First of all, let’s take a look at some facts and figures around the Data Matrix barcode. Invented in 1987, it became an ISO/IEC standard in 2000 and has the certification: ISO/IEC 16022. Consisting of a Pixel matrix with an L-shaped border as a marker, the code can store up to 2335 numerical-, or 3116 alphanumerical characters. This corresponds to about 1.5 pages.
The Data Matrix barcode and scanner offers a variety of essential benefits. Despite its relatively high data density, it requires very little space, starting from 2.5mm x 2.5mm. Therefore, it's an ideal solution for small industrial items, such as electronic components or surgical instruments. Additionally, it can be read even when one or more cells are damaged, making it a robust solution for various application purposes, such as letters or parcels.
The possibility to engrave the Data Matrix barcode permanently is one of the most prominent benefits of this barcode-type. This procedure is referred to as Direct Part Marking (DPM) and can be applied using laser engraving or dot peen markers.
Data Matrix Barcodes can be either read by using a hardware-scanner, or by using a digital camera. Since 2D-barcodes should ideally be scanned with the help of a digital camera, implementing a Data Matrix SDK into your existing mobile app turns out to be the most feasible solution.
While scanning the Data Matrix barcode with a camera, it can be recognized from any angle, as long as it’s located in the camera window, while the required contrast ratio is only at around 20%. The use of a smartphone with its own network connection and long-lasting battery makes the scanner independent of other hardware and highly cost-efficient.
Industries that take advantage of this symbology are the aerospace-, automotive- and electronics-sector, as well as health care and the food industry.
In the area of aerospace, automotive, or electronics, quality assurance is an important aspect. Today, one has to be able to track-back every part to identify issues in the production and prevent accidents. They profit from the space-efficiency of the Data Matrix code, as well as from the already mentioned Direct Part Marking (DPM). Even the smallest objects can be easily identified and tracked.
In healthcare, information regarding medication, such as the product identification code, the serial number, the expiry date, and the batch number, can be easily embedded into the Data Matrix GS1 substandard. This special type enables you to add more than one data field inside a barcode.
Recently, logistics companies gain interest in adding Data Matrix codes to parcels and letters, due to their included Error Correction Codes (ECC), that allow a flawless scanning result, even if the code has been partially damaged in the delivery process. Smartphones with apps that have an integrated Data Matrix SDK are also less expensive and more flexible than proprietary one-purpose hardware scanners.
Apart from those sectors, the food industry increasingly grew interested in using Data Matrix codes to prevent goods from being packaged and dated incorrectly. Therefore, codes are maintained internally on a food manufacturer’s database and associated with each unique product.
Interestingly, one of the first organizations to use Data Matrix codes was NASA in the 1980s, when engraving them onto parts of space rockets knowing they wouldn’t come off. Also, the US Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) recommends using Data Matrix for labeling small electronic components.
In case you want to implement the Data Matrix SDK into your workflow or change from a hardware- to a mobile-scanner, get in touch with one of our experts. Data Matrix scanning is just one part of many in our universal Scanbot Barcode Scanner SDK. Check out our blog post about the popular PDF417 barcode as well, and take a look at our overview of the most common barcode types here!
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