Laser or Imager for your next barcode scanner?

Linear Imager Scanner - Winco ID The last couple of years have seen some changes in barcode scanner technology – in particular how imager type scanners are gradually taking over from laser based ones.

For 2D barcodes such as the Datamatrix and QR Codes, there is no contest, it has to be an imager based scanner, but until recently I always preferred laser for linear barcode applications.

The scanner that first got me taking imagers seriously, was the fabulous EX25 scan engine from Intermec. It’s hard to believe, that I first wrote about this in a story on the Intermec CK3 computer, way back in 2009. This scan engine is now in its third generation and is still (in my purely subjective opinion) the one the rest have to try and beat. Not only is the EX25 able to read both linear and 2D barcodes over extreme long distances, we have proven several times that it beats the Intermec high resolution scan engine when it comes to reading tiny barcodes – way down to 3 mils size.

Motorola LI4278 Winco IDOther scanner manufacturers also seem to be making the move to the all digital imager approach as well. Motorola has recently replaced the laser based LS4278 cordless scanner with a digital imager enhanced LI4278 – like the one sitting on my desk.

Outwardly, the new scanner looks exactly the same as the one it replaces (and uses the same accessories too, which is a good thing) and I’ve found the performance to be first class.

Unlike the Intermec EX25, the LI4278 is for linear barcodes only. But for applications needing a good general purpose cordless scanner for barcodes such as UPC, Code128 or Code39, this might be just what you need for the job.

The older laser version had a number of moving parts, such as the motor and mirror for steering the beam around, whereas the LI4278 is completely solid state – less to go wrong when that clumsy operator drops the device.

I admit it, I’ve been rather slow to embrace the whole imager concept but the latest iterations of these scanners have me on board now.

What do you think? Are you a laser or imager scanner user? What technology do you think is best for your next barcode application?

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