Barcode scanners are a vital component in the supply chain management process, streamlining operations and facilitating data capture. With technological advances, barcode scanners have become even more powerful, providing various features that can simplify the barcode scanning process.
Today, numerous varieties of barcode scanners are available in the market, each with its own capabilities geared towards specific industries and business needs. Knowing about each type of barcode scanner and what makes them unique will help you choose the right one for your particular application. (Refer to our guide on how to choose a barcode scanner for more information)
So, to help you make an informed decision, we have listed down the main types of barcode scanners. We have categorized them based on various factors such as contact with barcodes, build quality, form factor and more. By the end of this guide, you will have a better idea of what each type of barcode scanner offers and which is best suited to your requirements.
So put on your learning caps and get ready to learn about the different types of barcode readers.
Type of Barcode Readers On the Basis of Contact With Barcode
Based on contact with the barcode symbology, there are two types of barcode readers, Contact Barcode Scanners and Non-Contact Barcode Scanners.
Contact Barcode Scanner
As the name suggests, contact barcode scanners require physical contact with the barcode surface to capture the data. These scanners have a maximum effective scan range of around an inch and a minimum range of zero inches (when the barcode is directly pressed against the scanner).
Contact scanners are usually the most economical barcode scanners available because of their limited scan range. They are best suited to environments such as retail checkout counters where the scanning distance is small.
Non-Contact Barcode Scanner
Non-contact barcode scanners do not require physical contact with the barcode surface to read the encoded data. These scanners rely on different scanning technologies such as laser beams, imagers, or LED to capture data from the barcodes from a distance of up to several feet, depending on their scan range.
Non-contact barcode scanners are usually more expensive than contact scanners due to their longer scanning range and higher build quality. They are designed for industrial applications such as warehouse inventory management, where the distance between the scanner and the barcode is relatively significant.
Based on Barcode Scanner's Build Quality
Built quality refers to the ruggedness and durability of a barcode scanner. On the basis of built quality, barcode scanners are divided into two categories, General Barcode Scanners and Rugged Barcode Scanners.
General Barcode Scanner
General barcode scanners are devices designed for general, low to medium-volume usage in light industrial environments and indoor applications. These scanners have a low degree of ruggedness, making them resistant to minor drops and bumps.
General barcode scanners have a plastic body and do not offer any special protection against dust, water or other environmental hazards. These are mostly handheld corded scanners used in retail point of sale, backroom inventory management and document scanning applications.
Triton offers a range of general barcode scanners. We have high-quality models from top brands such as Datalogic, Honeywell and Zebra, all available at affordable prices. Shop with us today!
Rugged Barcode Scanner
Rugged barcode scanners are devices designed for intense, heavy-volume usage in harsh industrial environments and outdoor conditions. These scanners offer higher levels of ruggedness to survive even in the most demanding environments.
Rugged barcode scanners have reinforced plastic or metallic bodies that offer protection against accidental drops and bumps. These scanners feature an ergonomic design with durable rubber housing, rubberized grips, and bumpers that provide extra protection against extreme temperatures, chemicals, impacts, and many other threats.
Moreover, rugged barcode scanners are often IP rated, making them resistant to dust and water splashes. These scanners are designed for use in tough industrial applications such as outdoor warehouses, cold storage facilities and manufacturing plants.
Ruggedized scanners are easily recognizable thanks to their eye-catching and distinct cases. These devices usually feature bright, vibrant cases, which come in a range of colours such as yellow, green and red helping them stand out from more traditional scanner models.
Rugged barcode scanners are a necessity for businesses operating in challenging environments. At Triton, we have a wide selection of rugged barcode scanners that are sure to withstand the rigours of harsh environments. Shop with us now to get the best price on rugged barcode readers!
On the Basis of the Type of Barcodes Scanned
Barcodes are of two types, One-Dimensional Barcodes and Two-Dimensional Barcodes.
One-dimensional barcodes (1D barcodes), also called Liner barcodes, are codes that store data horizontally and feature a series of vertical lines of varying widths.
Two-dimension barcodes (2D barcodes) are codes that store data both horizontally and vertically and feature graphics or patterns such as dots, squares, or hexagons.
Refer to our what is barcode guide for more information.
Barcode scanners are categorized based on their capability to scan 1D barcodes or 2D barcodes.
Barcode scanners that read only 1D barcodes are called 1D scanners. On the other hand, scanners that read 2D barcodes are called 2D scanners.
Please note that 2D barcode scanners can read both 1D and 2D barcodes.
