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Troubleshooting Common Scan Problems


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Do you sometimes have trouble reading a bar code with your scanner? It could be something simple, like holding the scanner incorrectly, or maybe your scanner isn’t configured for the symbology you’re trying to read. What follows are some tips for solving common bar code scanning issues.

 User Error

Sometimes the way the bar code is oriented to the scanner prevents a successful scan. In this case, try the following:

  • Vary the distance and angle between the scanner and the bar code.
  • Focus on scanning one bar code at a time instead of multiple bar codes on a package.
  • Be sure you are scanning the correct bar code if the item is labeled with multiple bar codes.

Scanner Configuration

Be sure the scanner is configured for the type of bar code you want to scan:

  • Laser scanners can only read one dimensional (linear) bar codes like the GS1-128. They cannot read two dimensional bar codes like the GS1 Data Matrix.
  • Only imager lasers and camera orientation scanners can read 2D bar codes.
  • Make sure the symbology is enabled in the scanner for the bar code you are scanning. Check the minimum and maximum character settings and the scanner settings for that symbology.

Mechanical or Electrical Problems

Maybe the scanner is not working correctly due to some mechanical or electrical issue:

  • Check the battery status. If there is less than 50% of the battery life remaining, change (or recharge) the battery and try again.
  • Verify that the scanner is securely plugged into the outlet. Also check the cord for wear or breaks, as this can interfere with proper scan operation.
  • Ensure that the scanner lens is clean. Smudges, fingerprints, or dust can impede scanning. Try wiping the scanner lens with a soft lens cloth.
  • Check if the scanner lens is scratched or damaged in any way. If so, it will need to be serviced.

Bar Code Print Issues

Sometimes it’s not the scanner that is the problem. The bar code itself might not have been printed correctly. Following are some problems that can happen when printing bar codes:

  • All bar code fonts require a special start character, a stop character, and most require a calculated check digit. Make sure the required format is being used to print the bar code fonts.
  • Try printing the bar code font at different point sizes. Not all bar code scanners are the same; some lack the ability to scan all types and sizes of bar codes. Some scanners have a narrow reading width and cannot read long bar codes, while others cannot read small bar codes.
  • If the bar code appears to be truncated, increase the height and width of the field the font is displayed in so there is extra white space before and after the resulting bar code. Most bar codes require a white space around the printed symbol that is at least 10 times the most narrow bar in the bar code.
  • Check the print quality and DPI of the printer. Thermal printers that are 203 dpi or less can produce poor quality bar codes.
  • Make sure the material the bar code is printed on has proper contrast. Normally, the bar code should be black and the background white. Using other colors might cause poor scanning conditions. Also, make sure the material is not too glossy or the scanner light may reflect and not properly read the bar code.

        If you are still having scanning problems, then give us a call at 1-800-293-9401.

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