Barcode Labeling Basics
By now, most everyone is familiar with barcodes and UPC codes. Barcode labels are attached to just about everything including food products, electronics, appliances, cars, and even enterprise assets. Barcode labels are an optical, machine-readable label that contain data about the item they are attached to. For example, barcode labels on a new iPhone box contain data such as part number, serial number, IMEI/MEID number, and price. This data can be scanned and understood by a compatible barcode reader. Barcodes are used for any number of purposes including: sales, inventory management, tracking, patient identification, time tracking, event venue management, and more.
Barcode Label Types
Barcodes come in a variety of configurations. For example, you're likely familiar with UPC codes which are found on retail packaging. Another type of barcode you've likely encountered is a QR code which has become a popular way to direct smartphone users to websites or videos. The US Postal Service has its own barcodes (PLANET, POSTNET, Facing Identification Mark, and Intelligent Mail) as do Canada Post (PostBar), the pharmaceutical industry (Pharmacode), the healthcare industry (HIBCC), and many other organizations.
Depending on what you produce (retail products, business, mail, automobiles, pharmaceuticals, electronics, and so forth), you may be required to produce standards-compliant barcode labels. Standardization helps to ensure that the information encoded in the barcode can be easily read and understood by machines throughout the supply chain. Standards specific barcode format, location, and more. Properly barcoded items can improve productivity and efficiency.
Common Barcode Standards
There are dozens of barcode standards around the world, each with its own purpose and requirements. Some of the more common barcode standards include:
• UPC barcodes - UPC-A barcodes are the most common. UPC-E barcodes are short versions typically used on smaller products.
• Code 39 barcodes - This barcode is typically used by the health care industry (HIBCC) and the US Department of Defense.
• EAN-13 - EAN stands for European Article Numbering. This barcode is an international retail product code.
• AIAG - The Automotive Action Group promotes its own barcode for the automative industry — from suppliers to the factory floor.
• Bookland EAN - This barcode is used to encode ISBN numbers commonly used to identify books.
What Items Typically Need Barcode Labels?
Barcodes are used on virtually everything. Below are just a few of the many items that typically include barcodes:
• Business mail
• Retail products
• Smartphones and tablets
• Medical devices
• Lab specimens
• Blood and blood component products
• Vaccines and injectable medications
• Packages shipped by various carriers
• Movie and event tickets
• Enterprise assets (identification/asset management/theft deterrent)
• Patient identification wristbands
Why Print Your Own Barcode Labels
While you may use a third party printing service to print your product labels and packaging materials complete with the required UPC barcodes, you may also find it useful to print your own barcode labels. Fortunately, barcode software and barcode label printers make it easy to design and print your own standards-compliant barcode labels.
First, you'll need barcode software that supports the barcode labeling standards you must comply with. We recommend the following barcode software (trial versions are available):
• BarTender Barcode Software - Click here for a free trial
• NiceLabel Barcode Labeling Software - Click here for a free trial
Barcode Label Printers
Next, you'll need a barcode label printer capable of printing barcode labels with the characteristics (such as spot color or durability) you need. The barcode type, quantity, desired label characteristics, and end use application will play a large part in determining the best type of barcode label printer to buy. For example, if you need to print USPS barcodes for bulk mailings, a black thermal label printer may be all you need. On the other hand, if you need to print barcodes with spot color or highly durable specimen sample labels that must withstand exposure to fluids and chemicals, you will need a more capable label printer such as the Epson TM-C3500 or TM-C7500 label printers. Below are a few excellent barcode label printers to consider:
- Epson TM-C3400 / Epson TM-C3500 color label printers — Print smudge-free, instant-dry, durable barcodes with spot color on demand.
- Primera LX900 RFID color label and barcode printer — Not only does this color label printer print high quality product labels and barcodes, it also encodes and prints RFID labels for the ultimate in data encoding and tracking.
- Seiko Direct Thermal Printers - Seiko’s SLP620, SLP650, and SLP650 Plus are direct thermal printers. With a price range of just $70 to $150, these thermal printers are perfectly suited for printing black and white barcodes.
- Compare Epson Printers
- Compare Primera Printers
- Compare Seiko Printers
Blank Barcode Label Stock
Argon Store carries a large inventory of blank barcode label stock including:
- BS5609-certified labels — For use with BS5609-certified label printers. When you need the most durable barcodes possible, BS5609-certified barcode labels are the way to go.
- Paper labels - Matte, high gloss, and semi gloss paper labels are ideal for a variety of products as well as inventory barcodes, carton barcodes labels, and shipping barcodes.
- Polypropylene labels - Highly durable, polypropylene BOPP labels for any number of barcode labeling applications
- Polyester labels - Clear, white, and vinyl barcode labels.
- RFID labels - Blank barcode labels with an embedded RFID chip for use with the Primera LX900 RFID color label and barcode printer.
Barcode Labeling Assistance from Argon Technology
Printing your own barcode labels doesn't need to be difficult. Argon Technology has everything you need to print your own barcodes including barcode label printers, supplies, and blank barcode label stock. Contact us today if you need any help.