FAQ

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  1. What is a Bar code?
  2. What is a UPC code?
  3. What is an EAN code?
  4. What is the difference between a UPC code and an EAN code?
  5. What is a GTIN Number and what does it mean?
  6. How can I search for a product using the UPC code?
  7. What is GS1?
  8. How can I buy a bar code?
  9. What colors should I use for my bar code?
  10. Can I print bar codes from my home printer?
  11. How do I know which bar code to use?
  12. What type of bar code can I use for books?
  13. What bar codes can I use in the health care industry?
  14. What bar codes should I use for retail?

1. What is a Bar code?

A barcode is a machine readable code in the form of numbers and a pattern of black and white bars of varying widths. Barcodes are used to encode data and for stock control. There are lots of different types of barcodes, which have different uses. The most common bar codes are the UPC code and the EAN code, which are used in retail. The UPC Code, invented in 1974 was the first standard bar code to be used in the US. UPC stands for Universal Product Code. The EAN Bar Code stands for International Article Number. When it was first designed in 1976, it was called the European Article Number.

2. What is a UPC code?

UPC stands for Universal Product Code. A UPC code is made up of two parts: a 12 digit number which is eye readable, and a series of black bars, which can be read by a computer scanner. The numbers provide information about the manufacturer and the individual product. They do not provide information about pricing, so the retailers can set their own prices.

UPC barcode

UPC barcode example

3. What is an EAN code?

EAN stands for International Product Code. EAN used to stand for European Article number, but it has been changed, as the EAN code is now used internationally. The most common EAN code is the EAN13, which is made up of 13 numbers and a series of black bars. The numbers contain information about the country of origin, the manufacturer and the product. The first three digits of an EAN code represent the country of origin. The numbers do not contain information about the price of a product, which allows the retailer to set their own prices.

EAN Code example

EAN Code example

4. What is the difference between a UPC code and an EAN code?

The UPC code and the EAN code are both bar codes that encode product information that can be scanned at a point of sale system. The UPC Code was originally developed in the United States for the grocery trade and other similar products. There was increasing demand for bar codes in Europe, Asia and Australia. To meet this demand a country code, was added to each bar code. The US and Canada have a country code of zero, which is not actually printed on the bar code. This explains why the UPC has 12 digits, one less digit than the EAN number, which has 13 digits. The only difference between a UPC code and an EAN code is in the number of digits. The pattern of black bars for a UPC code is exactly the same, as it is for the EAN code.

If you want to read more about the difference between UPC and EAN codes, please click on this link. This article has useful diagrams, which explains the differences in more detail.

5. What is a GTIN Number and what does it mean?

A GTIN Number is a Global Trade Item. All products are given a Global Trade Number, which is encoded within a bar code. This uniquely identifies any product that may be ordered, priced or invoiced at any point in a supply chain. The GTIN number can be 8, 12, 13 or 14 digits long.
The GTIN 12 is used mainly for products made in the US, and becomes encoded within the UPC-A bar code. The GTIN 13 is used for products made internationally, and becomes encoded within the EAN-13 bar code.

6. How can I search for a product using the UPC code?

There are many different databases available online that will allow you to search for information about a product by UPC code. However there isn’t a database that contains information about all of the UPC codes. The largest databases are the UPC database.org (link), which has over 1.7 million codes and the UPC database.com (link), which has over 1.6 million codes. You can find other database at UPC-Search.com.

7. What is GS1?

GS1 are the organisation responsible for administering UPC codes. GS1 UK are responsible for issuing bar codes in the UK (link). GS1 US are responsible for issuing and administering bar codes in the US. Their aims are to set standards, using unique numbers to ensure the reliable identification of products and assets on a global scale. GS1 US don’t actually sell bar codes. They will issue your company with a company prefix and provide guidance to help you create your own bar codes.

8. How can I buy a bar code?

The first step to purchasing a bar code is to register with GS1 US. When you register with GS1 US, they will issue you with a company prefix. This company prefix will be a part of every bar code you create. You can’t buy a bar code from GS1 US. GS1 US can provide advice and guidance on how to produce your own bar codes.

9. What colors should I use for my bar code?

The best color combination to use for bar codes is black bars on a white background. Most companies use the black bars on a white background and this is the standard format. You can use different colors to make up your bar code. However some color combinations won’t work, as they will not be read properly by a bar code scanner. If you are thinking about using colored bar codes, it is advisable to seek advice from a bar code specialist. You can black bars on a colored background. Acceptable background colours are: yellow, orange, red and pink. You can use dark coloured bars (eg. dark blue or dark brown) on a white background. Metallic colors, such as silver or gold should not be used in bar codes, as they reflect the scanning beam. More info here.

