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An Introduction to Barcodes and Why They Have Become So Important

The barcodes that are attached to clothing items and any other type of merchandise that you are purchasing are a series of printed line bars that vary in width. These are used to identify the item and each item will have its very own barcode. The bars are normally spaced evenly with a specific width that represents the information which is stored in binary digits. These codes can be decoded by a laser or optical scanner which is attached to a computer network. When the scanner scans the bar code the information within the code is transferred to the computer screen.

A barcode is actually part of a complete set that includes a computer, software, scanners, printers and labels. The printers are either thermal transfer printers or direct printers. Mobile terminals can also be used for mobile data acquisition. These come with a built-in scanner as well as a reader, a display unit and keyboard. The Point-of-sale area is also equipped with a barcode system such as high output laser or optical barcode scanners and some have trigger devices for hands-free scanning.

Barcode Software

The software that is used to create the barcodes will vary according to the operating system that is used on the computer. Microsoft Windows is the easiest operating system to find software for. Even so, Apple Macintosh computers offer the best barcode creating software. These computers are perfectly suited for DTP, prepress as well as the graphics segment. Barcode symbology is what the barcode has to incorporate. This is the barcode language that makes the automatic calculations and multiple output options which support the image formats such as PNG, TIFF, JPG and EPS (post-script).

Even though dedicated barcode generators provide the best solutions there are cheaper options that include barcode fonts. Even though this is an option, business owners cannot expect the same quality of barcodes with these fonts.

When choosing software, it is important to keep in mind that it needs to be highly specific and selected according to the application. What this means is that there is different software for print logos, sequential barcodes as well as barcodes that offer product images next to them.

Barcode Scanners

There are many types of barcode scanners available on the market today. The very first barcode scanners were referred to as magic wands as a nickname to their look. These were adorned with a single light-emitting diode (LED) plus a single photo detector. The entire barcode needed to be swiped in order for the want to have the ability to decipher the code. In today’s world the most desired are laser scanners. These utilize a moving laser beam that reads the barcode accurately even though it has super fast speed. Small businesses may not use these as they are often times out of reach price wise. If money is a concern these business owners can opt for the less expensive CCD scanners which use a row of LEDs and photo detectors.

Barcode Printers

Barcode are stuck to products so that they are easily identified when scanned. They are printed on self-adhesive labels using barcode printers. These printers come in two forms: Thermo Transfer Printers and Thermo Direct Printers. The thermo direct prints the barcode directly on the label using heat and light. This is somewhat reminiscent of the first fax machines. Optimal for small barcode print jobs, these barcodes are normally not kept for a long period of time.

Thermo transfer printers utilize heat sensitive ribbons that are placed between the print head and the label. Applying heat to the ribbon creates the transfer of ink from the ribbon to the label. The cost of these labels is more than the direct version but they are more durable. This type requires ink and ribbon which must be replaced from time to time.

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