A long-range scanner can extend the reach of barcode scanning to distances of up to 50 feet or even farther. These technologies have impacted warehouse operations and office storage options in a major way by allowing companies to maximize the use of available space, such as by making it more functional to use additional vertical rack space that would otherwise be difficult to access for scanning. Additional benefits of long-range scanners include:
- Durable and high-precision scanning
- High speed and continuous scanning
- Omnidirectional scanning
- Long- and short-range compatibility
Given the unique challenges of scanning barcodes from a long distance, this is very much a niche application and requires some careful planning. In this post, we’ll explore seven important factors you should consider before making a long-range scanner purchase. These considerations can help you avoid common mistakes and select optimal scanning hardware.
1. Scanning Range
Before purchasing any long-range scanner, it is important to consider the expected scanning ranges of all hardware you intend to use. During the course of operation, a scanner will likely need to scan barcodes at a variety of distances. Each scanner is designed with an optimal scanning range, and you should always confirm if any of your expected scans would occur outside of this range.
For example, even though long-range scanners are able to scan barcodes at a shorter range, the performance may not be as good as a dedicated short-range scanner. This may be perfectly acceptable for your applications, but you may also need to consider using different combinations of scanning hardware and barcodes for particular areas of your facility.
2. Barcode Type
There are two major barcode symbology categories that are frequently used: 1D and 2D. The 1D type uses a series of spaced lines to record barcode data and can be used to store numeric or alpha-numeric characters. With a 2D barcode, such as the popular QR codes that are used today, a grid of squares stores the data, and orientation marks are added for more reliable scanning. In simple terms, 1D barcodes are more common, while 2D barcodes are a newer technology that can store more data. There are also dozens of unique symbologies from which you can choose. Many of these have specific niche applications, while others are ideal for general purposes such as managing inventory or tracking equipment assets.
3. Barcode Size
Barcode size has a significant impact on the scanning distance that can be used with a particular label. In general terms, longer scanning distances will require a larger barcode. This is especially true for barcode labels that may be placed in high locations or require a more extreme scanning angle. Considering these potential scanning angles and distances will help you select a proper barcode label size. In addition to size, the density (dpi) of the barcode image is also critical and should be of acceptable quality even for larger labels.
4. Label Material & Type
For long-range scanning, the label material is also an important factor in determining the acceptable scanning range. The use of retro-reflective barcode labels is recommended for long-range scanning applications because the surface of the label is optimized for this purpose. This special coating triples the depth of field compared to traditional label materials and can be used for labeling racks, pipes, and other hard to reach places.
Understanding any potential hazards your barcode labels or scanners may encounter can help you avoid costly replacements and future scanning issues. There are some excellent rugged options available for applications in which scanners may be dropped or damaged from repeated use. If you have outdoor long-range scanning needs, select a long-range scanner with the durability to withstand exposure to moisture, UV, and dust, and consider any temperature requirements for ideal operation. Barcode labels can also be protected from sources of abrasion, corrosion, and other harsh conditions by selecting a compatible substrate material.
Scanners are available with connectivity that is either tethered, wireless, or both. The tethered option will have a cord attached, which may limit flexibility for scanning items away from the attached terminal but will also have excellent connectivity and constant power. Wireless options most often use Bluetooth and can be operated at distances of roughly 10 feet away from receivers. For wireless scanners, always conduct a study to determine how many scans may be done per day so that you can estimate your required battery life.
7. Form Factor
A number of different scanner form factors are available, and you should choose the one that matches your intended applications. In some cases, a combination of designs may be necessary to meet the varying scanning across your operations. Some of the available options include:
Each of these scanner configurations has its own advantages and will generally be compatible with the common barcode types discussed above. Also, not all of these options will be available with long-range scanning capabilities. Always review the individual specifications for each model to determine the best option for your needs.
Long-range barcode scanners can be an incredible asset for organizations that maximize their use of available space and thus require a scanning solution for greater scanning accessibility. After reviewing these essential factors, you can then familiarize yourself with some of the popular hardware and barcode label options available in the market. By piecing together a complete scanning system that is optimized for each application, you will get the most value out of your investment.