Type of Barcode Scanner Based on Form Factor
Form factor refers to a barcode scanner’s physical size, shape and design. Each type offers different functionalities and is suited to specific scanning applications.
Based on the form factor, barcode scanners are divided into seven categories.
- Handheld scanners
- Presentation scanners
- Mobile units
- Mobile computers scanners
- Wearable scanners
- In-Counter scanners
- Fixed Mount scanners
Handheld Barcode Scanner
Handheld barcode scanners are the most common type of barcode scanner. As the name suggests, these scanning devices are held in hand for scanning barcodes. They are lightweight and have an ergonomic pistol-like design that allows for easy one-handed operation.
A handheld scanner has a trigger or scan button on the handle, which initiates the barcode scan process when pressed. These scanners are corded or wireless models and can scan items from close range and several feet away.
Some handheld barcode scanner models come with stands, which allow the device to be left in a fixed position to promote hand-free operation. These scanning devices are extremely convenient to use and are found in most places where barcodes are used, such as warehouses, grocery stores, healthcare industries, retail shops, and so on.
Presentation Barcode Scanner
Presentation scanners, also called On-Counter scanners, are devices that are designed to be placed on countertops or desks for easy barcode scanning.
A presentation scanner has a large scan window and a wide area reading capability. Unlike handheld barcode readers, presentation scanners don’t require users to aim the device at the barcodes. Instead, users must find the product’s barcode and position them in front of the scan window, usually within a few inches.
Presentation scanners get their name from the fact that the users “present” the item’s barcode to the scanner.
The main benefit of using presentation scanners is that they are very fast and accurate, making them ideal for scanning large volumes of barcodes quickly. These devices also offer the convenience of hands-free operations as they do not require users to press or hold down a trigger to scan barcodes.
Presentation scanners are mostly wired models and can be connected to a PC or other devices through USB, serial ports and PS/2 interfaces. These devices are a popular choice for supermarkets, retail stores, grocery stores, and other places where barcodes are scanned in large quantities.
Smartphone/Tablet-Style Barcode Scanner (Also Called Mobile Barcode Scanning Units or Mobile Phone-Style Scanners)
Tablet/smartphone-style scanners are devices that resemble and operate in a similar fashion to regular consumer tablets and smartphones. These scanners use camera-based barcode scanning technology, which requires the user to point the device’s rear camera at the barcode to initiate the scan process.
Like consumer mobile phones, Tablet/smartphone-style scanners also have large touchscreen displays. They usually run on Android or Windows operating systems and come with a powerful processor coupled with inbuild storage (RAM and flash memory). They also offer a range of useful features such as Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth connectivity, GPS navigation, 3G/4G LTE network support, and so on.
Tablet/smartphone-style scanners are battery-operated and offer a great deal of portability. They are very convenient to use and offer wireless freedom as these scanners don’t require users to plug in any wires to connect them to a PC or other devices for data transfer.
Tablet and smartphone scanners are ideal for use in areas that would normally be impractical for plug-in scanning systems, such as remote locations or outdoor settings with no access to electricity (like sales booths in outdoor exhibitions). These devices are also great for areas without an Internet connection, as they can save data from barcode scans in internal memory and enter the data later into the company’s inventory system.
Mobile Computer Barcode Scanner
Mobile computer barcode scanners, otherwise known as Mobile terminals, are devices that bring together the functionalities of both handheld scanners and mobile-style scanners. These machines typically consist of a mobile computer affixed to a pistol-style handle or any other ergonomic grip, allowing for easy portability and improved handling during use.
Mobile terminals have a touchscreen display with an integrated keyboard, providing users with a convenient platform to input data and manage transactions. Like Tablet/smartphone-style scanners, mobile computer barcode scanners also run on Windows or Android operating systems and feature Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth connectivity, GPS navigation etc.
Mobile terminals offer far more advanced capabilities and features than handheld or tablet/smartphone-style scanners. Mobile terminals are equipped with a larger memory capacity and more powerful processors, allowing them to handle larger amounts of data quickly and accurately. They have a longer barcode range and fast barcode scanning speeds.
Mobile terminals are rugged devices that can withstand the rigours of intense use. These devices are typically used in warehouses, shipping and transportation centres, manufacturing plants, and other industrial environments. They are also great for inventory management, order processing and asset tracking applications.
Check out our mobile terminal page for a collection of the highest-quality mobile terminals available at the most competitive pricing.
Wearable Barcode Scanner
Wearable scanners are small, portable devices designed to be mounted on the user’s body (generally hand, wrist or finger), to facilitate barcode scanning. These devices often feature hook-and-loop closures, velcro straps, clips, or other simple mounting mechanisms for attaching the device to the user’s body.
