Industrial Automation


Know Your Tech

Codes and Symbols

Codes and Symbols

Linear or 1D barcodes have been in use since the 1970s and are the most common symbol used for part tracking. Today, increasing numbers of manufacturers are using two-dimensional symbols (2D), such as Data Matrix, that offer greater placement flexibility and increased data capacity.

>Linear Barcodes
>Stacked Codes
>2D Codes
>OCR Fonts

Linear Barcodes

Code 128  

Description:  Considered a condensed symbology, and has a check digit. 

Advantages: reliability, variable length, full ASCII, densest linear symbology when dealing with long strings of numbers and self checking.

 Code 128 Barcode


Description: Familiar code found on almost any grocery store product. Numeric characters only: 0-9. Contains a two part label: manufacturing ID # and product ID #.

Advantages: Common 1D code and uses a check digit.

 UPC/EAN barcode

Code 39

Description: Can be situated as a shorter rectangle. Most commonly used barcode, and was the first alphanumeric code developed. Adopted by the healthcare industry. 

 Common code, variable length, can use a check digit, and is easy to read and print.

 Code 39

I2 of 5

Description: Must have an even number of characters and uses numeric characters only. Check digit is recommended for use in the distribution industry (warehousing & shipping). Considered a condensed symbology, and used primarily for non-critical applications.

Advantages: Most condensed symbology for standard numerical messages under 10 digits and is easy to read.

I2 of 5

Stacked Codes


Description: Two linear barcode elements on each side, with a series of 1D symbols stacked on top of one another which make a pattern. Stands for Portable Data File. Complies with AIM standard. Built-in Reed-Solomon error correction level, which means that if the symbol is damaged, it is likely still readable. Can encode more data than a linear code. First symbology to use codewords. 

Advantages: Adjustable aspect ratio. Large amount of data encoding. Lower end user cost as it can be read by most laser scanners and smart camera technology.

PDF417 Barcode

2D Codes

Data Matrix (Click here for more information)

Description: Identifiable by a distinct "L" pattern and codes are most often square in shape. One of the most robust types of codes, it encodes large amounts of both numeric and alphanumeric data. Symbol size ranges from 10 X 10 to 144 X 144 rows and columns. 

Advantages: Small size. No orientation requirements, very secure and robust code, and can be read even if damaged.

Datamatrix code

QR Code

Description: Usually has 3 square-shaped areas located in each corner with patterned areas surrounding each element. An alternative 2D code, QR stands for "Quick Response". QR codes are popular in Japan.

Advantages: Small size, very high capacity. No orientation requirements, can be read if damaged and can encode Kanji characters.

QR code example


Description: Has a square matrix of circular dots. It is also known as Dotcode A. The matrix can be any size between 6 x 6 and 12 x 12 dots. Certain dots must be in pre-specified positions in order to provide orientation and size information to a scanner. There are clear areas surrounding each dot which contain no information.

Advantages: DotCode's flexibility and high error correction capabilities makes it appealing to industries that require security and durability from the barcodes they use.

Dotcode code

OCR Fonts


Description: OCR-A is a widely used font in a variety of industries. The characters appear more block-like than other OCR fonts. The characters are printed in a format that can be read by both machines and humans and can be directly marked on parts.  

Advantages: Font choices are standardized. OCR-A is considered more accurate.



Description: OCR-B is a widely used font in conjunction with UPC/EAN symbology. The information is printed in a format that works well with traditional printing methods on product packaging. 

Advantages: Font choices are standardized. OCR-B is considered more aesthetically pleasing.



Description: MICR is a font commonly used in high speed document processing applications, such as check processing.

Advantages: Font is standardized.