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Blog on laser marking & traceability, laser cleaning and safety standards

Industrial Traceability: Barcodes and 2D Codes

Laser Direct Part Marking (LDPM) is the identification of individual parts (or bundle of parts) with unique identifiers. The identifiers are marked directly onto the products. Download the guide: Industrial Traceability - How Barcodes Work to learn more on the best 2D codes for industrial applications.

Laser direct part marking can be used to improve industrial traceability

Regular linear barcode - Code 128

2D Barcode - LXQ 3D

Linear Barcode - Code 128

The most common linear barcode is code 128. It features a procedure for encoding the entire ASCII 128 character set. The encoding of a code 128 barcode includes 3 symbols at the beginning and 2 at the end (2). It can hold 103 symbols for carrying the message (3). One of the most interesting features of Code 128 is its validation characters (4). It permits to verify that the scanner has correctly read the message. Finally, a quiet zone (or empty space) has to be kept empty before and after the barcode (1).

2D Code - Data Matrix Codes (DMCs)

DMC image for blog Industrial Traceability.png

a) Data Matrix Code b) Data Matrix Code with localisation features highlighted

Data Matrix Codes are composed of a full line on two of its sides and alternating black and white pixels on the two other sides. It provides sufficient information to locate the code and give the necessary information on the number of pixels the code has vertically and horizontally. Because, DMCs can also be arranged in a rectangular shape. Within these borders, we find black and white pixels in, what seems to be, random pattern. For bigger DMCs, you might also find solid black lines separating the code in equal sectors.

2D Code - Quick Response Codes

QR Code image for blog Industrial Traceability-1.png

a) QR code b) QR code with localisation features highlighted

Quick Response Codes requires more localisation features. They are formed of four squares in the shape of a target. We recognise the same seemingly random arrangement of black and white pixels as for DMCs.

Comparison of the Storage Capacity of QR Code and Data Matrix Code

Thanks to its Reed-Solomon algorithm, the error correction of Data Matrix Codes provides a much higher redundancy than QR codes. DMCs are legible even when up to 60% of the code is destroyed. QR Codes at their highest error correction level (EC level H) will be legible if no more than 30% of the code is damaged.

For a comparable code size, the storage capacity of DMCs is much better than that of QR codes. See the table below for a quick comparison.

 

DMC ECC 200

QR Code EC Level H

(legible up to 60% damaged)

(legible up to 30% damaged)

Dimension

Capacity

Dimension

Capacity

(# of pixels)

Numeric

Alphanumeric

(# of pixels)

Numeric

Alphanumeric

10

6

3

N/A

14

16

10

N/A

20

44

31

21

17

10

22

60

43

40

228

169

41

139

84

80

912

682

81

602

365

120

2100

1573

121

1425

864

144

3116

2335

145

1897

1150

N/A

165

2625

1591

N/A

177

3057

1852

Comparison of storage capacity for DMC* and QR Codes**

GS1 Standard

GS1 is an organization that develops standards ensuring the most reliable and legible codes possible. The main characteristics tested by GS1 are contrast, modulation, quiet zone and readability. Barcodes, QR codes and Data Matrix Codes that comply with GS1 standards are sure to provide the best possible legibility.

Linear Barcodes, Data Matrix Codes or QR Codes, What to Choose

Regular barcodes are simple and include limited information. They usually have a way to confirm the accuracy of scans. But, they have no redundancies built in. A badly placed scratch will render the information indecipherable. Linear barcodes are not the best solution for industrial applications, such as laser direct part marking.

2D codes have a much higher density of information. Redundancies ensures that even if portions of the code are erased, it is still possible to gain access to the full information. The two most common 2D codes are Data Matrix Codes and QR codes. Data Matrix Codes are advantageous for industrial applications because they have the highest redundancy and much more storage capacity for the same surface area.

 

 Download the Guide: Industrial Traceability: How Barcodes Work

 

 


Sources:
 
*GS1 DataMatrix Guideline: Overview and technical introduction to the use of GS1 DataMatrix. rel 2.5.1 , GS1, January 2018. Retrieved from https://www.gs1.org/docs/barcodes/GS1_DataMatrix_Guideline.pdf
 
**GS1 General Specifications: The foundational GS1 standard that defines how identification keys, data attributes and barcodes must be used in business applications. rel 17.1 , GS1, July 2017. Retrieved from https://www.gs1.org/sites/default/files/docs/barcodes/GS1_General_Specifications.pdf
 
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