The basic principle of linear and two-dimensional barcodes still apply – an image is applied to an item which is then read by a barcode scanner. Only in this case, 3D barcodes are just that: three-dimensional. The barcode is permanently engraved or embossed on to the actual product during the manufacturing process. The only difference is that the bars are not read as variances of the width detected by lasers as with linear barcodes. Instead, the lasers determine the height of each 3D line or shape. The time it takes the laser to bounce back defines the height. And just as a laser can detect the white gaps between linear barcodes, so can it detect the lower regions of 3D barcodes and carry out a successful scan.
These 3D barcodes are ideal for those in the manufacture industry as they are virtually impossible to alter – resulting in fewer inventory errors as the barcode information is unobstructed – and can withstand the high temperatures, pressure and chemicals, unlike their label counterparts. Scanners used to read 3D barcodes can either be hand held as well as integrated into the assembly lines of the product manufacturing process. The application of the code onto products can either happen during the manufacturing process itself or embossed later with a press. Manufacturers now have a way to track a part on the line to assess efficiency of the production process, or to account for the number of man hours needed to create a single part.
Because the encoded data is so secure on 3D barcodes, jewellery businesses have opted to implement them into their systems. Diamonds have 3D barcodes engraved on them via microscopic cubes – invisible to the naked eye. The 3D barcode – exceptionally strong and impenetrable – can detect who the diamond belongs to in the case of theft.
The main differences between 1D and 2D barcodes and 3D barcodes are: