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Different Types of Barcodes and UID Plates Commonly Used by Businesses

Updated on September 3, 2015

Businesses everywhere use tags for many different reasons, and more often than not, these tags carry barcodes and 2D codes on them. Barcodes and UID plates as well as labels are often used primarily for asset and inventory tracking purposes. This is not its only use though. These coded tags actually have other uses, and the use of a specific tag with a code is sometimes dependent on the kind of code that is being used on it.

While these tags may have codes that look pretty similar to each other, if you look closely enough, you will notice that not all of the codes found on different kinds of tags are actually the same. This is because barcodes, and even 2D codes, come in many variants. What you choose to use with the tags your company uses is often dependent on where these are to be used and for what purpose.

Commonly Used Codes and What They are Usually Used For

There are quite a number of code types to choose from – from the old style numeric linear ones, to the newest alpha-numeric symbologies, to the more complex and more info carrying 2D ones. Some of these codes are more often chosen by companies over a few others, and the reasons usually include ease of use, compatibility with the usage, and industry standards.

Here are some of the more commonly utilized ones, which you might have already come across at one time or another:

EAN 13 – This is the code that is used by manufacturers of retail products worldwide, and consists of 13 characters under the bars on the tag or label. The number of characters consists of two to three country code identifiers, followed by nine to ten character data characters, and one digit checksum. This code is what is scanned into a POS machine when a person is buying the product.

EAN 8 – This is the shorter and smaller version of the EAN13 code. This is often used on products that are too small to accommodate the longer 13 digit code that can be added to other products. Examples of items that can be seen using this code are candy bars, sticks of gum, and other similar products.

Interleaved 2 of 5 – Industrial and warehouse companies often use this kind of a barcode for their tags. You will find these commonly used for shipping and by courier companies. These come with uniform height lines that are either thick or thin. These may or may not have numbers underneath, depending on the preference of the company that is using it.

Code 128 – This is an alpha-numeric code that is considered the best possible linear barcode around since it has enough space for an ample amount of data without it needing to be 2D. The 128 in the name does not mean that it can accommodate 128 characters, but rather that you can use any of the 128 ASCII characters on it. This is rarely used for POS requirements and is often utilized by companies for their tracking needs when they need to distribute, deliver, and transport goods. These can often be found on tags that are attached to boxes, packages, and crates that are being shipped out.

Code 39 – This used to be heavily used for tracking parcels and packages as well, but has been overtaken by 128 recently. As the name implies, these barcodes can carry up to 39 characters and digits. This is the code that is widely used by the US government and by automotive companies worldwide.

Materials Used in Creating these Tags

While some of these codes are printed directly on the packaging of certain products, some are printed on tags to be attached to the items that will use these. The codes that are used for POS purposes are often found at the back of the packaging of the product, and are printed onto the packaging itself while it is being manufactured. For those tags that are to be used for shipping, inventory and asset tracking, and the like, you will find manufacturers offering the use of materials such as polyester, aluminum foil, paper, and Lexan, depending on what the company requires and chooses.

There are a few however who have these codes printed on metal tags, and these are often the tags that are used on heavy duty equipment like trucks, farm equipment, machinery, and the like. These metal tags have the codes printed on them with the use of a machine that can accommodate metal as the material of choice, and the metals that are often used when these are made are often those that are tarnish and rust proof, like aluminum and stainless steel.


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