A barcode is a mass of data that is encoded in the form of dots, lines, geometrical shapes and spaces. The data consists of details of a particular product such as price, date of manufacturing, etc.
A barcode printer is a computer peripheral specifically made to print barcodes on labels or tags that can either be directly printed on or attached to a product.
Barcode printers are of various types: inkjet printers, laser printers and thermal printers. The first is least recommended for industrial printing as they cannot print on different materials and are limited to printing paper and cause ink splatter and bleeding. Laser Printers on the other hand, are incompatible with barcode printing as their ink cost is high, they tend to overheat label adhesives and are unable to produce tiny barcodes.
A thermal barcode printer is of two types – Direct Thermal Printer and Thermal Transfer Printer. While the former generates heat to turn a specific paper black, the latter projects the heat on an ink ribbon that runs over the label tag. Direct Thermal Printers are cost-efficient but their print may fade when exposed to heat or direct sunlight. Thermal Transfer Printers on the other hand, ensure longevity of barcodes and are therefore, more expensive.
Barcode Printers are used in many industries:
- Healthcare and Medicine where they are used to print on patient tags, lab samples, medicines, rack labelling, identification of medicines and schedule H drugs etc.
- Grocery retail where barcodes are printed on merchandise which give essential details about the products and also help inventory management, etc.
- Warehousing, to keep track of inventory in stock and in transit, and to categorise inventory based on their perishability, industry or purchase status.
- Construction sites where large equipment need to be tracked to know which projects they are used in
- Food Packaging industry where barcode labels distinguish between perishable and non-perishable products and also inventory and transport management of food. Thermal Transfer labels are usually used for non-perishable products and Direct Thermal labels for perishable products.
- Recreational activities such as barcodes on event tickets and on outdoor activity products such as bicycles, tents, climbing or trekking gear, etc.
The basic feature of a barcode is storing data that will be available on scanning the barcode. Earlier, retailers employed and trained individuals to document data about products and packages which was time consuming and error-prone.
By utilising barcode printers, retailers can cut costs on employment and training and direct their personnel elsewhere. A barcode printer is incorporated with the ability to support the barcode structure that helps any business supervisor in tracking inventory.
These days, scanning barcodes has become infinitely easier through smartphones. All an individual has to do is download the right app for scanning barcodes and use their phone cameras to scan any barcode they come across. After the scan, the phone would display the data in the barcode to the individual.
Some of the leading brands that manufacture barcode printers and are available in India are GoDex, Toshiba, Argox, Bixolon, Honeywell, Zebra, TVSE etc.
In today’s fast world, Barcode Printers have made documenting and accessing information easier and have also drastically transformed the Point Of Sale (POS) market.