Which Barcode?

We are often asked to suggest which barcode is best for a particular application.

Sometimes there is no choice. For compliance labeling, for example, the type of barcode to be used is normally specified by the organization concerned. This might be an international standard such as the SSCC codes specified by GS1 or a government standard such as the Data Matrix codes used for the Department of Defense UID program.

In many cases however, the barcode is being used in a closed loop system. For these applications, pretty much any of the available barcodes can be used.

A key factor is often how much space the barcode is going to take up on the label. In general 2D barcodes such as Data Matrix and QR Code take up a lot less space than linear barcodes when encoding the same information. The main downside being that the scanners needed to read 2D codes are more expensive than the linear scanners.

I made up a label to show the space taken up by several of the common barcode types:

As you can see, the 2D codes are far more economical with the amount of space they take up – the Data Matrix being the champion in this respect.

I designed this label using BarTender software and all the barcodes have the same x-dimension of 10 mils (The image isn’t full size so you will be seeing a different size here.)

As a believer in using the simplest technology for any job, I still tend to stick with linear barcodes where possible – I especially like to use Code 128 which needs less room than Code 39. When space is at a premium – such as the tiny labels a lot of our clients need to apply to electronic components and printed circuit boards being a typical application – the 2D codes come into their own.

Do you have issues with selecting the best barcode symbology for your applications? I’d be happy to help – you can find me at 603-598-1553 or use the Contact page on this site.

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