A barcode (also bar code) is a machine readable representation of information (usually dark ink on a light background to create high and low reflectance which is converted to 1s and 0s, which is a binary language that computers use. Originally, barcodes stored data in the widths and spacing’s of printed parallel lines, but today they also come in patterns of dots, concentric circles, and text codes hidden within images. Barcodes can be read by barcode scanners, also known as barcode readers.
Barcodes are widely used to implement Auto ID Data Capture (AIDC) systems that improve the speed and accuracy of computer data entry. There are many misconceptions also on what a barcode is. In many cases, a barcode is used as the key field to your database of that product. An example is when you go into a convenience store. You go to the checkout and the product is scanned. Information comes up on the POS terminal about that product. Such as price and description. That information is retrieved from the database. Not the barcode. The barcode merely acts as a link to the database on that products information.
What is a Barcode Scanner & how does it work?
A barcode scanner simply eliminates keyboard strokes and provides an efficient and accurate way of transferring barcoded data into an application. Simultaneously, barcode scanners eliminate the need for pens & paper. They improve the speed and accuracy of computer data entry and improves overall business efficiencies.
They come in an arrangement of readers – CCD, Linear Imager, Laser, & 2D. RFID readers are also available but are in most cases, still not a viable option as the tags are still cost prohibitive in comparison to barcode labels.
There are also multiple interfaces. USB, Serial and Keyboard Wedge. (For more information on Interfaces please read Article.)They can also be mobile (Portable Data Terminals – PDTs) and have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPRS capabilities. Or they can just be memory PDT (Batch) and store all scanned data on the terminal until it is uploaded back into the system via a communication cradle.
What is a CCD Barcode Scanner?
CCD stands for Charged Coupled Device. CCD technology works the same way that a camera works. The barcode is photographed & digitised and electronically sent back into the application. CCD barcode scanners are low cost, durable, low power and maintenance.. Because CCD scanners have no moving parts, they are generally more rugged then laser scanners.
CCD Scanners are a touch scanner so the proximity of range between the scanner and the barcode is very close, sometimes touching. CCD readers range from about 0 - 2cm and up to 67mm in width. CipherLab also manufacture CCD Scanners that can read barcodes up to 90mm in width.
Linear Imaging Scanners are also referred to as CCD Scanners. However, this CCD scanner is no touch scanner. It is a long distance CCD scanner which we refer to as a Linear Imager. They have a distance of reading barcodes of up to 35cm. Because they have no moving parts, they are quite durable and rugged with drop rating of up to 2 metres.
Laser Scanners are generally considered to be more superior in scanning performance compared to Linear Imagers. However Linear Imagers are improving and closing the gap on performance. CipherLab’s 1500 scanner competes head to head in many features that a Laser Scanner will give you but at a more cost effective option.
View The Scanning Performance of A Linear Imaging Scanner - CipherLab 1500 Scanner
What is a Laser Barcode Scanner?
Laser scanners use a laser beam as the light source and typically employ either a reciprocating mirror or a rotating prism to scan the laser beam back and forth across the bar code.A photodiode is used to measure the intensity of the light reflected back from the barcode. The light emitted by the reader is tuned to a specific frequency and the photodiode is designed to detect only this modulated light of the same frequency.
Laser Barcode Scanners have generally the best performance compared to CCD and Linear Imagers in certain conditions. However, they are generally more expensive and can be more prone to breakdown. They have moving parts where the CCDs / Linear Imagers have no moving parts. In applications, where the barcodes are larger than 30cm in width and you need to scan In direct sunlight, Laser Barcode Scanners are generally the best option. However, if indoors and you are scaning barcodes than are not greater than 30cm in width, then there is negligible difference between Laser and Linear Imager.
Click on article for more information on Laser vs CCD (Article)
Which Barcode Scanner do I choose for my application?
Barcode scanners will range in cost, performance, size and robustness, depending on the applications that they are required for. Determining the right barcode scanner is generally the first step when considering Auto ID equipment.
A number of questions must be answered when determining which scanner is right for you.
1./ Do you need CCD, Linear Imaging or Laser Scanners.
2./Does the scanner need to be mobile or will it be a cabled (tethered) scanner.
3./Does it need to be robust? What environment will the scanner be used in?
Does the user have a high volume of traffic that needs to be scanned daily? If yes.....consider the 1500 Scanner for its very aggressive and responsive performance
If there is low volume, consider the CCD1000.
Does the user need hands free scanning? Consider the 1500 Scanner for its auto sense scanning capabilities.
Do you have barcodes that have a width of greater than 67mm? Consider the 1500 Scanner.
Cordless Handheld Scanners
Needing a handheld scanner but do not want the restrictions of a cable. Consider the 1560/1562 Bluetooth Scanner for its capabilities of scanning products up to 90m (line of sight) from the host.
Scanning in direct sunlight. Then consider the 1562 (Laser Scanning Engine)
Scanning Barcodes that have a Barcode width of greater than 30cm. Consider the 1562 Bluetooth Scanner.
Scanning barcodes less then 30cm and not in direct sunlight? Then the 1560 Bluetooth Scanner is the best choice as it is a much more economical decision. Linear Imagers used in the 1560 can be up to $200.00 cheaper than the 1562 utilising the Laser Scanning Engine.
