse pad. Only thermal printing technology offers the compact portability of
mobile printers.
Low Operating Costs
Thermal printers tend to have a higher initial cost but a lower maintenance cost
compared to other print technologies, resulting in a lower cost of ownership. Lower
long-term maintenance costs can quickly offset the higher initial investment.
Ever since Zebra harnessed the power of the UPC bar code to help companies in
other industries track inventory and record buying habits, Zebra has been equipping
companies with reliable, technologically sophisticated products that help them run
more efficiently and profitably. From yesterdays mechanical printers to todays
sophisticated information management tools, Zebra continues to pioneer new
technologies and apply emerging standards to on-demand printing. Todays most
advanced Zebra printers offer wireless networking, RFID encoding, Bluetooth and
802.11b connectivity, all designed to make businesses more connected and
employees more productive.