Understanding 2D Barcodes
Capacity Comparison: 1D vs. 2D
A 2D barcode (two-dimensional barcode) is a graphical image that stores information or data both horizontally and vertically. A simple 1D barcode 3of9 or 2of5 (with Bars) has a very limited capacity to store information or data. For instance, a traditional 3of9 barcode can only hold up to 43 characters. In contrast, a 2D barcode can store thousands of characters, providing significantly more information, and is easier to read and use for automation.
Versatility in Barcode Formats
Modern production barcodes: are versatile and can be set up in various formats including 2D, PDF417, Datamatrix, and are traditionally required for auditing and automation for post-production, mailing, and/or manufacturing equipment. These barcodes traditionally serve to tally and distinguish sheets and pages within the mail piece, specify a document number, identify any post-print inserts, and provide the essential auditing controls to streamline the workflow and mailing equipment.
Placement and Purpose of 2D Barcodes
Traditionally, mail pieces are equipped with one or two 2D barcodes on the front page. The one positioned near the address block serves for output verification, ensuring accuracy after the pages are folded and inserted into the envelope. The barcode along the border serves as an input barcode, instructing the mailing equipment on the number of pages to retrieve, fold, and which additional items must be included in the envelope. This input barcode is consistently located on the front image of every sheet, and it stands as the preferred method for implementing auditing and automation in your mailing equipment. While it’s not strictly necessary to add barcodes to the back pages, some financial providers choose to audit and verify the back of the document for added security.
What is in a Barcode
The contents of the barcode adhere to specific formatting rules provided by equipment providers. Setting up a barcode for mailing requirements and even extracting information from the file, such as account numbers and totals, to incorporate into the barcode is a straightforward process. This allows for seamless integration and enhanced functionality within your mailing system.
Why do I need to change barcodes
Moving from a 1D barcode like a 3of9 or 2of5 to a 2D barcode is driven by several factors. This transition is typically prompted by the introduction of new, more versatile production equipment or a need to incorporate more robust auditing into the process. The limitation of a simple 1D barcode lies in its data capacity. For instance, a 3of9 barcode can only hold around 40 characters. In contrast, a 2D barcode can store thousands of characters, providing significantly more information and data. Additionally, integrating 2D barcodes into documents is remarkably straightforward. They can be easily integrated into your workflow, offering a streamlined approach to automation. This makes 2D barcodes a highly effective choice for enhancing the functionality and efficiency of your document processing system.
Adding a 2D Barcode to a Print File: Step-by-Step Guide
How do I add a 2D barcode to a print file. Adding a 2D barcode to a print file is very easy and straight forward, it involves a few basic steps to extract information form the file to create variables and ensure that the barcode has the correct elements for the equipment that will be scanning it. The four simple steps below
Identify Document or Define Mail Piece Boundaries
Identify Document or Define Mail Piece Boundaries
Determine the breaks within the document or mail piece. This is typically achieved by selecting an identifier like “Page 1 of” or a unique element found exclusively on the first page, such as a logo.
Select Barcode Elements
Select Barcode Elements
Choose the elements you want to include in the barcode. Internal variables like page and sheet numbers within the mail piece, front and back of a page, and the mail piece number in the file are managed automatically and will be accessible for use.
Add Additional Information
Add Additional Information
If you wish to include information like IMB (Intelligent Mail Barcode) or Account numbers or balance information, simply draw a box around the text containing this information, and identify the maximum number of characters, padding with zeros. Then simply save the configuration files.
Integration into Production Workflow
Integration into Production Workflow
When you run this through your production workflow, the barcode will be seamlessly integrated. This enables your data file to efficiently drive the automation process.
Following these steps will ensure that your barcode is correctly added to your print file, ready to be utilized in your automation process.
SmartSetup for Streamlined Process
Need to add a barcode faster for a large volume of documents
If you’re concerned about the complexity or time involved in defining document boundaries and selecting text, consider leveraging SmartSetup. This advanced AI tool automates the process by intelligently indexing your documents and generating the configuration for your production workflow. This way, you can save time and ensure accuracy in setting up your barcode integration.
