The GS1 128 barcode has become a standard in many industries for allowing data to be encoded into barcodes using standard formats so that the data can be used in applications all over the world. It has become a standard tool for organizations wanting to improve their supply chain visibility.
Probably the biggest downside to GS1 128 is the fact it is based on the Code 128 barcode structure. While Code 128 is robust and easy to read, it does take up a lot of label real estate – fine for labeling pallets or shipping boxes, but not good for the identification of smaller items.
A much better barcode symbology for labeling small items is the Datamatrix code. This is a modern 2D barcode format that we use a lot for labeling items for our defense and electronics industry customers.
GS1 has taken the very welcome step of producing a data standard that combines the advantages of the Datamatrix barcode with the well proven GS1 data structure – the result being called GS1 Datamatrix.
I see this as being a huge step forward for companies that will be needing to meet the planned Unique Device Identification (UDI) that is being proposed by the US FDA. This is going to apply to almost all medical devices – many of which are quite small. The Datamatrix code is ideal for these applications and the GS1 Datamatrix specification provides a standard for encoding all the product data that the FDA is likely to be demanding.
It is, therefore, quite possible to begin using the GS1 standard today! BarTender is a GS1 US Certified Bar Code Software Product, proven to be 100% compliant with the various GS1 barcodes. The GS1 wizards in BarTender are great, I like the way the FNC1 separator symbol is automatically dropped into place at the end of variable length fields as the spec requires.
The UDI rules have not been published by FDA, but a combination of the Datamatrix code and the GS1 data structure does give device manufacturers a really good option to be able to mark their products in a compliant way. The fact that the Datamatrix code can be printed on many types of durable label substrates or directly marked onto components offers a lot of flexibility.
GS1 has produced an excellent introduction to the GS1 Datamatrix code that can be downloaded from their site here.
Here at Winco ID we have worked with hundreds of defense contractors to help them get going with the DoD’s UID program. As the FDA’s UDI mandate begins to take shape, we will be ready to help medical device manufactures as well.
Are you a medical device manufacturer with a need to add UDI barcodes to your products? Do you see other uses for the GS1 Datamatrix barcodes in your organisation? Give me a call at 603-598-1553 x237 to discuss!