Barcoding has been around a few decades, but first started as a 1D only symbology. Barcoding technology only used a few symbologies in the linear 1D Barcode Symbology space, usually identified as the ladder style barcode technology. These symbologies are sometimes referred to as fonts, but really in 1D they are different lines and white spaces that determine characters. The main symbologies that were used were 128, 3of9, UPC, and Postnet. These are still used today.
PostNet Barcode Symbology
Grocery stores and retailers use UPC which uses only numerical characters only,. UPC's main symbology has a defined section for the provider ID on one side, and another for the product ID on the other, as it appears in human readable form. Most grocery items have a UPC for each product, and sometimes more than one barcode ID is required, on the same product line or type. This is necessary when size, color, and other parameters are necessary to identify.
UPC Barcode Symbology
Obviously, as with most 1D items when scanned, the system usually looks up the part number in a database that is unique to a certain product. The company, product type, sizing, quantity, and price is determined by the scan. UPC has been highly successful, in at least the ability to adjust pricing, and not have to retag items, but mainly in the ability to control inventory and assets. Some of the desired abilities are Inventory control, turns of products, reorders, and so many things that are an easy ROI argument. Two symbologies in 3of9 and 128 are used mainly in manufacturing, the 3of9 allows for a larger subset of characters including letters and numbers mixed.
Basic 3of9 Symbology typical in Manfacturing
Basic AIAG Label with 3of9 Symbology Barcodes in Automotive
A lot of manufacturing barcodes utilize at minimum a letter at the first of the barcode. This allows programs to easily determine they are putting data in the right spot, by validating the first letter of the scan. With AIAG Labels in automotive, data is separated by this type of parameter. P is for part, L for lot, Q for quantity and so on where Quantity 32 would be Q32. Since this is not mean to be a primer on all 1D symbologies, but just an overview I will mention a few of the others. Postnet is used by the postal service, books have an abbreviated UPC type code called EAN, due to size constraints and other needs, and many others exist as well as variations.
You will find 3of9 and 128 in stores and places where UPC is expected, but for the most part UPC will be in most retail stores. 1D scanners must be read across horizontally through all the bars to be successful. 1D Symbology barcodes were almost entirely read by laser scanners for years. In the last few years, LED technology has really consumed much of the market once limited to laser scanners, due to cost, speed, and fewer moving parts in the Linear technology.
The laser scanner is still used pretty effectively in groceries where orientation or position of the linear 1D is not known. This is especially true in the in-counter scanners where multiple laser orientations are setup in different angles (called rasterizing), so you can get a read in most any orientation. Of course, if any part of the barcode is torn or printed badly it will not read. 2D barcodes address this issue much better.
AIAG with Mixed PDF417 Symbology and 3of9
In the last few years, 2d barcode symbologies and 3d barcode symbologies have become available. It seems that 1D Barcodes will survive well into our future, due to the inexpensive cost of implementation, equipment available, and current investment in the technology. RFID is also a future technology to watch for, but again it is expensive to maintain and operate. The ladder style barcode technology, or 1D will be here a while longer. Please do read our other articles on 2D and 3D, and give us a call if we can help you with any needs you might have.