Wearable scanners are equipped with a button for starting the scanning process. However, this button doesn’t need to be held down, as these scanners feature auto-scanning capability.
The auto-scanning capability automatically initiates the scanning process as soon as the device is pointed towards a barcode. This feature aids in hands-free barcoding scanning operation and makes scanning a smoother, faster process.
Wearable scanners are battery-operated and come with LED lights and speaker-based audio feedback to notify the user about successful scans. They come with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or NFC connectivity options, allowing users to transfer data to host devices wirelessly.
Wearable scanners are ideal for users who need to keep their hands free during operations and for applications requiring frequent barcode scanning in tight spaces or areas with limited mobility. They are used extensively for receiving/shipping orders, inventory and management, asset tracking, order picking and other similar applications.
In-Counter Barcode Scanner
In-counter barcode scanners are devices that fit inside countertops, tables, desks and other similar surfaces, allowing users to swipe an item’s barcode across the scanner to scan it. These devices work similarly to presentation scanners except that they need to be placed inside the counter instead of on the counter.
In-counter barcode scanners have a large scanning window and a wide area reading capacity. In addition to reading product barcodes, in-counter scanners can also read coupons, mobile phone codes, loyalty cards and personnel badges.
An in-counter barcode scanner gets easily integrated into existing POS systems or payment kiosks. They are widely used in combination with presentation scanners or handheld scanners for maximum efficiency.
The combination of In-counter barcode scanners with presentation or handheld scanners is commonly seen at self-checkout counters in retail stores and supermarkets. Other applications of in-counter scanners include inventory tracking, ticketing/event scanning and management, patient record management and data entry for attendee registration, etc.
Fixed Mount Barcode Scanner
Fixed mount barcode scanners, as the name implies, are devices that are set up in a fixed location and are capable of reading barcoded objects as they pass by at high speeds and high volumes.
A fixed-mount barcode scanner is permanently installed on walls, conveyors and other similar surfaces. They feature an adjustable mounting bracket that allows users to install the device at any angle or height according to their scanning requirements.
Fixed-mount barcode scanners are ideal for large businesses seeking to automate their barcode scanning processes. These scanners can quickly and accurately read a variety of barcodes without the need for any manual triggers or buttons to be pressed. As they are fixed in place, they are discreet and easy to integrate into existing systems.
Fixed-mount barcode scanners are mostly set up on assembly lines, conveyor belts or lorry-loading bays to automate supply chain management. They can also be used for tracking/mapping products, product authentication, sorting packages, shipping/receiving orders and other related applications.
Triton provides a variety of fixed barcode imaging scanners and sensors for applications ranging from manufacturing conveyor systems to barcode label verification. Check out our fixed barcode scanner page to learn more.
On the Basis of Connectivity Option
Based on the connectivity of the scanner to the host device and the method of transferring barcode data, barcode scanners can be classified into two categories, Corded Barcode Scanners and Cordless Barcode Scanners.
Corded scanners are scanning devices that utilize cables and wires to connect to a host system, such as a computer or POS terminal. These cables provide power to the scanner and transfer data from the scanner to the host device.
Corded scanners come with several connectivity ports, including USB, RS-232 serial interface, keyboard wedge interface (KBI), and PS/2. As corded scanners are tethered to a host device through a wired connection, they offer limited mobility.
Therefore, corded scanners are often preferred for applications where the scanning distance is short and the scanner’s position is fixed. Corded scanners are mostly found in retail stores, pharmacies, libraries, supermarkets and other similar environments.
Cordless barcode scanners are devices that do not require any cables or wires to connect with the host device and transmit data. These scanners rely on advanced wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and RFID to establish a connection with the host device.
It’s worth noting that all cordless scanners do not themselves come with wireless technology. Instead, they come with built-in memory capable of storing scanned barcode data. This stored information is transferred at a later time when the scanner is returned to a base station connected to a computer system, usually with a USB cable.
Cordless barcode scanners come with an integrated rechargeable battery which provides power to the scanner. As they are not fixed in any particular place, these scanners offer greater mobility and are used for various scanning applications. They are commonly used in places where the barcode scanning distance is long, such as warehouses, shipping docks and factories.
Barcode Scanner Type Based on The Scanning Technology Used
Scanning technology refers to the technique used by the scanner to read and decode barcodes. Different barcode scanning technologies have their own unique advantages and disadvantages and are suited for different applications.
Laser Barcode Scanners
Laser barcode scanners are the most common type of scanning device. As the name implies, these scanners utilize laser technology to read barcodes from a variety of surfaces.
