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Symbology in Barcodes


Barcodes are machine readable symbols that store identifying data about the part or product with which they are associated. Barcode technologies provide fast reliable data collection to ensure part or product traceability, error-proof assembly processes, and enhance customer service.

What is Barcode Symbology?

A barcode symbology refers to the way in which data is encoded, either with spaced lines, dots, or squares. These symbols when read by a barcode scanner, are decoded, recorded, and processed to extract the data for a variety of uses (e.g., pricing, order fulfillment, traceability through production, sortation, shipping, etc.).

Below are some of the most common barcode symbologies.

1-D Linear Barcodes

A 1-D (one-dimensional) barcode symbology is the typical style with which we are most familiar. All the information in the code is organized horizontally in bar and space widths and read left to right by a scanner. Several versions of 1-D codes store only numerical data while others can encode additional characters. The height of the code varies based on the space available on a product and the ability of a barcode reader to read a small or large sized barcode. The most recognizable 1-D barcodes are UPC codes, which are found on many everyday consumer products, like groceries and household items.

Code Types:

2-D Matrix Codes

2-D symbologies (two-dimensional) are a more recent addition to the world of barcodes. By storing data both horizontally and vertically to form a square or rectangle, significantly more information can be encoded than is possible with a 1-D barcode. The 2-D symbology is known for high readability and resistance to poor printing; they contain redundant data so even if one or more cells are damaged, the code is still readable. The following examples demonstrate some of the most popular 2-D codes.

Code Types:

Postal Codes

The postal code symbology lies somewhere in between a 2-D and 1-D linear barcode. Instead of encoding the data in the black bar and white space widths, postal codes primarily use the height of the bars. The majority of postal codes only use numbers, but some are now starting to include letters as well.

Code Types:

Stacked Linear Barcodes

The stacked linear barcode symbology features one or two types of 2-D barcodes. These consist of multiple linear barcodes that are layered on top of one another, allowing a greater amount of information to be encoded. However, to fully decode the data, a barcode reader must be able to simultaneously read the code both horizontally and vertically. The stacking of the codes makes barcodes more versatile and allows them to encode a larger amount of information within a smaller space than most other bar codes.

Code Types:

Intro to Barcode Reading Starter Guide Cognex Dataman reading bar code

Additional Information


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