1D vs 2D Barcodes – What’s the Difference?

What is a barcode? In short, a barcode is a type of code (or ‘language’) that machines can read. Barcodes can contain numbers, letters, and symbols and are represented with shapes of various patterns, widths, and size.

There are two types of barcodes: 1D & 2D. Within each type of barcode also contains different types of 1D and 2D barcodes. Knowing what they are, when to use it, and how to use it should help you find the best choice for your needs.

1D Barcodes

  • 1D barcodes is the most common type of barcode.
  • It is a linear barcode that uses lines of various widths and spaces to encode the data.
  • Depending on the 1D barcode, it can only hold a limited amount of characters otherwise it gets too long. The more characters a barcode contains, the longer the barcode.
  • There are over 20 types of 1D barcodes.

1D barcodes is the most commonly used barcode so most applications will be perfectly okay using a 1D barcode. The need for a 2D barcode is for very specific industries.

Will the product be scanned in a retail store?

If yes, use UPC in the United States or EAN in Europe.

 

Will you need to include letters and numbers in your barcode?

If yes, use Code39 or Code128 barcodes.

Code39 is often used in the automotive and defense industry and can generally hold 39 to 43 characters.

Code128 is often used in the supply chain industry, is high density meaning it can hold more characters, and can support the ASCII 128 character sheet.

 

Is space a factor on the product packaging?

If yes, use UPC-E, EAN8, or Code128.

UPC-E and EAN8 can only hold a limited amount of characters so its best used on limited space. Code128 is a high density barcode which will fit more characters in a small space.

Some barcode scanners will not scan dense barcodes. A barcode scanner designed to read high density barcodes will be needed.

 

Will you be printing directly on cardboard?

If yes, use ITF.

ITF can deal with high printing tolerances so they are good for printing on corrugated cardboard.

UPCe

If you are selling products in a retail store (Supermarket, Department, etc.), you will need an identification number called Universal Product Code (UPC).

  • Getting your own UPC code is like getting your own driver’s license number — it is unique to your products.
  • Your UPC code will be stored in GS1US’s database so retail stores know what the product is.
  • A UPC barcode can tell retail stores: the manufacturer, the product’s properties, and the price. Most retail stores will have their own database of product attributes so the information from ‘Store A’ may be different from ‘Store B’.

To obtain a UPC barcode, you must contact GS1US, an organization that gives out UPC barcodes for a fee. They are the only organization that can give you a UPC barcode.

Once you obtain a UPC, you can print the UPC barcode on your product or on a label with a printer and labeling software. If you would like us to print your labels please contact us.

You can download the Code39 barcode font for free here and use it like a font.

For other 1D barcodes, you will need to use barcode printing software.

We’ve covered the most frequently used type of barcodes. If you have any questions on more niche barcodes like codabar, onecode, postnet, aztec, or maxi code then please contact us and we’ll be more than happy to help.

2D Barcodes

  • 2D barcodes uses a matrix/pattern of shapes to encode data.
  • It can store significantly more data than 1D barcodes (up to thousands of characters).
  • Requires a 2D barcode scanner or imager to decode (which can also read 1D barcodes).
  • It can also hold images, website addresses, sound, and other binary data.
  • It can be used to mark very small labels or items when 1D barcodes won’t fit.
  • QR codes, a common 2D barcodes, is often used in advertisements to be scanned with a phone.

Besides a QR code, most 2D barcodes are used in specific industries on specific products like circuit boards or small medical instruments. Since 2D barcodes can fit in small spaces and contain a lot of information, they are perfect for applications that require the density.

If you want to use a 2D barcode for marketing material like flyers, business cards, posters, etc. then a QR code is the best bet. You can find a free QR code generator through any search engine.

If it’s for electronic components, retail products with limited space, small medical instruments, or other small items then a Datamatrix barcode is the best bet. Datamatrix barcodes are tiny so it’s ideal for logistical operations. Additionally, the US Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) recommends the use of Datamatrix barcodes on small electronic components since they can contain a lot of information, they’re fast, and they’re reliable.

For QR barcodes, you can easily find QR barcode generators through search engines.

For other 2D barcodes, you will need to use barcode printing software.

We’ve covered the most frequently used type of barcodes. If you have any questions on more niche barcodes like codabar, onecode, postnet, aztec, or maxi code then please contact us and we’ll be more than happy to help.