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Warehouse Barcode Scanners: What’s the Best Fit for Your Application?

There are several different types of barcode scanners available, each with its own strengths.

The adoption of barcode scanning is on the rise, and it’s being driven in part by lower costs, increased functionality, and the benefits derived from eliminating manual data collection from a variety of applications. According to VDC Research, the mobile barcode scanner market is set to generate more than $150 million in revenue by 2021. Warehouse/distribution center and retail applications accounted for 80 percent of mobile scanner sales in 2016.

Although it’s easier than ever before to deploy barcode scanners in the warehouse, selecting the right type of scanner has grown increasingly complex thanks to the proliferation of form factors and the use of multiple types of barcodes in the supply chain.

Most warehouses utilize a mix of different device types for their scanning needs, and the scanners they select depend on the requirements of the application. There are several different types of barcode scanners available, each with its own strengths. Here are some of the significant differentiators you should look at before making a selection:

Laser vs. Imager

Regardless of the form factor, every barcode scanner uses a laser scan engine or an imaging scanner to capture data.

Laser scanners are commonly used in grocery store checkout lines and use a laser beam to read the barcode. These scanners can only scan linear or one-dimensional barcodes like the UPC symbol used on retail packaging.

To read two-dimensional (2D) barcodes like the QR code, however, you will need an imaging scanner. Images capture a picture of the barcode before decoding. They have many advantages over laser scanners, including:

They can scan a wider variety of 1D and 2D barcodes

  • They are omnidirectional, so scanner alignment is unnecessary

  • They can read damaged or poorly printed barcodes

  • They can read barcodes from greater distances than many laser scanners

  • They can scan multiple barcodes at once

Warehouses have begun to standardize on 2D imagers as more scanner manufacturers transition to the technology. The cost of the imaging hardware has come down, and companies are attracted by the flexibility of being able to scan any barcode, as well as capture other kinds of images and optical character recognition (OCR) data.

Form Factor Considerations

Both laser and imaging scanners are available in a wide variety of form factors. Each is suited for different types of applications depending on the work environment, scan volume, ergonomic