Barcode and Label Printers

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A barcode printer is a printer designed to produce barcode labels which can be attached to other objects. Barcode printers use either direct thermal or thermal transfer techniques to apply ink to labels. Thermal transfer printers use ink ribbons to apply the barcode directly into the label, while thermal transfer printers use heat to blacken the barcode onto the label.

General Barcoding
How does a barcode work?
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 (elements) represents different text characters which follows a set algorithm for that barcode type. If you change the sequence of elements you get different text. A barcode scanner reads this pattern of black and white that is then turned into a line of text your computer can understand.

Is the price of my item in the barcode?
A barcode can hold any type of text information you encode but with product labels the price in not usually encoded. The barcode will denote what product it is and your POS software or database will have pricing information associated to this.

What is a 1D (linear) barcode? What is a 2D barcode?
A 1D (linear) code is the typical “picket fence” style barcode that people are most familiar with. There are several versions of 1D codes and some encode only numbers while others can encode any keyboard character. All the information in the code is organized horizontally from left to right. These types of codes can be read by any type of barcode scanner. 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.

How many characters can fit into a barcode?
Depending on the specific barcode type, 1D barcodes can have from 20-25 characters while 2D codes go up to 2,000 characters. The main practical concern is that as you increase the amount of information in the barcode the bigger it will become. This is especially the case with 1D barcodes and in use most people encode 8-15 characters.

What is the barcode on a driver’s license?
In the United States, driver’s licenses use a PDF417 stacked 2D code.

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