Choosing a barcode scanner can be a challenging task if you lack experience. This article will provide a quick overview of what you should know when selecting a barcode scanner.
1D or 2D Barcode Scanner?
The first question you must ask is, what type of barcode will you be scanning: 1D or 2D. This is important because although 2D scanners can scan 1D barcodes, a 1D scanner cannot scan a 2D barcode. A 1D barcode has black vertical lines that looks like this:
1D barcodes have a range of symbologies: code39, code128 and UPC are typical. UPC (Universal Product Codes) barcodes are found on merchandise and store products, whereas the other symbologies are typically used for internal trackings, such as manufacturer serial numbers, inventory locations, etc. Most scanners are configurable to filter out and only read the symbologies you specify. If you are unsure of the symbology you’re using, check to confirm that the scanner will be able to read it, if you elect to use a 1D scanner.
While 2D barcodes store more information than a 1D barcode, they require a 2D reader. Common examples of 2D barcodes include driver’s licenses, FedEx, and UPS package tracking. One of the most beneficial parts of using 2D barcodes is that even if a portion of the label is damaged or obscured, the scanner is still able to read it. Generally, most people need 1D barcode scanners.
Imager or Laser Barcode Scanner?
Most new handhelds, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant), or mobile scanners have converted to use imager. An imager enables you to read 1D or 2D barcodes. However, when you are purchasing a scanner and it includes an imager, be sure to specify that you need to read 2D barcodes.
Laser barcode scanners read 1D barcodes by emitting a thin red line of light (the laser). Many imagers also emit a red light line to help the user target what they are scanning. Imagers also tend to read broken or dirty barcodes better than laser scanners.
Mobile, Handheld, or Fixed?
The form factor for scanners varies by the type of application. Most customers use handheld scanners built into rugged mobile devices like Intermec CN3, CN50, Motorola MC55, or MC75 devices. These scanners are built into mobile computers, and mobile software application talk directly to the scanners using the scanner’s API address. Mobile computer scanners range in price from $1250 to $3000+.
Examples of mobile computer scanner applications include:
- Inventory counts
- Proof of Delivery
- Asset tracking and audits
- Operator rounds
Handheld barcode scanners are dedicated devices connected to a PC or terminal. With handheld scanners, it is up to the PC to handle the application and processing of the barcode. These are usually seen in retail environments at the Point of Sale (POS) or mounted on forklifts where an operator uses the scanner to confirm what they load.
Handheld scanners connect via the serial port and can work wirelessly (e.g., Bluetooth or proprietary) or tethered. If they are wireless, they can scan anywhere 2 – 30 feet from the host computer.
On the left is a Janam XT3 Rugged Barcode scanner – IP67 rated, which we offer with our software.
Most handheld scanners can take whatever is scanned and put it in the keyboard buffer. This makes it appear that someone has typed the barcode value. Operating in this mode is simple to use with existing applications. It is important to check that each type of scanner supports this; otherwise, you will need to ensure drivers are there to support the operating system. Most scanners support Windows, but that does not mean they support Windows CE. This application is usually the operating system on forklift terminals.
If you elect to use a BlueTooth scanner, it is important to ensure it supports your device. For instance, if you want to scan a phone or PDA, the scanner must have drivers. You can not assume a Bluetooth scanner will work just because your device has Bluetooth.
Handheld scanners like the Motorola LS 2208 are around $200. Tethered scanners can be less than $100. Bluetooth scanners like the Baracoda or Socket scanner range from $400-$600.
A third option is fixed-mount scanners which are usually installed on conveyor belts. Self-serve grocery checkout stands and store price lookups also have fixed-mount scanners. With fixed-mount scanners, you must ensure the barcode will pass within a readable distance and at a suitable angle. Grocery store checkout stands have multiple scanners to address this. In applications like conveyor belts, fixed-mount scanners can be tied to light-activated sensors to activate the scanner when the light beam is broken. This enables you to know when to expect to read a barcode and when to control the time to read a barcode.
Fixed-mount scanners for industrial-type use can range in price from $500 – $1500.
If you have questions on scanners, please submit a question. We work with several companies and are happy to assist in scanner selection and barcode label generation.