Using barcode technology in businesses is beneficial in many ways. It improves operational efficiency, reduces errors, saves time, and enhances information access. Various firms, irrespective of their size, use barcodes for their business purposes.
Barcode scanners are important tools which ease business processes in manufacturing, education, healthcare, warehousing and many other fields. Here is a description of barcode scanners that use different technologies.
What is a barcode?
A barcode is an optical machine-readable data containing a series of black bars and white spaces of varied widths. The main aim of using a barcode is to quickly and accurately access information through the code by an automated system. The devices that read data present on barcodes are called barcode scanners.
How does a barcode scanner work?
A barcode scanner consists of an illumination source, sensor, and decoder. An illumination source is used to illuminate the bars and spaces on the barcode. The black bars absorb light from the source and white spaces reflect it. The sensor detects the reflected light from the barcode and generates a signal of varied voltage that represents the intensity of reflection. A decoder with specific software decodes the signal into a readable text that is displayed on the monitor. Data collected in this way is stored and managed by specific databases. Let us look at barcode scanners and their different scanning technologies.
Different types of scanning technologies
Barcode scanners use different scanning technologies such as laser and imaging technologies. The following are various types of barcode scanners.
They are also called as wand scanners and are suitable for low-volume and desktop applications. They contain a photodiode that is placed next to a light source. When the scanner is swiped across the barcode in a steady motion, the photodiode measures the intensity of the reflected light. Since they are manually swiped, wand scanners are not limited by the width of the barcode. One needs to ensure that they are swiped at constant rate of speed at a particular angle. Pen-type scanners are inexpensive, small, and highly durable.
Laser barcode scanners
A laser beam is used as a light source for capturing barcode information. They contain an oscillating mirror or a rotating prism which moves the laser beam back and forth across the barcode. Laser barcode scanners are very precise and accurate. They can read barcodes from greater distances also. They are used mostly in places where barcodes need bright light for reading. They are suitable for applications requiring long range or high density scanning.
Omni-directional barcode scanners
The name itself suggests that these scanners can read barcodes in any direction. They mostly use laser beams as a light source. A set of fixed mirrors and a rotating mirror present in omni-directional barcode scanners generate patterns of laser beams. Like laser scanners, they can also read data from greater distances. They have high efficiency and hence can even read poorly printed, torn, or wrinkled barcodes.
As they read barcodes on items irrespective of their orientation, they enhance the speed of scanning process. They are ideal for reading barcodes a few inches away for retail purposes and also for reading distant barcodes like those on industrial conveyors.
CCD (Charged Coupled Device) scanners, also called as linear image scanners, measure the intensity of light by a series of tiny light sensors. Hundreds of sensors arranged in a row develop a voltage pattern that is identical to the pattern in the barcode. CCD scanners measure the emitted ambient light and hence are different from laser scanners. They are suitable for applications in retail, distribution, inventory and shipping. As they do not have any moving parts like rotating mirrors, they are more durable than laser scanners.
2D scanners use a small camera for capturing an image of the barcode. Advanced digital image processing techniques are used to decode the barcode from the image. The advantage of using 2D scanners is that they can read barcodes moving at faster rates and can be used for industrial conveyor scanning. They can read 1D or 2D barcodes omni-directionally and some can also capture images of damaged packages or signatures.
Choose the barcode scanner based on the type of application, type of barcode, and the environment in which you use it. Remember, selection of a right scanner helps you in improving the efficiency of your business.