Selecting the right Barcode Scanner

Up to this point then we’ve talked about everything you need to think about when creating a barcode scanning solution and this blog sets us up to talk about the barcode scanner hardware you can use.

Barcode Scanners

You can talk about barcode scanners in many different ways, for the purposes of his series of blogs I’m going to start off looking at them form a “budgetary” perspective.  In a nutshell you can buy barcode scanners from about £30 upwards from reputable and decent manufacturers and in fact you can pay over £500 for a fully rugged, wireless one too, so whats the difference?

Firstly the £30 budget barcode scanners are really quite good if you can learn to live with some of their compromises.  These scanners come with a low power, CCD Barcode Scanner which gives you about 0 to 3 or 4 cm range when scanning barcodes.  They tend to not have an efficient ergonomic design but most of them can be set up to scan automatically and give you a basic, inexpensive scanning solution that can hold its own in a small shop, office or even more scenarios.

Next up are the mid-range scanners which take the budget from £45 to £60/70.  These start to have better, but not perfect ergonomics, they still tend to use CCD technology but with a far better range and they also tend to scan more symbologies too with better scan engine performing the scanning deciphering.  Most come with cradles and start to give you decent retail options and the scan rates are a lot faster so they are starting to become quite efficient.  You also start to see some laser scanners in this category from brands like Zebex and Cipherlab which give far better scan rates, are better at handling range and give better flexibility when scanning.  More on that below.

Top of the range scanners push the budget up to about £70 to £150 and this is where the Motorola ls4208 as seen on most self-service scanning counters you use such as Ikea and B&Q.  These tend to be highly efficient in design with micro switch triggers, great ergonomics and fast, accurate laser scanning technology.  Accessory ranges become larger as do the number of leads to connect them to more than PC’s or USB based Kiosks.  IBM, Nixdorf ec tills can be connected to and these scanners really are the top of the range when it comes to scanning.

The difference between CCD and Laser barcode scanning technology

It used to be that CCD was simply a cheaper technology and that’s exactly what you got in the end product.  However CCD technology has come on so far in the past few years that it is now surpassing Laser technology when it comes to barcode scanning.  Motorola in fact have already announced plans to replace some Laser models with pure CCD scan engines and Intermec have also just release the SG10T which is also a budget CCD scanner.  The benefits of CCD are that it’s cheaper, lighter technology to start with so barcode scanners can be priced at a lower point.  They have no moving parts so are inherently more rugged than Laser scanners that use moving mirrors to generate the “Red Line” and they are in fact including scan engines now that seem to be able to read certain barcodes more efficiently than Laser scanners.  We’re seeing that from every day tests we perform here anyway.

Laser scanners are still more efficient, and perhaps their main asset is that they still perform better in different lighting conditions as the laser is less susceptible to light and they give a bit better flexibility when scanning but it’s getting close these days

Rugged Scanners

Most Barcode scanners have a degree of “dropability” when it comes to ruggedness but you still need a rugged scanner if in a dusty or wet environment or indeed you need something that can be dropped from higher than 5ft.  Wireless scanners also demand a higher degree of ruggedness too so you often see the rugged scanners also coming wireless flavours.

2D Scanners

As 2D barcodes hit their tipping point we’re seeing more 2D barcode scanners hitting the market.  The technology is inherently more expensive but we’re still seeing mid-range ones appear such as the Cipherlab 1500 series.  The 2D scanning technology in these scanners is almost up there with the best laser scanners too these days.

Wireless barcode Scanners

Wireless scanners come in a range of flavours, Firstly we have the retail designed barcode scanners which come with a charger/cradle that connects them to the till.  These tend to use Bluetooth to communicate with the cradle which in turn connects to the host hardware.  You can also get WiFi based scanners that can talk through your local Network and these are used where scanning can be made to communicate directly with servers or PC’s that are stored at a greater distance.

The fastest growing bunch of wireless scanners though has to be the HID or VCOM compatible ones, much like the Cipherlab 1660 series.  These are basically Barcode Scanners that will scan direct to any Bluetooth enable host device without any cradles in between and are the type that iPad, Android and PDA users can use to scan directly into their barcode Scanning Solution.  We’re starting to see retail style scanners now come out with this type of technology which will open up the EPOS market somewhat.

That’s Scanners in a nutshell then.  We’ll talk a lot more about these categories in our series on the technology next week.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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