Bar Code Printing Methods
GS1 BarCodes are printed by almost every package printing method in the world. GS1 has worked for decades with the printing industry to design specifications that balance the needs of the printer with the needs of the scanner. Before creating a specification for how the bar code will be printed, knowing how it will be printed can be critical. The table below shows how GS1 Bar Codes are printed by major printing methods.
- Consider choosing traditional printing press methods (e.g., offset, flexographic) if you print a specific bar code in large quantities (fixed data content), a bar code with other complex graphics (e.g., multi-color or process printing), or a bar code directly on difficult packaging substrates (e.g., aluminum or translucent plastic)
- Consider choosing a digital printing method if you print small batches of bar codes or bar codes that frequently vary in data content (variable data content).
- When deciding how to print and package your product, a good place to start is to look at the way similar products are printed and packaged. This may help you and your printing company make decisions about what size bar code you will need given the type, color, shape, size, and substrate of your package.
- Generally, the three approaches for printing a bar code on a corrugated box include printing directly on the box using a flexographic printing process, printing directly on the box using an industrial ink-jet printing device, or printing on a label and then applying the label to the box.
- If a bar code is printed directly on a brown, corrugated box, the ITF-14 bar code is typically used because the specified bar code quality grade is relaxed. If information is required that cannot be "carried" by the ITF-14 Symbol (e.g., lot numbers, serial numbers, or dates), then a GS1-128 symbol may be used.
- If digital printing methods like thermal or laser printing are used, bar code software that corrects the bar code size based on the printer resolution is required.
- GS1 DataMatrix is a "2D Matrix" symbology and is becoming increasingly the bar code symbol of choice for many in healthcare. It is easy to print and can even be marked directly on or into metal. Because GS1 DataMatrix requires camera based scanners it is currently specified for healthcare items not crossing POS and for direct part marking.
- GS1 QR Code is a "2D Matrix" symbology that requires camera based scanners and is currently restricted for use with applications that will involve imaging scanners within mobile devices and not for Point Of Sale (POS) processing.