A laser barcode scanner works by projecting a focused light beam onto the barcode, which reflects it back in a pattern. This reflected light is detected by a photodiode which then sends the information to an integrated decoder chip. The decoding chip translates this information into readable data, which is then passed to the host device.
Laser scanners can accurately scan barcodes from a distance of up to 24 inches and even up to 30 feet with more advanced long-range models. Not only can they scan from a distance, but laser scanners can also recognize barcodes regardless of the orientation. In terms of speed, laser scanners offer impressive performance, with an approximate scanning rate of 500 scans per second.
Unfortunately, laser scan engines can only read one-dimensional (1D) barcodes.
Laser scanners are more susceptible to breakage than other scanners due to their complex inner workings. These scanners have multiple internal glass or plastic parts that move around when the scanner is in operation. This movement increases the risk of damage and makes laser scanners more prone to failure over time.
CCD Barcode Readers
Charge Coupled Device barcode readers, also called LED scanners are optical scanning devices that use an imaging technique to capture data from barcodes. These scanners work by precisely measuring the intensity of ambient light emitted from the barcode.
A CCD barcode reader contains an array of light sensors that are positioned in a row within the head of the device. These individual light sensors are incredibly small, yet they are able to measure the intensity of the light directly in front of them.
As these small light sensors receive light from the barcode, each individual sensor generates its own voltage pattern identical to the pattern in a barcode. This voltage pattern is then sequentially measured across the entire light sensor row and converted into readable data, which is sent to the host device.
CCD barcode scanners are required to be held close to the barcode, usually within a few inches. These scanners are also relatively slow as multiple readings are taken to reduce errors. A CCD scanner is capable of decoding linear barcode symbologies only.
Image scanners, also known as camera based readers, use digital imaging technology to capture an image of a barcode and then decode the data. These scanners contain an array of hundreds of tiny light sensors similar to CCD readers, but instead of measuring the intensity of each individual sensor, they capture the entire image in one go.
As an image scanner is held up to the barcode, the integrated camera captures a digital image of the barcode, which is sent to an embedded processor for decoding. The processor quickly analyzes all of the data in the image and decodes the barcode into a readable data format.
Image scanners can capture barcode images from as far away as 9 inches. They are capable of scanning 1D barcodes only. An Image scanner is less susceptible to impact damage than a pen or laser scanner because of the simplicity of the camera-based internal systems.
2D Area Imagers
2D area imagers are similar to standard image scanners, except that they can scan all barcode kinds, including 1D, 2D, and stacked barcode symbologies.
2D area imagers are the most advanced type of barcode scanners available. These scanners use a combination of imaging technology and laser scanning to capture barcodes from further away than other types of barcode readers.
Moreover, 2D area imagers scanners are particularly useful because they can scan barcodes regardless of the orientation – whether it be horizontal, vertical, upside-down or right-side up. Some advanced 2D area imagers also come with the feature to read barcodes from non-label surfaces such as computer screens or smartphone displays.
Omnidirectional Barcode Scanners
Omnidirectional barcode scanners are an advanced type of laser scanner that comes with the ability to read barcodes from any orientation.
Instead of using a single laser beam, Omnidirectional barcode scanners produce a pattern of laser beams in varying directions. As the user passes the scanner over the barcode, these multiple beams cover the entire surface and capture barcode data quickly, regardless of its orientation.
An omnidirectional barcode scanner is a stationary barcode scanner mostly found in retail stores and supermarkets, where products are slid over a glass window of a self-checkout counter (in-counter scanners).
The Bottom Line
Barcode readers have become essential for businesses to track inventory more efficiently and provide customers with faster service when checking out items at stores or other point-of-sale locations. Knowing about the different types of barcode readers will now surely help you select the right one for your business.
Each type of barcode scanner has its own unique features, benefits and drawbacks, so it is essential to understand the differences between them before making a purchase. It is also essential to consider factors like your type of business, budget and other requirements when selecting the right type of barcode scanner for yourself.
We hope with this guide, you have a better understanding of the different types of barcode scanners and are now ready to make the best purchase for your business.
At Triton, we have a vast selection of barcode scanning and imaging technology to meet the needs of any industry.
We offer a wide range of label scanners, from fixed to mobile scanners, rugged barcode scanners for demanding situations, for harsh conditions and mobile terminals for gathering data on the go. Within these categories, you can find 1D and 2D barcode scanners and scanners for various situations to best suit your needs.
With such an extensive range of barcode scanning solutions, you can be sure that we have the right product for your organization’s specific requirements. So why wait? Check out our barcode scanners page today!