Better Barcoding: The Benefits of Laser Scanners

Laser has a way of making any technology inherently better, so it makes sense that laser barcode scanners would provide many benefits. Laser scanners read a bar code using two optical systems, a scanning optics system and a collection optics system. The scanning optics system uses a lens to focus a laser beam while an oscillating scan mirror moves the beam back and forth across the bar code quickly, creating a laser line to illuminate the bar code.

The collections optics system collects the laser light as it reflects off the barcode and then focuses that light on to a photo detector. The collection optics system helps the scanner block external light that can block the laser light. Finally, the photo detector changes the laser light it gathers into an electrical analog signal, which it then converts it into digital data.

The laser scanner also has a decoder that processes the digital data, applying an algorithm to it to translate and verify the information is accurate using a check digit. The check digit is typically the last number on a bar code which lets the scanner know the data is correct and complete before sending it to the connected system or host.

Laser barcode readers work best with one-dimensional applications like UPC codes the grocery and retail industries use. They are highly accurate and can scan even in areas with low lighting. Although Barcode repair is a bit more expensive with laser scanners, they tend to malfunction far less than many other kinds of scanners. Laser barcode readers scan in three ways:

  • Rastering – Scanning the lines that cover the area to be scanned.
  • Moving Beam – Scanning across a UPC area one line at a time.
  • Omnidirectional – Multiple beams scan a barcode at various angles.

Laser scanners offer the following advantages for a variety of applications:

  • Because laser scanners have been around for a time, science has refined the technology to make most laser scanners less expensive than other imagers.
  • Laser scanners can read bar codes even when the scanner or the bar code is moving, providing accurate readings. Because of this, laser scanning is the preferred method in high-activity areas that call for motion tolerance, like grocery and department stores, where people can quickly swipe items across a fixed scanner.
  • Motion tolerance also helps in hand-held scanning, so users can switch from one bar code to the next quickly and accurately with a high level of productivity.
  • Laser scanners can scan PDF417, which is a 2D-like technology, so they are also be a cost-effective choice for PDF417 applications.
  • Laser scanners can send a light beam a long distance without spreading out or bending like light from other sources, so they can read barcodes over a long range. This make them perfect for applications that need more scanning range flexibility, like warehouses where items are stored in hard to reach places, such as high shelves. In fact, laser scanners have a 50 percent better range than most expensive area imagers.
  • Accurate scanning is easy because the laser line shows exactly what the scanner sensors see, so the user can aim the scanner better.

It’s hard to believe that idea behind the laser scanner was born from a child’s toy laser pen. And as laser technology continues to evolve, laser scanners will offer more features and uses for those seeking value and accuracy. Adding a laser scanner to your business could be the smartest decision you’ve ever made, because it can enhance worker productivity and asset tracking in many ways.

Adam Purnell works as a warehouse supervisor. He loves to share his insights on the web. His articles can be found on many business sites.

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