10. Can I print bar codes from my home printer?

If you have a small number of bar codes, that you would like to print, then you can print them from your home printer. You can find free software for generating bar codes on the worldwide web (link to Bar Code generator page). However some printers will not print the bar codes to the standard required to make a durable bar code that will withstand up to 10 scans. It is not recommended to use dot matrix printers. The best type of printers to use are thermal transfer and laser printers.

11. How do I know which bar code to use?

There are over a 100 different types of bar codes, which are all designed to meet different business needs. The most commonly used bar codes are UPC codes and EANcodes, which are used in retail. Different types of bar codes are used for books and for the health industry. The GS1 US provide some basic guidelines about the different type of bar codes (link)

12. What type of bar code can I use for books?

Bar codes for books have an additional number printed above the bar code, which is called an ISBN number. „ISBN“ stands for International Standard Book Number. An ISBN number is a unique product number for a book. The ISBN number is made of 13 digits. Publishers will arrange for ISBN numbers and the appropriate bar code. If you are self-publishing then you may need to apply for your own ISBN number and bar code. You can find out more about bar codes for books from the Book Industry Communications Organisation (PDF).

13. What bar codes can I use in the health care industry?

Bar codes are widely used in hospitals and in the health care industry. They can be used on patient wrist bands to identify patients when they are admitted to hospital. These wrist bands are used to store patient data, such as medication management and medical histories. Other uses include specimen identification, stock control and supplies management.

GS1 Datamatrix
This is a two dimensional matrix that is used for healthcare applications, for example direct part marking of surgical instruments. It encodes up to 2,335 characters!

GS1 Databar Truncated
The GS1 Databar is specially designed for very small items, and it is mainly used within the health care industry. It has 14 digits and is used for small items, such as unit dose pharmaceuticals. It can’t be scanned with Flatbed POS Scanners.

GS1 Databar Limited
The GS1 Databar is used to identify very small healthcare items, such as ampoules. It has 14 digits and it can’t be scanned using a Flatbed POS Scanner. You can scan it using a handheld scanning device.

14. What bar codes should I use for retail?

The most commonly used bar codes in the retail industry are UPC and EAN codes. These bar codes can come in different sizes to fit larger or smaller products.

upc-codes

Different barcodes, source

EAN-13
The EAN-13 code has 13 digits and encodes the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN 13). It is used on retail items such as magazines, periodicals, and books. The EAN code for books also has an additional 13 digit number printed at the top of the bar code, which is called an ISBN number.

EAN-8
The EAN-8 barcode has 8 digits encodes the Global Trade item Number (GTIN 8). It is used on smaller retail items, such as chewing gum, packets of cigarettes and cosmetics. These items would be too small to fit an EAN-13 bar code. It is also used by retailers to sell own brand products, that are only sold within their stores.

 
 

UPC-A
The UPC-A is used to identify products that are sold at retail checkouts. It encodes the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN – 12).

UPC-E
The UPC-E is used on smaller products and packaging, such as chewing gum, packets of cigarettes and cosmetics. The UPC-A would be too big to fit on these smaller products.

ITF-14
ITF-14 symbols are used on groups of products that are packaged together, such as a case of 24 bottles of beer. It has 14 digits and incorporates the Global Item Trade Number. The ITF-14 is one of the few bar codes that will print onto corrugated material.

GS1 Databar Stacked Omnidirectional
The GS1 Databar Stacked Omnidirectional has the capability to be scanned from any direction. It has 14 digits. It is used to condense GTIN information into a smaller more compact barcode, for use on small products and loose produce (for example, apples).

GS1-128
The GS1-128 uses GS1 Application Identifiers to include extra information within the barcode, such as best before dates, batch or lot numbers, quantity, weight and many other attributes. It also encodes the Serial Shipping Code. It is used for very large bulk items, and on coupons. This code has up to 74 numbers or 41 letters.

GS1 Databar Expanded Stacked
The GS1 Databar Expanded Stacked has up to 74 numbers or 41 letters. It is used for products, such as fresh foods, that cross point of sale applications. The GS1 Databar Expanded Stacked can also be used for coupons. It can encode extra data, such as the weight and best before dates. It can be scanned from any direction by special omni-directional scanners.

One Responseso far.

  1. Percy Law sagt:

    Hi,

    We would like to add our UPC to your database. What information do we need to provide?

    Thanks,

    Percy Law

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