Data Matrix & 2D Barcode FAQ's

Data Matrix & 2D Barcode FAQ's

What are 2D barcodes?

Unlike a 1D barcode that stores data in a line of black and white bars, a 2D barcode stores a lot more data in a grid of black and white squares that can be arranged in either a square or a rectangular pattern. They look a bit like very small crossword puzzles and are often found on packaging, posters and on manufacturing parts. Data is stored both horizontally and vertically, resulting in significantly greater storage capacity than a 1D barcode. 2D barcodes are machine readable and can pass on text or numeric data in the blink of an electronic eye.

A Data Matrix code is the name given to a particular type of 2D barcode as defined by the ISO/IEC 16022 international standard. Each Data Matrix has 2 solid adjacent borders that form an ‘L’ shape. This ‘L’ is called a “finder pattern” and ensures that the code can be read regardless of its orientation.

Data Matrix codes are formed by a series of equally sized squares and so are ideal for marking with dot-peen machines.

Each Data Matrix can store up to 3116 numbers or 2335 alphanumeric characters from the full ASCII range, and this data can even be encrypted for security purposes.

Another key advantage of a Data Matrix is error proofing. Codes can be designed to ensure that even when partially damaged or obscured a majority of data can be recovered from them.

A QR code (Quick Response Code) is another type of 2D barcode, first developed in the Japanese automotive industry, but has since become widely used in advertising applications. The amount of data that can be stored in a QR code depends on the data type and the error correction level. There are four correction levels, the higher the level, the less storage capacity. A QR code is recognisable by three distinctive squares at the corners.

Pryor supplies a range of products for marking, reading and managing 2D barcodes. Data Matrix codes are believed to be the more secure and are favoured where high security is deemed important. Pryor’s dot-peen, laser, chemical etching and inkjet machines are all suitable for Data Matrix marking applications. Laser, Inkjet and chemical etching are suitable for marking QR codes as well.

How much data can be stored in a Data Matrix?

Data Matrix codes can store up to 3116 numbers or 2335 alphanumeric characters.

This maximum size is a 144 square matrix of dots. In its rectangular format the maximum data is 71 characters.

The smallest Data Matrix codes are a 10x10 matrix, which can store just 6 numbers.

A Data Matrix code is particularly useful when used as a unique identifier that refers to a remote database. This allows you to retrieve unlimited amounts of data from a database stored in your main IT system. Using a Data Matrix code in this way allows you to limit access to certain data, which enables you to keep complete manufacturing data in one place.

Pryor supplies a range of Data Matrix marking machines, readers and verifiers, and data management software.

How small can a Data Matrix be?

The smallest Data Matrix is 10 dots square, but the physical size of the mark is scalable, so there is no limitation to how small the dots can be.

As a guideline, there have been applications in which the Data Matrix has been laser etched smaller than 0.2sqmm.

The key consideration is usually the ability to read the code. Advanced optics and lighting can be used to maximise resolution. The most powerful readers which Pryor supplies can decode 1sqmm codes.

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