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RFID, AIDC, and Iot News: New Bar Code Symbology Gains Traction with GS1 Approval


Dot Code Target for Very High Speed Printing, Largely for Tracking Individual Products


Aug. 6, 2019
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Is there a Dotcode in your future?

Dotcode is a two-dimensional bar code symbology developed Andy Longacre, Ph.D., with its specification originally published in 2009 by AIM, an industry association supporting the automatic identification products sector.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

Aanother GS1 application experts originally expected could benefit from the use of GS1 Dotcode is printing of Serialized Shipping Container Codes right on the carton.

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Dotcode's potential value come from its ability to be printed at very high speeds. That is the result of the symbology's discrete dot pattern that permits high-speed marking processes, for which more precise alignment individual dots in other 2D symbologies may be challenging.

In fact, the symbology was created by Longacre precisely to solve the high speed printing issue, using technologies such as continuous inkjet and laser ablation printing.

And when we say high speed, we mean really high speed.
Bottling lines for soft drinks, water and other beverages - where Dotocde is expected to have a play - can be greater than 1,000 bottles or cans per minute. In cigarette production, line speeds are routinely benchmarked more than 1,000 packs per minute. Dotcode is already being used in cigarette production in much of Europe.

The immediate news is that after first seeing version 4.0 of Dotcode be approved by AIM's technical standards committee, it has now been adopted by global standards organization GS1 in a uncommon mid-year GS1 General Specifications update.

The purpose of Dotcode in many apolications will be to encode manufacturing information, such as production date and lot number, as well as the product's GTIN number (basically the traditional UPC code with a leading pack identifier, such as item, inner pack, etc.).

That results in the name "GS1 Dotcode" being assigned by GS1 to the Dotcode symbology when the encoded data is structured according to GS1 syntax. The GS1 Dotcode specification for now is limited to the European tobacco marking application, but standards for other application is expected before long.

"The updated specification defines a fundamental encoding improvement based on extensive new testing of the original encoder algorithm and real-world experience in printing and reading DotCode in anticounterfeit and traceability implementations in the European tobacco industry over the past several years," writes long-time bar code expert George Wrigh IV, in a guest column in Packaging Digest.


Wright suggests bar coding wine and spirits bottles may be the next application of Dotcode.

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Because of the change in the new spec, existing printing systems will need to have their firmware updated to successfully print the revised Dotcode. The good news is bar code readers should handle the new version of the Dotcode with no problem.

Another advantage of the Dotcode is the flexibility of how the code is printed in terms of size and dimensions. The graphic below, for example, shows two different Dotcodes encoding the same data, one code long and thin, the other more nearly square shaped.

Example Printed Dotcode Symbols


Wright says another GS1 application Longacre and others originally expected could benefit from the use of GS1 Dotcode is printing of Serialized Shipping Container Codes (SSCC, or GS1128) directly onto corrugated or other packaging. More recently, the idea has been raised that the edges or ends of dimensional lumber might be directly marked with Dotcode—and very effectively read—where linear and other 2D barcode have been less successful.

Wright also notes tthe Dotcode symbology does not just support GS1 applications. Dotcode is a robust, public-domain 2D matrix symbology that is increasingly supported by bar code printer and scanner manufacturers and by bar code label design and other software.

Applications outside the GS1 system could potentially benefit from using Dotcode, including proprietary applications within an enterprise - consider high-volume ecommerce and other high-speed sortation applications; or in other major supply chains with established non-GS1-based machine-readable marking requirement - including perhaps direct part marking (DPM) and dot peen marking in particular.

It is nice to see such progress in the very mature bar code printing and scanning technolgy domain.

Do you see applications for Dotcode? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.


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