Mobile Computers - AKA Portable Data Terminals (PDTs)
Choosing The Right Mobile Computer
For Your Application
Require a scanner to collect not just one field of information such as the Item barcode, but also quantity, location, user, time & date stamps and much more. Then consider the range of Mobile Computers that CipherLab manufacture. Mobile Computers will range in cost, performance, size and robustness, depending on the applications that they are required for. Determining the right type of terminal is generally the first step when considering Auto ID equipment.
Ask yourself a couple of very important questions when deciding on which mobile computer to use.
1./ Do you need a Linear Imaging or Laser Scanner for your Terminal? - It could save you money in your decision. Click link to see more information as well as short video on performance indoors and outdoors on Laser Vs Linear Imager.
2./ Is it mission critical that all information coming from your mobile computer be live? If so, then CipherLab’s whole range of mobile computer have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPRS/3G capabilities. If not, then Batch Terminals (memory - data is stored on terminal and dumped into a communication cradle) are the most economical way and generally can also be the most simplest way of interfacing the data from your mobile computer to your host via the cradle. This is a batch system. However, in some cases like picking in a warehouse, most companies would prefer that information is feeding live to and from your database.
If considering a Batch Terminal, all CipherLab’s range of Mobile Computers come with free software called the Forge Application Generator. This software is free and enables you to develop your applications, menus, forms, the way you want them. It also allows you to decide on what ASCII output you would like to give your data. You can have a CSV comma delimited text file as a output or you can also have a TAB delimited file as a output. Dump it straight into a excel spreadsheet. If you are requiring logic and tha data to be sent directly into your backend system, then all CipherLab terminals can be written in Basic or C. For programming in .Net or C++, refer to our Windows based terminals - CP30, CP50, CP60 & 9600.
Warehousing and Logistics, and field services usually requires scanners to be subjected to weather conditions, dust, dirt, oil, water and users who are not so compassionate about the hardware they are using. This means they will have an IP rating from IP 54 up to IP67 and drop ratings of between 1.2m -1.5m and up to 2.4m. For retail environments and clean and carpeted environments, such as hospitality, healthcare and libraries, then IP Ratings are not as so important.
3./Does your PDT need to be a Windows operating system or a Character based operating system? CipherLab manufacture both Windows O/S and Char based PDTs. Click our article on Windows vs Dos Terminals for more information on this (Article)
Consider whether it is critical that you need a Windows based terminal like the CP30, CP50,CP60 & 9600 Series or character based Dos/text operating system on your terminal like the 8200, 8400 & 8700 Terminals.
CipherLab manufacture both Windows O/S and Char based PDTs. The only right answer to this is which is the most cost effective way of getting the data collected by the terminal, for your application, down into your system.
The complete range of Cipherlab terminals come with the ability to communicate with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) GPRS and 3G
Depending on the application and ruggedness that you require for your terminals, will depend on your choice of Cipherlab Terminal. It will also depend on how you decide to connect your Wireless Terminal to your database. Do you require a Windows enviroment for your application? With all the hype of Windows O/S terminals, many customers get caught up in this and think they need all the whistles and bells that go with it. There are pros and cons of Windows Terminals vs Dos Text Terminals. It may come down to your developer and what they feel comfortable with as well. Generally most developers these days prefer developing in a windows environment (Visual C++,Visual Studio.Net, Visual Studio 2005 - 2010) so if an application has to be written, then a windows o/s terminal will be their preferred choice. However if their is no application needed to be written. If you do not need emailing, surfing the net or VOIP, why pay for something you do not need. Whichever deciscion you take, Cipherlab can offer both solutions to the market.
The 8200, 8400 & 8700 (Dos Text Enviroment) series can be run with terminal emulation - VT100, 220 & IBM 5250. Terminal Emulation . They can also be programmed in Basic or C.
The CP30, CP50, CP60 & 9600 Series are Windows Mobile 6.5 & Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 O/S terminals that Cipherlab manufacture. Remote desktop is available on all terminals as well as well as the capability of using the browser on the terminal to connect to your web based programs. Terminal Emulation is still popular for windows based terminals connecting to your backend.
The Windows O/S terminals are also programmable in Visual C++,Visual Studio.Net, Visual Studio 2005, Win CE SDK, Wavelink, MCL & Kalispso.
Will Cipherlab Mobile Computers work with my software?
The Cipherlab range of Mobile Computers can be configured to work with most software, however, there are a number of ways of achieving this. Cost will be a deciding factor in which is the best way to integrate, and will depend on your budget and which is the most cost effective way for your business. You will also have to choose which type of terminal is best for your business, a Character based terminal or Windows based Terminal. For more information on Character Based Terminals vs Windows Terminals, click on this link - http://www.cipherlab.com.au/files/CL_openvprop.pdf
Integration for Character Based Terminals - 8200, 8400 & 8700 Series - There are a number of ways of integrating the data from these terminals into your system.
1./ Using the Forge Batch Application Generator Software is the simplest option. This software utility is free and allows you to create your menus and applications for your terminal. Define how you want to collect the data and also define how you want to send the data back to your PC from the terminal. The information can be dumped into a excel spreadsheet or as a CSV comma delimited text file into a holding file of your choice. You may have to still manually export the text file data from that holding file. Or you may have identifiers within your software that can automatically retrieve the text file data back, from the holding file, back into the sytem.
2./You can also have the 8200, 8400 & 8700 terminals, programmed in Basic and C. This allows for greater flexibility. Data collected from the terminals can be sent directly back into your backend database. However, unlike option 1, there will be costs associated with this. A spec will be required before costs can be supplied. For more information - http://www.cipherlab.com.au/Programming.html