Barcode reader adds machine-vision capability

Current barcode symbology standards such as UCC/EAN-128, EAN-8, QR Code, and PDF-417 often cannot be used on very small objects such as pharmaceutical vials or where a large amount of information needs to be captured in a very small space.

Jul 1st, 2003

Current barcode symbology standards such as UCC/EAN-128, EAN-8, QR Code, and PDF-417 often cannot be used on very small objects such as pharmaceutical vials or where a large amount of information needs to be captured in a very small space. Accordingly, EAN International (Brussels, Belgium; www.ean-int.org) and the Uniform Code Council (Dayton, OH, USA; www.uc-council.org) have patented Reduced Space Symbology (RSS) and Composite Symbology (CS) codes that can be used in applications where size restrictions present barcode-reading problems.

Recently proposed US Food and Drug Administration regulations will require barcoding on all unit dose medications and increased reporting of safety problems involving pills and medicines. In addition to reducing the high rate of medical errors at the point drugs are manufactured through the point where they are administered to the patient, machine-readable RSS and CS codes promise improved administration efficiencies and more rapid detection of potential errors.

RSS linear barcodes contain the National Drug Code product identification in a space-efficient format for marking "unit-of-use" products, such as individual medicine doses and blister-packed tablets that are too small to be marked with UPC or standard codes. Combining RSS and CS codes provides additional machine-readable information such as lot and date codes, batch number, and expiration date.

New products introduced

At the recent International Robots & Vision Show, both Cognex Corp. (Natick, MA, USA; www.cognex.com/insight) and Microscan (Renton, WA, USA; www.microscan.com) introduced sensors capable of reading the new symbology. Cognex In-Sight vision sensors now can read RSS and CS codes on pharmaceutical packages for product identification and traceability.

Microscan's latest smart camera, the Quadrus EZ, can read RSS and CS, standard linear barcodes, and 2-D data matrix symbols. Additional features of the camera include USB and Ethernet connectivity as well as handling video inputs and outputs. According to Bob Taplett, applications engineering manager at Microscan, "the video input capability allows standard low-cost progressive-scan cameras to be interfaced to the Quadrus EZ. This connectivity allows the system to analyze barcodes using a laser barcode scanner and an attached CCD camera.

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