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What is a Barcode?
A barcode is a square or rectangular image consisting of a series of parallel black lines and white spaces of varying widths that can be read by a scanner. Barcodes are applied to products as a means of quick identification. They are used in retail stores as part of the purchase process, in warehouses to track inventory, and on invoices to assist in accounting, among many other uses.
Two Kinds of Barcodes
There are two general types of barcodes: 1-dimensional (1D) and 2-dimensional (2D).
1D barcodes are a series of lines used to store text information, such as product type, size, and color. They appear in the top part of universal product codes (UPCs) used on product packaging, to help track packages through the U.S. Postal Service, as well as in ISBN numbers on the back of books.
2D barcodes are more complex and can include more information than just text, such as the price, quantity, and even an image. For that reason, linear barcode scanners can’t read them, though smartphones and other image scanners will.
There are more than a dozen barcode variations, however, depending on the application.
The concept for the barcode was developed by Norman Joseph Woodland, who drew a series of lines in the sand to represent Morse code, and Bernard Silver. A patent was granted in 1966 and NCR became the first company to develop a commercial scanner to read barcode symbology. A pack of Wrigley’s gum was the first item ever scanned, at Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio, NCR’s hometown.
Barcodes were developed to improve the speed of sales transactions, but there are other potential benefits to businesses, including:
Better accuracy - Relying on a barcode to process data is far more accurate than relying on manually-entered data, which is prone to errors.
Data is immediately available - Because of the processing speed, information about inventory levels or sales is available in real time.
Reduced training requirements - Thanks to the simplicity of the barcode scanner, employees need little in the way of training in how to use it. Additionally, thanks to barcodes, there is much less for employees to have to learn and retain.
Improved inventory control - Being able to scan and track inventory yields a much more accurate count, as well as a better calculation of inventory turn. Companies can hold less inventory when they know how soon they will need it.
Low cost implementation - Generating barcodes is quick and easy, as is installing a barcode system. Potential savings can be realized almost immediately.
What is a thermal transfer ribbon?
Thermal Transfer Ribbon is basically a polyester film on which are coated different layers. Ink layer is transferred to the label thanks to the heat delivered by the thermal head of the thermal printer.
Thermal Transfer ribbons can be categorized in 3 groups, wax, wax-resin, resin
How Does Thermal Transfer Ribbon Work?
Thermal transfer printing is a fast and clean process with no warm-up or cooling time required. It is not a wet or dirty process either and the results are instantly dry, requiring no curing. By using a single-pass ribbon, the print is perfect from the start to the very end of a roll, making it the standard for producing barcodes and variable information labels, on-demand.
A thermal transfer label printer from the likes of CAB, Argox, Sato, Zebra etc produces text, barcodes and graphics by using a fixed low-powered print head which spans the entire width of the print area. The print head comprises of a single row of thousands of tiny elements (“dots”) of a size typically 8 or 12 dots per millimetre, yeilding a print resolution of 200dpi or 300dpi – but even 600dpi is available.
The Difference Between “Direct Thermal” and “Thermal Transfer”?
A Direct Thermal printer uses the heat from the dots in the print head to activate a chemical coating in a specially produced thermal label, which darkens the area in contact with each dot, in order to produce the label image. A thermal transfer printer uses a thermal ribbon:
Thermal transfer ribbon is a roll of clear plastic (PE) film coated on one side with a coloured pigment, or “ink”, most commonly black (although many colours are available). Depending on the printing requirements, the coating can be formulated using either wax, resin or a mixture of both. The thermal transfer ribbon passes over the thermal print head, with the coated side pressed against the label surface. The heat energy produced by each dot causes the pigment to transfer off the carrier film and bond to the surface of the label.
The element dots which make up the print head are electronically heated up and cooled rapidly by the printer as both the label and ribbon pass under it at the same time. Speeds of 300mm per second and faster are quite achievable with the right match of ribbon, label and printer.