What is a Barcode Printer?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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A barcode printer is a printer which is designed to print barcodes, machine readable codes which can be used as identifiers on products of all shapes and sizes, from tanker truck loads to computer components. The barcode printer is capable of printing the barcode along with a component which can be read by humans. These specialized printers are available through companies which make printing supplies and can also be provided by manufacturers of inventory management systems.

Barcodes are arrangements of lines which convey information when read by a scanner. There are a number of different styles of bar code available. Typically, they are presented with the barcode above and a human-readable string of letters and numbers below. The barcode printer may also be able to add a brief line of text, such as a description of the item or similar information, for the purpose of making the bar code more convenient for humans.


Any type of printer can print barcodes, although it is important to have clear print quality so that it can be read by scanners. A specialized barcode printer is designed only for this purpose and may work more accurately and quickly than a conventional printer. The most common choice of printer for barcodes is a thermal printer. Working quickly and quietly, thermal transfer printers can generate very durable printed products which will not become unreadable with exposure to sunlight and chemicals. A thermal barcode printer can print on labels, paper, plastic tags, and many other materials, depending on the design of the product.

Sometimes a barcode creator is bundled with a printer, allowing people to generate and print barcodes in one spot. The device may also have an extension to allow people to read barcodes as well. In other cases, the printer is a computer peripheral which is connected to a computer which has barcoding software which can be used for formatting. It is important to make sure that the software and the barcode printer are compatible; for example, if barcodes are not sized properly by the program, they may not fit on the material which runs through the printer.

Barcoding can assist with inventory management and numerous other tasks. A barcode printer generates tags and labels which can be applied to products in order to tag them so that they can be tracked in a system. While barcodes originally became popular in grocery stores, today they are a ubiquitous sight in environments where inventory management is crucial, from medical labs to shipping yards.


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