For nearly 50 years, UPC barcodes have been a staple of the retail industry.
While the underlying data associated with the barcodes printed on everything we purchase (using the encoded Global Trade Item Number – GTIN) has become really powerful, the UPC barcode remains unchanged. The only exciting thing has been to add an additional digit to the UPC barcode some years ago.
This is about to change with GS1’s migration to 2D barcodes for retail – known as Sunrise 2027, where one option is to use the new GS1 Digital Link barcode encoding.
Brands will have several choices about how they respond to this initiative.
- Do nothing – continue to use their current UPC codes.
- Adopt a 2D barcode (Datamatrix or QR Code) and encode with the current GTIN – saving space on the package.
- Adopt the GS1 Datamatrix syntax – allowing additional information, such as lot number, expiration date, and serial number, to be encoded.
- Move to the GS1 Digital Link format for 2D barcodes. This allows all the data included in GS1 Datamatrix and (because the data is encoded as a URI) adds the option also to include a link for customer engagement. This option allows for a single 2D barcode to be used for point of sale, traceability, and all the benefits of customer engagement – such as product descriptions and marketing materials, recipes, competitions, and more, making it easier for consumers to find the information they need about products.
The Sunrise 2027 program is intended to be fully up and running in, obviously, 2027.
It is expected that many brands will phase in their usage of the new barcodes, starting with both the current UPC barcode and adding a 2D barcode beside it. After 2027, brands will (if they choose) be able to print just the 2D barcode on their products.
Note that GS1 has been working with POS scanner manufacturers to ensure their scanners will be able to handle both the current and proposed barcodes and extract the data needed for point of sale from the more complex 2D barcodes.
Work is also being carried out to be sure that the data systems used in retail environments will be able to manage the more data-intensive needs of utilizing the new initiative.
Some brands looking to make this a smooth transition are already running or preparing tests of the new ideas.
How Does This Affect Printing?
Today most UPC codes are pre-printed as part of the package graphics. This can be done because every item of a particular SKU has the same GTIN number.
With the move to 2D barcodes, it will be possible to include variable data, such as lot codes, expiration dates, and serial numbers – so the barcodes will need to be printed at the time of packaging.
While most packaging lines already include equipment for printing this information in text formats, the need to print the 2D barcodes on the packaging line will need to be addressed.
How ProMach Labeling & Coding Can Help
When looking to introduce the variable 2D barcodes for Sunrise 2027, it’s essential to understand the different coding technologies available on the market and to be able to determine which best meets the needs of your own packaging operations.
At ProMach Labeling & Coding, we not only provide a comprehensive range of product coding systems, but we can also work with you to determine which technology would be best for each of your applications. We can also assist with setting up your print formats for the barcodes and human-readable information and work with your IT team to connect everything to your operations software.
Our Print Technologies
RAZR from Code Tech
The RAZR printer is ideal for printing barcodes, graphics and text onto various porous and non-porous packaging materials.
- With a maximum print resolution of 600 dpi and a max height of 34mm, the RAZR is a great solution for printing the new Sunrise 2027 2D barcodes in formats such as GS1 Digital Link.
- The high-capacity ink cartridge can be replaced without stopping production.
- Compatible with existing Code Tech software and ID Technology control software built on NiceLabel.
TTO Printers (Thermal Transfer Overprinter) from ID Technology and Greydon
TTO printers utilize a thermal transfer ribbon to transfer the image onto the material to be printed. With a 300 dpi printhead, they produce excellent print quality and are ideal for printing 2D barcodes.
- Our TTO printers have print widths from 32 mm all the way up to 128 mm, allowing them to be used for applications such as adding simple date and lot codes to print the complete package.
- These printers can be used in intermittent or continuous motion modes, making them easy to install into many types of packaging equipment.
Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) Coders, From Code Tech and ID Technology
Thermal inkjet (TIJ) printing has made major progress in adding variable codes to many kinds of products. Our ID Technology ClearMark and Code Tech TIJ printers are versatility and ease of-use leaders.
- Excellent print quality for 2D barcodes, text and icons.
- Virtually maintenance-free.
- Inks are available for both porous and non-porous materials.
Macsa Laser Coders
Laser coders operate by using a concentrated beam of light to produce the image on the product. There are a number of different types (not all substrates respond the same way to lasers, so various frequency printers are needed) and power ratings. Laser coders are capable of printing high-quality 2D barcodes.
- No inks , solvents or other consumables are needed – a green solution.
- Multiple laser types, CO2, Fiber, Green and UV, allow the coding of most materials.
- A wide product line, from entry-level lasers for simple applications to high-speed fiber lasers for beverage cans.
Greydon Digital Printers
The printers from our Greydon brand are ideal for printing variable information onto flexible packaging using thermal transfer or digital inkjet technology.
In many cases, the Greydon printer can print your complete package, enabling you to avoid the expense and complication of managing inventories of pre-printed packaging materials.
Handling the Data
Because the new 2D barcodes can be encoded with a lot more data than is contained in the standard UPC, you must have a plan to ensure the correct data is delivered to your printer.
Our ID Technology Control Apps are built on the NiceLabel platform and can manage the print data for all of the printing and labeling systems on your packaging lines.
Contact us at IDT@ProMachBuilt.com, and we’ll help you make the right start for your new 2D barcoding.