Move to Silicon to Make Bar Codes More Accurate

Intermec is set to unveil its next-generation bar code reader, promising scans that are 80 percent more accurate as it moves the bar code reader from mechanical mirrors to pure silicon.

On Wednesday, bar code pioneer and scanner manufacturer Intermec Technologies Corp. plans to unveil a new generation of bar code readers that rely on pure silicon to read bar codes, rather than mechanical means. Intermec predicts its readers will be 80 percent more accurate with the new approach to scanning.

Traditional bar code readers use several lasers set at different angles, and mirrors to direct light from the laser across the whole bar code, even when its on a product that is cylindrical or irregularly shaped.

/zimages/3/28571.gifA U.S. Court of Appeals has rejected a decades-old lawsuit involving crucial bar code patents. To read more, click here.

The new Intermec approach is based on micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) manufacturing techniques and can therefore deliver faster performance, better accuracy, smaller form factors and better durability, said Intermec President Steven Winter.

"A large mirror and a motor assembly that is wiggling back and forth, any mechanical device is almost always the failure point," Winter said. "The more solid-state you can make it, the more accurate it will be. Silicon can flex forever, and it doesnt have any stress factors. We really dont have a motor. We have a piece of silicon which we etch a mirror out of."

The new approach is much smaller and faster, but also more difficult and expensive to manufacture, Winter said, although the initial pricing for a hand-scanner will cost about the same $200 or so as traditional bar code scanners.

Winter said he expects the MEMS scanner pricing to drop sharply (about 20 percent to 30 percent) when volume production ramps up in about two years. The initial version will start shipping in November, he said.

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