Production Cloud Software for Effortless 2D Barcode Integration
Production Cloud Software makes adding 2D barcodes a Breeze
PRO DocNow: Cloud-Based Solution
cSimpl: Simplified Barcode Addition
PRO DocNow and cSimpl are cloud-based tools that provide a simple and straightforward method for adding production-grade 2D barcodes to Transactional and Variable Data Printing (VDP) documents. These include bills, invoices, Explanation of Benefits (EOBs), letters, marketing materials, and other crucial print communications.
Operations Express: On-Premises Solution
Operations Express is an on-premises software solution that is traditionally accessed via an API. It is designed to add 2D barcodes to documents within a production Automatic Document Factory (ADF) or mailing workflow. This facilitates auditing, verification, and enables the efficient operation of production mail inserters.
Top 5 Reasons to Modernize to 2D Barcodes
Here are the top 5 reasons to modernize your mailing process from a 1D barcode to a 2D barcode:
2D Barcodes Hold More information
Hold More information: 2D barcodes can store significantly more data than 1D barcodes. A typical 1D barcode can store up to 25 alphanumeric characters, while a 2D barcode can store up to 4,000 characters. This additional data capacity can be used to store information such as product descriptions, serial numbers, and tracking information.
2D Barcodes are more Robust and Damage Resistance
Robust. 2D barcodes are more resistant to damage than 1D barcodes. This is because 2D barcodes use a matrix of dots to encode data, while 1D barcodes use a linear pattern of bars. This means that even if a 2D barcode is partially damaged, it can still be scanned and decoded.
2D Barcodes are Easier to Read and Scanning
Easier to Read a 2D barcodes can be scanned from any angle, while 1D barcodes must be scanned in a specific orientation. This makes 2D barcodes ideal for applications where the barcode may be difficult to position correctly, such as on curved surfaces or on products that are moving.
2D Barcodes offer greater Versatility in Applications
Versatility. 2D barcodes can be used for a wider variety of applications than 1D barcodes. In addition to tracking and auditing mail they are used for managing and checking inventory, 2D barcodes have become the gold standard and required for the use of a modern ADF or ECP solution.
2D Barcodes are Technology-Friendly Infrastructure
Technology Friendly, 2D readers are on most equipment today. Barcode scanners are no longer extra cost in much of the mailing equipment sold today, making ease of access to many organizations’ businesses of all sizes.
Additional Benefits of Transitioning to 2D Barcodes
In addition to the top 5 reasons, there are several other benefits to moving from 1D barcodes to 2D barcodes, they provide:
2D Barcodes offer Universal Support in the Industry
Universal Support: As you mentioned, 2D barcodes have achieved widespread adoption and are now compatible with all modern post-printing and mail processing equipment. This universality ensures seamless integration into existing systems.
2D Barcodes are considered the Default for Automation Processes
Default for Automation: 2D barcodes have become the standard for automation in the industry. Their capacity to store complex data and their error correction features are particularly advantageous in high-volume, automated processes.
2D Barcodes are more Efficient for automation Handling and Tracking
Efficient Handling and Tracking: The enhanced data capacity and error correction abilities of 2D barcodes contribute to more efficient handling and tracking of documents. This is particularly important for large-scale operations where accuracy and speed are paramount.
2D Barcodes excel at Quality Control in Manufacturing
Quality Control in Manufacturing: The use of 2D barcodes aids in quality control throughout the manufacturing process. They enable verification of the correct data, ensuring that each document is properly identified and processed.
2D Barcodes Provide Superior Accurate Insertion into Envelopes
Accurate Insertion into Envelopes: 2D barcodes provide a reliable means of ensuring that the right documents are inserted into the correct envelopes. This is crucial for maintaining accuracy in mailings, especially for businesses that handle a high volume of correspondence.
