Scanners are everywhere these days it seems, and the laser barcode scanner is the most common of them all. It is also known to many people by other names, such as barcode reader or price checker. You can find one attached to nearly every cash register and airport ticket kiosk. The laser barcode scanner has reduced the time we spend waiting in queues, and it has allowed a new generation of self-service checkouts to flourish. It is also used for checking out library books, managing inventories in warehouses, and looking up the details of documents. This incredible tool has already changed we work and shop, and new applications for it are being found every day.
Anyone old enough to remember when cashiers had to manually entered prices will also remember how long it took to clear the checkout. Getting through a shopping cart full of groceries could easily take more than five minutes. The introduction of the laser barcode scanner cut the waiting time by more than half, and improved the accuracy of the total amount by reducing errors. Shoppers no longer feel the need to check their dockets because they are almost never wrong. It also removed the need to manually change the prices whenever products were on special. The almost infinite number of possible barcodes allows them to be applied to most things we use today.
Over the years, the laser barcode scanner has changed and improved, and there are now three main types that are commonly used. The original scanners contained nothing more than a laser beam and a light detector. You had to move them from left to right to read the barcode, but they only worked when moved at the right speed. A novice operator often had to scan a barcode several times until it was done at the right speed. The next innovation was to add a spinning mirror that moved the laser beam across the pattern. This removed the need for the operator to move the scanner or the product, and made the whole process much faster and simpler. The latest innovation is the use of tiny CCD cameras instead of lasers to read barcodes.
The shape and size of a laser barcode scanner is designed to suit a specific task. The ergonomics of the scanner is also important for operators who use one all day. Pen scanners need to be compact and lightweight so that they can be swiped across a barcode. Handheld scanners that are pointed at a barcode are larger and heavier because they have a motor-driven prism to direct the laser beam. There are also models that have a sleeve which allows them to be worn around the wrist, freeing the operator to use both hands to carry other things. The new generation of CCD scanners that are replacing handheld scanners are smaller and lighter because they do not have a motor-driven prism.
With so many different types of laser barcode scanner on the market, it pays to take a close look at the list of features before buying a particular model. The scanning rate, resolution, and working distance from the barcode should all be check first. The scanner should have a light or buzzer that tells the operator when a barcode has been successfully scanned. If the scanner is a wired model, check that the cable is long enough and that is has the right type of plug. For a wireless model, check that it has sufficient range and supports the right protocols. Some tasks require that the scanner be Global Trade Item Name (GTIN) compliant or support Advanced Data Formatting (ADF). You should expect to pay between $50 and $200 for each scanner depending on the features you need.