Trying to work out how to print your barcode?
Getting your barcode right is an essential step in packaging your product. It can be the difference between your product making it onto the shelves or being rejected by retailers.
There are two orientations to choose from: picket fence or ladder barcode.
So, which one is right for your product?
In this article, you’ll learn the pros and cons of each, so you can make an informed decision.
First, some basics:
In this article, we’re talking about using thermal transfer printers. This is where barcodes are printed using a series of tiny heating elements in the print-head that cause the label to turn black when heated.
These printers heat up and cool down quickly, but not consistently. This can cause irregularities in the way the lines and images on the label are printed. You can learn more about direct thermal vs thermal transfer labels for barcodes here.
Picket fence barcode
When the lines of barcodes are parallel to the movement of the label through the printer, this is referred to as a “picket fence” barcode.
- Pros: The picket fence gives a higher quality barcode. The bar edges tend to be crisper and straighter because the individual elements in the print head are steadily heated for a length of time, dependent on the barcode’s height. This makes the code easier to scan and read, which is what you should be aiming for with your barcodes.
- Cons: A drawback of the picket-fence orientation is that it’s not as easy to see errors. Each line in the barcode requires the heaters of a print head to turn on and off once.But if a heater burns out, it can result in a line not being printed, which results in a barcode you cannot scan. The problem is that the human eye may not be able to detect the error.
There is a solution though – print a verification line before or after the barcode. This allows your operator to easily see if there’s a problem before you print too many.
Another solution is to use barcode validation technology, which scans and checks the barcodes on the line.
Does your product barcode check out? The rise and rise of product barcode verification.
When the lines of the barcode are perpendicular to the direction of the label through the printer, this is a ladder barcode.
Ladder barcodes are typically used for small cylindrical products, such as cans, where the barcode is positioned vertically.
- Pros:Ladder orientations make it easy to see if you have a bad print-head, because it creates a white space across the entire barcode. Often, the barcode is still scannable so you can continue printing labels and change out the print-head when it’s convenient.
- Cons: The edges of the barcode lines tend to be blurred and irregular, making it more difficult to read, especially for small-font barcodes. This is because a number of elements in the print-head row are turned on and off quickly, which compromised the barcode’s quality. Over time, it can also cause excessive print-head wear. Ladder barcodes are not recommended for high-print speeds, as print quality tends to suffer.
The picket-fence orientation is highly recommended for barcodes, unless you have a small cylindrical product. For the best results, get advice from the experts before you invest in any barcode printing technology.
Got questions about your picket fence or ladder barcodeor barcodes in general? Talk to Matthews Australasia. As a Strategic Alliance Partner of GS1 Australia, we know the best technologies and processes to ensure your barcodes meet retailer’s quality standards every time.
Image credit: iStock/ jax10289