Barcode Printing Technology

There are four basic types of barcode printers: Dot Matrix, Inkjet, Laser, and Thermal. Barcodes can be printed on documents, or more frequently, adhesive labels, tags or other media.

Summary of Different Barcode Printing Technologies

Technology Print Quality Scanner Readability Initial Installation Cost Long Term Maintenance Material Waste
Dot Matrix Fair Low Low/Moderate Moderate/High High
Ink Jet Moderate Low/Moderate High Moderate/High High
Laser Moderate Moderate Moderate/High Moderate/High High
Direct Thermal Moderate/ Excellent Moderate/ Excellent Moderate/High Low Low
Thermal Transfer Excellent Excellent Moderate/High Low Low

Dot Matrix

Dot matrix print technology is a longstanding method of producing barcodes on-site.  The barcode image is produced by hundreds of dots printed in a matrix to make the series of lines and spaces commonly referred to as a barcode.

Advantages

Limitations


Inkjet

Ink Jet printing is usually used in high production settings where production of barcodes and human readable fonts need to be reproduced at high rates of speed.

Advantages:

Limitations:


Laser

A laser printer works much like a photo copier.  Charging particles of the paper that then attract ions from the ink.  These two particles are then bonded together by the heat and pressure of the drum.

Advantages

Limitations


Thermal

Thermal printing includes Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer, as explained below.

Direct Thermal

Direct thermal printing is an older technology designed for use with copier and fax machines that utilizes chemically coated paper.  It has since been transformed into a highly successful technology for barcoding.  The direct thermal printhead consists of a long, linear array of tiny resistive heating elements (roughly 100-300/in.) that are arranged perpendicular to the flow of the paper.  Each printhead element locally heats an area directly below it on the paper.  The image is produced by rows of dots caused by chemical reactions that are formed as the media passes beneath the active edge of the printhead.

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Thermal Transfer

Thermal Transfer printers use the same basic technology as direct thermal printers, but replace chemically coated paper with a non-sensitized face stock and a special, inked ribbon.  A durable, polyester ribbon film coated with dry thermal transfer ink is placed between the thermal printhead and label.  The thermal printhead transfers the ink onto the label surface, where it cools and anchors to the media surface.  The polyester ribbon is then peeled away, leaving behind a stable, passive image.

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Limitations