Tiny Barcodes
October 11, 2004 12:32 PM   Subscribe

Production folks: How small can a barcode be and still scan?
posted by dame to Technology (10 answers total)
Its been a few years, but I believe the minimum size is what you already see as spec'd by the org that admins the UPC codes.
posted by Fupped Duck at 12:46 PM on October 11, 2004

The Uniform Code Council is the one that admins the UPC. One would think the answer is somewhere on their website, but most of the meaty content (including the actual spec documents) are for members only.
posted by mmascolino at 1:08 PM on October 11, 2004

not sure about standard barcodes, but there are far more sophisticated readable codes in use now.

i have a tube of toothpaste which has a 'code square' on it which is about 6mm square.

I believe some big code blocks which can be found on packing labels can be ripped and still read with only half the label remaining.... (from my memory.. not solid fact..)
posted by Frasermoo at 1:26 PM on October 11, 2004

posted by Frasermoo at 1:38 PM on October 11, 2004

.. something about sizes here
posted by Frasermoo at 1:48 PM on October 11, 2004

here's more on it
posted by amberglow at 2:20 PM on October 11, 2004

and here
posted by amberglow at 2:22 PM on October 11, 2004

First off what are you encoding in your bar code?

There is no theoretical limit to how small a barcode can be. It can be as small or as large as it needs to be.

What method are you going to use to encode? One dimensional; Code 39 (Full or Regular), Code 93, Codabar, Code 128, Coda, EAN (Jan 8 or Jan 13), UPC (A or E or Supplemental), Interleaved 2-of-5, US POSTNET. Two dimensional; Data Matrix, MaxiCode, PDF417, MicroPDF417, QC Code?

Each one has it's own specifications for how data is to be encoded. Each is better at encoding specific forms of data, for example ASCII vs. numeric. Some are better at recovering from missing/unreadable data segments.

In real life though, the bottle neck is printing resolution, scanning resolution. How accurately can the printer you're using, print the barcode. And if the printer you're using can print really small barcodes can the scanners you're using read them accurately and reliably.

You can have barcodes as small as the width of a pencil if you only need to encode the letter 'B' In my experience though, if you're having humans scan the barcode, it needs to be at least 1/2 inch high, or they'll get mad when the scanner repeatedly cannot read it. And the width is just a function of the encoding scheme and the length of whatever you are encoding.

Oh, and you ALWAYS need to have a plaintext (human readable) representation of what you're encoding under the barcode, that way if all else fails, users can just type it in.
posted by patrickje at 2:47 PM on October 11, 2004 [1 favorite]

Thanks, everyone. Amberglow nailed it, but he had extra info—he knows I work in books so I was talking about an already made ISBN barcode.
posted by dame at 3:10 PM on October 11, 2004

: >
posted by amberglow at 5:38 PM on October 11, 2004

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