2D Barcodes Provide Superior Streamlining Postal Delivery
Streamlining Postal Delivery: By encoding detailed information about the recipient and mail class, 2D barcodes contribute to more streamlined postal delivery processes. This leads to improved efficiency in getting mail to its intended destination.
Types of 2D Barcode Formats in Print & Mail
2D barcodes have widespread support and automation capabilities make them an essential tool in modern mailing operations. If you are currently using 1D barcodes, it is worth considering switching to 2D barcodes. The benefits of 2D barcodes outweigh the costs, and they can help you to improve your business operations in several ways.
Two-dimensional barcodes are employed across various industries, yet within the print and mail sector, they stand out as the unequivocal choice for auditing, tracking, ensuring accountability, and fortifying the security of your letters, bills, and mail correspondence.
Types of 2D Barcode Formats in Print & Mail
What 2D Barcode formats are used in Print & Mail
PDF417 2D Barcode offers Extensive Data Storage
In the Print and Mail industry, there are several popular barcode types. The PDF417 barcode is extensively used in mailing applications due to its ability to store a substantial amount of data, encompassing text, numbers, and even binary data. These rectangular barcodes can be scanned from any orientation, boasting excellent read rates for swift mail processing.
Data Matrix 2D Barcode incudes High Data Density
Similarly, the Data Matrix barcode rivals the PDF417 in popularity. Its high data density and compact size make it a preferred choice. Data Matrix barcodes can store various data types, including numeric, alphanumeric, and binary data. Many in the mailing industry favor them for their adaptability and size adjustability. These barcodes can be easily resized when transitioning from a 300-dpi printer to a 1200-dpi printer, and they exhibit outstanding read rates on production equipment.
QR Codes the most common 2D Barcode Bridges the gap between Physical and Digital
While QR Codes are predominantly used for marketing and advertising in the Print and Mail industry rather than for tracking and auditing, they play a crucial role in acquisition mail and bridging the gap between physical mail and the digital realm. They are the most recognized type of 2D barcode in mailing, as they can store a wide range of data, including URLs, text, contact information, and more. Connecting a physical mail piece to an online payment site or secure web login is paramount in today’s Omni-Channel world.
The Role of 2D Barcodes in Mail Processing
These are some of the most common types of 2D barcodes used in the mailing industry. Each type has its own strengths and is suited for specific applications. The choice of barcode depends on factors like the amount of data that needs to be encoded, the available space for the barcode, and the specific requirements of the mailing process.
Accuracy and Efficiency in Scanning with 2D Barcodes
In mailing, 2D barcodes play a crucial role in accurately reading, scanning, routing, and sorting mail into the appropriate envelopes. The latest Bell & Howell Producer 400 EVO Mail inserter boasts an impressive capability of processing 80,000 input sheets per hour, equivalent to over 22 input scans per second.
2D Barcodes include Improved Readability and Interpretation
Compared to 1D barcodes and legacy OMR Marks, 2D barcodes are notably easier to read and interpret. They can be scanned from multiple angles and even while in motion, unlike the traditional 1D barcode. We’ve all likely experienced the challenges of using a 1D barcode or UPC code at a self-checkout service.
Redundancy and Encryption for Security
Moreover, 2D barcodes offer the advantage of storing more data and providing greater redundancy and encryption for mailing documents. This makes them a valuable tool in ensuring the accuracy and security of mail processing.
2D Barcodes for ISO Standards for mail
USPS Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB)
In the world of Mail, the USPS Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB) is used on all machinable letters today. The IMB, a 2D barcode, is required by the United States Postal Service for bulk mailings and all presort discounts. It encodes information about the sender’s mailer ID, recipient’s zip code, the serial number for the specific piece of mail, as well as mail class and weight, enabling complete tracking and auditing throughout the mail process. In America, it is considered the most widely used 2D barcode. In 2022, the USPS processed 48.9 billion pieces of First-Class Mail, with the majority having an Intelligent Mail Barcode. The IMB Barcode is considered a 4 State Barcode; the height of each bar is what defines the decimal characters.
