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2D Symbologies
       

Why Use 2D?
The primary force behind the development of the new generation of bar code symbologies is the requirement to store increasing amounts of data on a label and, thus to break the "license plate paradigm" of conventional one dimensional or linear codes. Conventional bar codes store limited amounts of data in a single "row" of bar/space patterns. These codes are referred to as "license plates" because the data stored on the label is a "key" or reference to an external database - the label itself does not contain the full database record. 
There are two forces in the market that are driving Auto ID vendors to move beyond conventional 1D codes: 
Greater Data Capacity & Portability - Today's business climate demands increasingly "real time" solutions and the ability to store larger data records directly on the object, creating "portable data files" to support a range of new applications not possible with linear codes. 
Smaller Size - Companies are extending the use of bar code technology in applications with far less physical space - such as in tracking of integrated circuits or small components. 

Stacked Linear Codes

Many different stacked linear codes have been developed, but one symbology have moved to the forefront of commercial adoption. 
PDF417 is a stacked linear symbology with very high data capacity (up to 2500 characters), strong data density and very robust error correction. PDF417 also offers the ability to encode binary data (not just simple ASCII or alphanumeric characters); this makes it possible to encode photographs, fingerprints and any other type of data structure. PDF417's robust error correction technology moves beyond a simple "stacked" approach to respond to today's increased requirements for data capacity and density. PDF417 is essentially a "linear" symbology in the sense that the encoded message must be read in a single orientation. That is, the PDF417 reading device must move across the symbol in a single orientation (left/right, right/left, top/bottom or bottom/top). 
PDF417's high data capacity, reasonable data density, and very robust error correction capabilities make it ideally suited for a broad range of applications, including ID cards, shipping/receiving, EDI, tracking etc. PDF417 is supported by most of the leading printer manufacturers and several software label design packages. For reading equipment, use either a handheld rasterizing laser scanner for high volume, extended range, "point and shoot" applications or a linear CCD-based handheld reader for a lower cost alternative. 

Matrix Codes

Datamatrix

Maxicode

Matrix codes have all the key features of 2D codes - large data capacity, high density, and error correction. But, unlike linear, or stacked linear codes, matrix codes offer omni-directional scanning. This feature can greatly improve efficiency - operators no longer need to be concerned about orienting the label. Omni-directional scanning makes matrix codes ideal for high-speed sortation applications, where a high volume of packages and goods must be routed through high speed conveyor systems. And the more compact, square pattern of matrix code designs also make them more suitable for printing extremely small labels with moderate data storage. 
Many different matrix codes have been developed, but two symbologies have moved to the forefront of commercial adoption. 
Maxicode is matrix code designed for sortation applications featuring high speed omni-directional scanning in large fields of view. Maxicode is easily identified by its "bullseye" finder pattern and hexagonal data elements. Featuring a Small, uniform label size, Maxicode is designed to allow the maximum encoded data in one square inch, at a resolution of 100 dpi. It is ideal for over-the-belt operations for maximizing flow through distribution center (DC) processing operations. Since labels do not have to be consistently oriented for high read rates, onini-directional scanning capability provides increased productivity and flexibility for a range of reading environments. Maxicode is also rugged, supporting effective scanning even on warped, angled or curved surfaces. 
The requirement for greater data density in increasingly smaller label sizes has brought Datamatrix symbology to the attention of many industrial, electrical and consumer companies. Datamatrix features high data capacity, error correction and an element design suitable for small part marking and marking directly on hard materials. It is a scalable code that can be printed on almost any material. Customers are beginning to use the code for lot traceability of very small items such as semiconductor wafers, electronic components, and pharmaceutical bright stock. Datamatrix also can store binary data allowing it to support Japanese Kanji characters and other graphical data types. 
Industry Standards 
Commercially viable reading and decoding devices for the new 2D codes are now on the market and many organizations and key industries have begun to issue recommendations for symbology usage and standards. 
The Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), is a standards organization for U.S. based automotive manufacturers and suppliers. AIAG has issued the following application guidelines for using the new 2D symbologies. 

ApplicationRecommended Symbology
Small Parts Marking Datamatrix
EDI/Shipping PDF417
Quality Conveyance PDF417
Production Evidence PDF417
Production Broadcast PDF417
Configuration Management PDF417
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) PDF417
Sortation & Tracking Maxicode
 
As evidenced by the AIAG symbology guidelines, high data storage and error correction is helping PDF417 gain significant momentum in the new 2D world. Datamatrix's ability to provide reasonable data content in very small, high density label makes this code ideal for small part marking. Maxicode's concentration on characteristics needed to assist sortation applications makes it a leading symbology for distribution and transportation applications.

ANSI MH10.8 The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) MHIO.8 committee provides standards recommendations for Unit Loads and Transport Labels applications. ANSI MH 10. 8 has recommended PDF417 for shipping/EDI labels printed at 10mils or greater. ANSI has also selected Maxicode for sortation applications requiring 1" x 1" symbols using 3 0 mil elements.

EIA -- The Electronics Industry Association (EIA), an industry trade association of key US electronics manufacturers (e.g. Intel, Motorola, Texas Instruments) has selected Datamatrix for small parts marking.

AMVA -- The American Motor Vehicle Administrators (AMVA) group has selected PDF417 for use in a range of applications, from drivers licenses to motor vehicle registration.

American Department of Defense (DOD) -- The US military has selected PDF417 for military ID cards. The US Air Force has already begun to issue ID cards encoded with PDF417.

2D Applications 
2D Applications are being developed in a range of industries where competitive pressures and/or compliance programs with suppliers/customers are driving increased demands for real time data accuracy concerning goods and services. Below are some examples of early adoption applications - 

2D Codes In Government/Military
 • Distribution/Logistics 
 • Identification Cards Medical Voter 
 • Hazardous Material Marking 
 • Asset Tracking 
 • Equipment Service Histories 
 • Small Item Marking 
 • Automated Data Entry 
 • Document Tracking 
 
Distribution
 • Shipping/Receiving 
 • Manufacturer to Retailer 
 • DC to Store 
 • Inter-store Transfer Trucker/Consolidator to DC 
 • "Cartonization." 
 • "Over, Short, Damaged" Reconciliation 
 • Carton/Pallet Identification  
 • Automated Receiving  
 
Transportation
 • Distribution 
 • Shipping Manifests 
 • Cross Docking 
 • Automated Data Entry  
 • Bill of Lading 
 • "Paper EDI"  
 • ID Cards 
 • Passenger ID Verification 
 • Baggage Claim 
 • Asset Tracking  
 
Utilities/Services
 • Automatic Data Entry 
 • Drivers License Vehicle Registration 
 • Field Work Order Processing 
 • Asset Tracking 
 • PC Board Marking 
 • Inspection Tags 
 • Hazardous Material Marking 
 • Small Item Marking 
 • Medical ID Cards  
 • Equipment Calibration & Maintenance 
 • Lot Control/Quality Control  



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