Camera-Based vs. Laser Technology
Laser has traditionally been the barcode scanning technology of choice, however, recent advances in camera-based technology has made it a superstar at reading different types of barcodes, reliably at high speeds. It has also become much more cost competitive.
The key to choosing one technology over the other is understanding your application requirements, and then evaluating the benefits and limitations of each technology.
Focusing on the ultimate goal (what you want to achieve) will ensure you get the best value.
- Cameras have the flexibility to read a much wider variety of symbols, and the added benefit of quality validation.
- Cameras have the ability to read the entire label or scanning area, in any orientation and when stationary.
- The grey-scale image data can be used for much more than decoding barcodes, such as troubleshooting no-reads (a common use of camera images). By viewing a snapshot, the operator can more easily identify the reason for the no-read and address the issue. The expense of manual processing decreases, while throughput increases. The same image data can be used for video encoding and optical character recognition (OCR), further streamlining the process of resolving no-reads and increasing throughput.
- Cameras can typically read barcodes that are damaged or are under reflective surfaces (such as plastic shrink wrap) better than lasers. If only part of the barcode is damaged, the camera can still decode the data.
- New-generation camera systems with integrated decoding and illumination can actually be installed faster and at a lower cost than lasers.
- Lasers provide a sharp, clear laser line which only focuses on the barcode for fast and reliable performance, at a usually lower cost. Lasers are ideal for 'set and forget' applications (e.g. frequent product change overs). Lasers also read over long distances and provide a greater depth of field.
- Although lasers are less complex, easier to use and to integrate into a manufacturing line, there are strict limitations. How the barcode is presented is very important, there must not be any variation of orientation. Lasers can only read in 1 orientation (e.g. left to right) and must be moving.
- A hidden cost often overlooked is the oscillating mirror (an internal moving part), that is commonly worn out by vibrations over time, degrading scanning performance.
Maintaining high-quality barcodes and managing their placement is highly recommended, regardless of chosen technology. This is a critical step to ensure that all barcodes, whether 1D or 2D, will be decodable by other equipment further down the supply chain.
These are some of the technical questions to consider:
- From what distances will scans be made?
- What is the condition of the barcodes being scanned?
- What is the position and placement of the barcode being scanned?
- What device is preferred, fixed or hand-held?
- Where do you want to mount the scanner and how much space is available?
- What is the work environment (dusty, high temperatures) like?
- What communication interfaces, if any, do you require?
- What is the line speed or cycle time?
- What is the size of the conveyor and the speed?
- How many scanning points are required?
- What is the size and range of the products?
- What do you want to do with the data collected?
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We invite you to book an appointment to learn how we can design and implement a scanning solution for your unique requirements.