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Barcode Types Explained - Everything you need to Know in 2024

4.5 Minutes

In this article we will explore the different barcode types in the 1d, 2D and 3D Categories. We give an overview of each barcode type and its main characteristics. Read on to learn more.

One-dimensional (1D) Barcode Types:

One-dimensional or 1D barcodes are the most commonly used barcodes today, particularly in the retail and product space. They represent data by varying the spacings and widths of parallel lines. While they are simple in design, they have proven effective in a wide range of applications.

UPC Code

different barcode types

Universal Product Codes (UPC) are the most widely recognized barcodes in the United States. Originally designed to help grocery stores speed up the checkout process, they are now used on a wide variety of retail products.

  • Found predominantly in the USA and Canada.
  • Each UPC code is unique to the product it represents.
  • Typically contains 12 digits.
  • Variations: UPC-A, UPC-E

EAN Code

barcode type - ean

The European Article Number (EAN) is a barcode standard similar to the UPC. It was developed for use outside North America and is common in international markets.

  • Widely used in global retail.
  • Contains information about the product and its manufacturer.
  • Typically contains 13 digits.
  • Variations: EAN-13, EAN-8, JAN-13, ISBN, ISSN


Code 39 is an alpha-numeric barcode that can encode letters, numbers, and some special characters. It's popular in various industries because of its versatility.

  • Allows for 43 different characters.
  • Common in automotive and defense sectors.
  • Doesn't require a check digit.
  • Known as an "industrial" barcode.

CODE 128

Code 128 is a high-density, versatile barcode that encodes the full 128 ASCII character set. Its flexibility has led to widespread adoption in various industries.

  • Can encode all 128 ASCII characters.
  • Contains a check digit for error detection.
  • Suitable for encoding large amounts of data.
  • Used frequently in packaging and shipping.

ITF (Interleaved 2 of 5)

Interleaved 2 of 5 is a numeric-only barcode often used in the warehousing and distribution sectors. It encodes pairs of numbers, hence the name "interleaved."

  • Encodes pairs of numeric characters.
  • Requires an even number of digits.
  • Commonly used on corrugated boxes.
  • Features a compact size compared to other codes.


Code 93 is an improvement over Code 39, offering a more compact barcode for similar data encoding needs. It can represent the full ASCII set using combinations of 2 characters.

  • A denser alternative to Code 39.
  • Contains two check digits for increased reliability.
  • Suitable for many industrial applications.
  • Can represent more characters in a smaller space.


Codabar is an older format still used in specific applications, such as libraries and blood banks. It can encode numbers and a limited set of symbols.

  • Used frequently in library systems and blood banks.
  • Doesn't require a check digit.
  • Supports 16 different characters.
  • Variations: Codabar, Ames Code, NW-7, Monarch, Code 2 of 7, Rationalized Codabar, ANSI/AIM BC3-1995, USD-4

GS1 DataBar

GS1 DataBar is a family of barcodes designed to fit on smaller items, often seen on fresh produce and perishable goods.

  • Common on fresh produce labels.
  • Can carry more information than a UPC or EAN.
  • Designed for global commerce and trade.
  • Variations: GS1 DataBar Omnidirectional, Truncated, Stacked, Stacked Omnidirectional, Expanded, Expanded Stacked

MSI Plessey

MSI Plessey is a numeric-only barcode often seen in inventory control and storage.

  • Primarily used for shelf labeling and inventory control.
  • Contains a check digit for added security.
  • Is a continuous barcode type.
  • Known for its simplicity and ease of printing.

Two-dimensional (2D) Barcode Types:

Two-dimensional or 2D barcodes are more complex than 1D barcodes, storing data in both the vertical and horizontal dimensions. These barcodes can store a significant amount of information, making them suitable for diverse applications from retail to healthcare.

QR Code (Quick Response Code)

QR Codes are matrix barcodes that can store a wide variety of data types, including numerical, alphabetic, and special characters. They gained popularity due to their quick readability and capacity for significant data storage.

  • Used for everything from product labels to mobile marketing.
  • Can be scanned by smartphones, making them popular for interactive applications.
  • Stores up to 3,000 alphanumeric characters.
  • Rapid scan capability gave it the name "Quick Response."

Data Matrix Code

Data Matrix codes are 2D barcodes used to mark small items. They can store large amounts of data and remain readable even if damaged.

  • Common in electronics, healthcare, and aerospace industries.
  • Can encode up to 2,335 alphanumeric characters.
  • Resilient to damage due to error correction capabilities.
  • Variation: Micro-Data Matrix


PDF417, or Portable Data File 417, is a stacked barcode often used for labeling, identification cards, and transport tickets.

  • Can encode over 1,000 characters per symbol.
  • Widely used for identification cards and transport tickets.
  • Utilizes both linear and stacked arrangements.
  • Variation: Truncated PDF417


Aztec codes are 2D matrix barcodes used primarily in transportation industries for tickets and passes.

  • Found on transport tickets like airlines and trains.
  • Doesn't require a quiet zone (area without data) around it.
  • Can withstand damage and remain scannable.
  • Recognizable by its central "bullseye" pattern.

Three-dimensional (3D) Barcode Types:

Three-dimensional barcodes utilize the third dimension, depth, in addition to height and width, to encode data. Unlike traditional 1D or 2D barcodes that are printed on flat surfaces, 3D barcodes involve physical depth changes in the surface itself. As a result, they can store significantly more data. 

Direct Part Marking (DPM)

Direct Part Marking is a method where information is etched or marked directly onto an item, creating a permanent mark.

  • Used for items that need to be tracked during their lifecycle.
  • Common in aerospace and automotive industries where part traceability is crucial.
  • Can endure high levels of wear and tear.
  • Often utilizes 2D patterns but with physical depth, making them a form of 3D barcode.

Laser Surface Authentication (LSA)

LSA is a unique form of 3D barcoding in which the natural surface grain of an item is read and digitized.

  • Doesn't require any added marks; uses the existing material's texture.
  • Provides a high level of security as each surface grain is unique.
  • Commonly used for anti-counterfeiting measures.
  • Requires specialized laser scanning equipment.

Embossed Barcode

Embossed barcodes are created by pressing a pattern into a surface, creating raised areas to represent data.

  • Often found on plastic cards like credit cards.
  • Long-lasting due to the physical nature of the embossing.
  • Can be felt and seen, providing an additional tactile component.
  • Resistant to fading, unlike printed barcodes.

As industries continue to look for ways to compactly store more data on items, the adoption of 3D barcoding and similar technologies is likely to grow. The use of depth to encode data provides a novel solution to the limitations of traditional flat barcodes.

We hope you now have a better understanding of the different barcode types that are used in the world today!

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