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Data Matrix

A Data Matrix is a type of 2D barcode that can contain an incredible amount of data. Each 2D Data Matrix barcode can hold anywhere from a few bytes up to 2 kilobytes of information, in other words, about 2,335 characters. If only numeric characters are used, 3,116 numbers may be encoded. A 2D Matrix barcode can consist of text or raw data made up of alphabets and numerals. Data Matrixes are scalable, meaning that they can be as small as 300 micrometers and as large as 1 meter, making it a very versatile barcode. The minimum amount of modules is 10 by 10 and the maximum is 144 by 144. Physical attributes comprise a random sequence of white and black modules in a square (or rectangle) that looks pixelated. Two solid borders line the Data Matrix in an L-shape frame. The size of the overall Data Matrix will vary according to the amount of data encoded.

Data Matrix codes consist of four characteristics including:

  1. Modules: they are the symmetrical black and white squares in Data Matrix Codes that represent data
  2. Finder ‘L’ pattern: which consists of two solid lines on the outside of Data matrix codes that form an “L” shape which oriented for barcode readers to know where to start reading the pattern
  3. Clocking pattern: this informs the barcode reader of the number of modules in the matrix and is used to decode the grid on which the modules are placed
  4. Quiet Zone: similar in all other barcodes, Quiet Zones are simply blank areas outside of the barcode. For Data matrix codes, Quiet Zones sizes equal the module size

Data Matrix code sizes are determined by multiplying the size of the symbol by the printable size of the module.

For example, If the size of the module is 0.25 mm,

Symbol size: 10 x 10 modules = 2.5 x 2.5 mm

Symbol size: 32 x 32 modules = 8.0 x 8.0 mm

Symbol size: 8 x 18 modules = 2.0 x 4.5 mm

Data Matrix History

International Data Matrix, Inc. (ID Matrix) invented the Data Matrix barcode in approximately 2005. It, later on, merged into RVSI/Acuity CiMatrix and was acquired by Siemens AG in October of the same year. Three years later, it is now part of Microscan Systems. It is covered by several ISO/IEC standards. Old and newer versions exist, with a specific name for each. Older versions will have contained an odd number of modules while the new versions always have an even number.

Data Matrix Usage

They are routinely seen on labels, letters, tiny components, and in the food industry in auto coding systems. They serve a great number of purposes: tracking, inventory checks, labeling, and commercial use. The matrix barcode is used for engineering, electronic and even aerospace purposes (airplane parts for example). It can be seen in more areas as well thanks to its flexibility and high encoded data capabilities.  It has a free license, making it a useful tool for the public domain in many applications. The Data Matrix code is adopted by the mobile marketing industry known as SemaCode in mobile applications, the automotive-part making industry and widely used for laser marketing, they are normally inscribed on medical and surgical equipment and it is also used digital postage stamps.

Pros and Cons of Data Matrix

The Data Matrix barcode is specifically designed to be more compact while maintaining its ability to lodge large quantity of information. This type of 2D barcode is actually the smallest of all barcode types. It is also quite secure due to the built-in error correction mechanism, called ECC200 error correction code, leaving a slim chance of faultiness. This leads to safe and fast decoding by a 2D matrix scanner even if the damage is present on the barcode. On the other hand, you require specialized equipment to scan Data Matrixes; a laser scanner or CCD cameras will due. Some mobile phones may also be adapted to be used as a Data Matrix scanner. You will need hardware and software that can serve as a 2D Data Matrix generator, and they are more expensive than 1D barcode generators.

Due to a large amount of processed information Data Matrix imagers decode at lower rates as compared to linear barcode scanners. Considering the advantages, a Data Matrix offers greater benefits than negative aspects to most industries that require a substantial amount of data to be encoded.

Other key advantages of data matrix codes include higher data density which means they occupy less space, they have a 30% fault tolerance, lower contrast which is enough for scan readability, the codes can be read in any position from 0-360 degrees, their ability to encode large character numbers in small areas makes them best for printing codes on small surfaces.

Decoding Data Matrix codes require certain factors to be considered:

  • Distance: data matrix imagers usually require the barcode to be scanned is in close proximity generally in the 2-12” range
  • Speed: considering the large amount of data to be processed, inagers decode at a lower rate than other linear scanners are capable of. But it is possible to use imagers to decode 100 inches per second traveling Data Matrix codes
  • External lighting: the internal light source of in imagers may face certain inadequacies such as low contrast, specular reflections, or high-speed applications that require a large amount of light to compensate for high shutter speeds that are necessary for image blur reduction.

Some important keynotes to consider Data Matrix codes includes:

  • Data matrix codes can either be in a rectangular form or as a square
  • The area size of a data matrix code and the symbol size are different
  • The data capacity of a data matrix code is determined by the symbol size
  • Laser machines are best for making Data matrix codes
  • The maximum amount of data in a Data Matrix code is dependent on whether the data consists of only numbers or alphanumeric characters

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