Smaller World (Bar Code Inspection)
The 2-D Reduced Space Symbology (RSS) bar code is beginning to crack mainstream applications. See below for a UPC update.
by Susan Friedman, Editor
A FRESH down-sizing initiative in the bar code arena may require converters to broaden approaches to bar code printing and inspection. New Reduced Space Symbology (RSS) bar codes, developed to address space-constrained applications, are smaller than Universal Product Codes (UPC), yet allow deeper levels of product identification.
On meat packages and loose produce, RSS facilitates enhanced food safety and faster, more accurate checkouts. RSS codes on meat, for instance, can carry brand, cut, sell-by dates, or case information. On produce, RSS can eliminate the need to manually key a price look-up number, better ensuring the consumer is charged the right price. Initial trials in pharmaceutical applications show RSS's potential to reduce medication errors in unit-of-use and unit dose items.
According to Steve Arens, director, food and beverage, at the Uniform Code Council, preliminary application guidelines for labels, symbol size, and data content for both meat and produce will be available soon, so retailers/wholesalers can begin working with equipment suppliers on implementation, and with product suppliers on label requirements. The majority of initial RSS applications may be produced with stand-alone bar code printers, but if you're thinking you won't encounter this symbology on-press anytime soon, think again (see sidebar below).
Once RSS does begin popping up on-press more frequently, how should converters approach quality control? Frank Sharkey, senior project manager at the Uniform Code Council, explains all linear symbology print quality guidelines, including those for RSS, are defined in ISO/IEC 16416. Verification requirements are outlined in ISO/IEC15426-1.
Before converters can verify, however, they've got to get these little codes down on the substrate first. "The biggest pitfall with most of these new codes is that they are smaller and denser, and therefore leave less room for error," points out Elizabeth Urvan, senior sales consultant, Stratix. "Some printing challenges will include ink gain/loss, missing sections of the bar code, and overall uniformity in the image of the bar code. In some cases converters may have to print more slowly then they could to produce standard linear bar codes."