Wasp Barcode Technologies: The Barcode Solution People

How to Choose the Best Scanning Labels for Your Business

Scanning labels, or barcode labels, are used in a wide variety of applications in businesses across the world. From inventory management and asset tracking, to ticketing, retail, patient identification and advertising, the versatility of scanning labels is limitless.  

As you begin the process of selecting scanning labels for your business, you’ll soon discover the vast array of options available. Scanning labels and tags come in all shapes and sizes as well as a variety of facestocks and adhesives. They can also be custom-made to fit your specific application.

Whether you need basic stock scanning labels, custom scanning labels, or asset tags, knowing the answers to the following questions can make choosing the right label easier.

Will you print 1D or 2D barcodes on the labels?

The first step in determining the type of scanning label you need is to figure out what type of barcode you will print on your labels. There are two basic types of barcodes: one-dimensional (1D) and two-dimensional (2D).

  • 1D barcodes are linear barcodes that contain many different symbologies, each with its own purpose and set of limitations. The most common type of 1D barcode is the UPC label which is found on consumer goods and uses a series of variable-width lines and spaces to encode data. 1D barcodes hold just a few dozen characters, and generally get physically longer as more data is added. Because of this, users typically limit their barcodes to 8-15 characters.
  • 2D barcodes can store significantly more data than 1D barcodes. The most common type of 2D barcode is the QR code which is read both horizontally and vertically. When read, 2D barcodes are translated to an alphanumeric code that corresponds to previously recorded information in the business’s central database, such as price and remaining stock.

Do you need scanning labels or scanning tags?

Now that you’ve figured out the type of barcode you will print, ask yourself: Do I need a label or a tag?

A scanning label is made up of a facestock, adhesive, and release liner. The back of the facestock is coated with pressure-sensitive adhesive. This allows this media to adhere when you press it down on a surface.

A scanning tag does not have any adhesive or a release liner. It is sometimes referred to as a ticket. A tag will usually have a hang hole.

Should your scanning label material be paper or synthetic?

Paper is suitable for a wide variety of surfaces and temperature ranges. However, due to its inability to withstand extreme abrasion, moisture, or chemicals, and because it tears easily, paper is suitable for indoor use only.

Synthetic labels are more durable than paper. They resist moisture, heat, chemicals, tearing, and outdoor weather. Within the realm of synthetics, there are many different facestocks. There is polyester, polypropylene, polyolefin, polyimide, vinyl, and long-life acrylic. Each has different characteristics that make one better for a particular application over the others. To pick the right synthetic material, here are some questions to consider:

  • What will the label be adhered to?
  • What environmental factors will it be exposed to? This includes abrasion, chemicals, moisture, weather, and extreme temperatures.
  • How long will it need to last?

What type of adhesive do you need?

If you’ve decided you need a scanning tag, no adhesive is necessary; however, if you’ve chosen scanning labels, you have many adhesive choices. The main types of adhesives are permanent, removable, repositionable (ultra-removable), freezer-grade, and patterned.

  • Permanent adhesive is used when the label is intended to remain on the surface and be difficult to remove.
  • Removable adhesive is removable, but only once. The adhesive becomes stronger the longer it is stuck to a surface; therefore, it can become “permanent” over time. It’s not recommended for porous surfaces. The adhesive tends to “grab onto” those surfaces better and not remove as easily.
  • Repositionable adhesive can be removed and reapplied to a broad range of surfaces. It’s similar to a Post-It Note. It’s not recommended for porous surfaces either.
  • Freezer-grade adhesives are for use within certain low temperature ranges. Patterned adhesive means that a certain portion of the label is free from adhesive. This is commonly used for jewelry labels.

What type of barcode printer will you use?

There is more than one type of barcode printer, and they all have different capabilities and label sizes, depending on what you’ll be using barcodes for. Here are the standard options:

  • Desktop printer: Smaller than your typical office printer, a desktop barcode printer is a good fit for tight spaces and for businesses that don’t need to print a high volume of barcodes each day. These are a good choice for those in retail, healthcare, security and travel/hospitality industries, and won’t break the bank.
  • Industrial printer: These are larger workhorse printers that print barcodes at a high-volume, at high speeds, and can do so 24/7 in harsh conditions, ensuring that your manufacturing operations are never halted. Industrial barcode printers also usually come with features like media hangers, rewinders and peelers.
  • Mobile printer: Best used for printing barcodes on-the-go, mobile barcode printers are small but durable, able to withstand outdoor conditions and the shock from falls. These can be used in a number of fields, including transportation and logistics, healthcare and government.

Once you determine your printer type, consider the printer technology you will need. Inkjet, laser and thermal technologies are all used to create scanning labels and tags. However, thermal technology is the most widely adopted by those creating their own barcode systems and are usually seen as the best choice regardless of how durable and long-lasting you want your barcodes to be. There are two main kinds of thermal technology to choose from:

  • Direct thermal: This technology heats chemically treated label stock with a special printhead, causing parts of the stock to darken in the shape of a barcode. While it creates clear and clean, high-definition graphics without ribbon, toner or ink, these barcodes tend to yellow or fade over time and as such aren’t good for long-term use (six months or more).
  • Thermal transfer: This technology also uses heat, but it does so to bond a film of resin or wax to the label. These printers may be more expensive to maintain over time, but the barcodes they create are ideal for surviving long periods of time in harsh conditions, such as extreme light or weather.

We Can Help

There’s a lot to consider when choosing the right scanning labels for your business, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Our Wasp label team can help identify the best possible label for your specific application at a fair price. We offer a complete lineup of stock and custom labels to affordably satisfy all of your labeling needs. To learn more, request a label consult with one of our experts today.