UK’s Royal Mail or Mailmark 2D Barcode
Royal Mail in the United Kingdom also uses a 2D barcode for mail automation and tracking. Known as the UK’s Royal Mail or Mailmark 2D barcode, it is available for use in Type 7, Type 9, or Type 29, with 51, 90, or 70 characters and sizes as small as 12mm. This document has not been changes since September 2015.
Best Practices for DataMatrix Barcode Usage
While 2 Dimensional barcodes are clearly the future for print and mail there has been much controversy about patent infringement of the widely used and preferred Data matrix barcode, while it has been around since 1987. When using the DataMatrix barcode it is highly recommended to follow the follow best Practice.
Licensing and Royalty-Free Usage
- Use a DataMatrix barcode that is licensed under a royalty-free license.
- Use a DataMatrix barcode that is compatible with the standards set by the GS1 organization.
- Do not modify the DataMatrix barcode in any way.
2D Barcode Compatibility with GS1 Standards
You can find and locate that GS1 DataMatrix Guidelines here It covers the use in a Square format or a rectangle. The Square format has been the standard however due to space concerns in the board of many letters, bills and Documents, many organizations are leaning towards using the 2D in a rectangular format.
The Future of 2D Barcodes: Square vs. Rectangle Format Choosing the Right Format
Square 2D Barcodes vs. Rectangular 2D Barcodes:
In the realm of 2D barcodes, two prominent formats have gained traction: the traditional square format and the emerging rectangular format. Both formats have their advantages, but recent trends suggest a shift towards rectangular barcodes, especially in high-volume transactional environments. This transition is driven by practical considerations related to placement, readability, and processing speed.
Square 2D Barcodes
Square 2D barcodes have been the standard for many years. Their balanced dimensions offer a clean, symmetrical appearance that fits well within the layout of documents. This format has been widely adopted and is compatible with a variety of scanners and imaging technologies. However, as mailing operations have evolved to handle larger volumes and higher speeds, certain limitations of the square format have come to light.
Rectangular 2D Barcodes
Rectangular 2D barcodes present a departure from the symmetrical square format, offering a more elongated shape. This format provides a crucial advantage in high-volume transactional environments. By extending the length while maintaining the same height as a square barcode, the rectangular format allows for greater flexibility in placement within document margins.
Key Advantages of Rectangular 2D Barcodes
Which 2D Barcode is easy to place.
Optimized Marginal Placement: Rectangular barcodes can be strategically positioned within document margins, maximizing available space without compromising readability. This is particularly beneficial for documents with limited real estate.
2D Barcode High Speed Readability
Enhanced Readability at High Speeds: Automation providers and high-speed cameras have shown a preference for rectangular barcodes. The elongated shape allows for a smoother and more consistent scanning process, reducing the likelihood of misreads or errors.
2D Barcode for the future
Compatibility with Modern Imaging Technologies: Many modern imaging technologies, including high-resolution cameras and scanners, are optimized to capture rectangular barcodes with precision and accuracy.
The ability to include more information In your 2D Barcode
Accommodation of Additional Data: The extended length of rectangular barcodes can facilitate the inclusion of supplemental information, such as serial numbers or batch identifiers, without sacrificing readability.
Automation inspired 2D Barcodes
Futureproofing for Evolving Automation Needs: As automation technology continues to advance, the rectangular format positions mailing operations to seamlessly adapt to new equipment and systems.
2D Barcodes: Square vs. Rectangle Format
In summary, while square 2D barcodes have served as a reliable standard, the trend towards rectangular formats reflects a strategic evolution in response to the demands of high-volume transactional environments. The elongated shape of rectangular barcodes enables more efficient placement and enhances readability at high speeds. This shift not only addresses immediate operational needs but also positions organizations to embrace future automation advancements.
2D Barcodes: What fits your document Layout
Ultimately, the choice between square and rectangular 2D barcodes should be guided by the specific requirements and constraints of each mailing operation. Evaluating factors such as document layout, automation capabilities, and compatibility with existing equipment will help determine the most effective barcode format for optimizing efficiency and accuracy in mail processing.