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How Barcode Scanners Work

From purchasing groceries at a supermarket to attending sport events, barcodes are used in countless areas for conducting transactions and tracking data. While barcodes seem simplistic due to being small lines with spaces between, they have revolutionized the efficiency of countless businesses and organizations for tracking information. By understanding the functionality of barcodes and how to scan them with readers, one can increase the productivity of their operations with ease.

First implemented on the packages of chewing gum in 1974, barcodes can now be found on almost every purchasable product or packaging. Additionally, the same barcode technology that small businesses use can be found in most multinational corporations, ensuring standardization and a simplification of processes. Simply put, barcodes are a method of representing data in an efficient visual form for machines to read. The Universal Product Code or UPC, is the barcode type most recognizable by many, and it consists of the visual barcode and a 12-digit UPC number.

With the first six digits of the UPC, the manufacturer of the item is identified. With the following 5 digits, the item is given a unique identifier for scanning. The final digit is a check digit that of which serves to ensure that barcode scanners are reading correctly. With the linear barcode above the UPC digits, much more information may be contained that barcode scanners will pick up. With the barcode, price, quantities, images, and even websites can be contained and read with a scanner. As a form of barcode, QR codes are another type of 2D barcode that may contain a plethora of information for scanning.

While the barcode is very important for improving data tracking, they are simply images without barcode scanners to translate them. Generally, the scanner consists of three different parts which are the illumination system, light sensor, and decoder. With the illumination system, a red light is cast upon the barcode, allowing for the scanner to pick up information easier. Then, the light sensor utilizes reflections to detect the code and transmits it to the decoder in the form of an analog signal. Once the decoder receives the transmission, it then interprets the 2D barcode, confirms the check digit, and then displays the related information in text for the operator.

Depending on the need of a particular business or organization, a number of barcode scanner types may be used. With the pen-type reader, the device consists of a small light source and photodiode which can be moved across bars for reading. With the laser scanner, operations are similar to the pen-type reader, though a laser beam is used instead for illumination. Camera-based readers are a bit more advanced, using image processing to translate barcodes. CCD readers, otherwise known as LED scanners, are another common type of barcode scanner that contains hundreds of light sensors to achieve optimal readings. Beyond such common barcode scanners, entities may also use technologies such as cell phone cameras, handheld scanners, and much more for scanning barcodes.

When you need to upgrade your processes and improve your data tracking efficiency, let the experts at Purchasing Union help you secure the most reliable and advanced systems and parts. We invite you to explore our robust part catalogs at your leisure, or you may take advantage of our included search engine to find specific items or manufacturers in a matter of moments. If there are particular items from our inventory that you wish to procure, we invite you to fill out and submit an Instant RFQ form as provided on our website. Get started today and experience how we are revolutionizing the part procurement process for our customers.


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May 5, 2021

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