Traditional laser scanners have fallen somewhat out of favor in certain applications now that imaging-based scanners have grown in popularity due to their ability to read 2D codes and direct part marks. But don’t write off the venerable, laser-based linear barcode scanner yet – there are still plenty of use cases in the supply chain where a laser scanner provides significant advantages in terms of performance and cost.
Why Laser Scanners May Still Be the Best Choice for Your Application
Here are seven reasons to consider laser scanners for your operation.
1. Laser scanners can provide better scan performance in dark/low-light environments or in applications with mixed lighting where employees may move from bright to dark areas. Unlike imagers, which rely on a camera, laser scanners reflect light off barcodes to decode them. Imagers require additional illumination and can struggle to perform well in low light.
2. Laser scanners can also perform well in high-velocity applications because they have a high motion tolerance. This enables them to scan quickly and accurately, even when the barcodes might be blurry.
3. Laser scanners also provide good long-range scanning performance – up to 50 feet with retro reflective labels. The laser can project a beam over long distances without spreading out, making it ideal for long-distance scanning. This proves advantageous in applications that require scanning range flexibility, such as forklift operations where packages are often located on high shelves or hard-to-reach areas. In these cases, laser scanners can achieve 50% more range than more expensive area imagers.
Some laser scanners (like the Zebra LI3608-ER/LI3678-ER) can accurately scan at a distance of up to 56 feet away, while still maintaining the ability to scan barcodes at close range.
4. Since laser scanners can effectively read barcodes even when the scanner or the barcode is in motion, this enables them to achieve excellent scanning productivity. For this reason, laser scanning is the preferred technology in high-throughput applications that require motion insensitivity, such as at supermarket checkouts, where users can rapidly swipe item after item over a fixed scanner. This motion tolerance also pays off in hand-held scanning, where the user can quickly and effortlessly move from one bar-code to the next. In both situations, the laser scanner allows operators to increase efficiency.
5. Because laser scanners have been in use since the dawn of barcoding technology (the earliest models date back to the 1960s), the technology has been refined to the point where many of these scanners are less expensive than comparable imagers. The combination of low price and high productivity often makes laser scanning the better option in applications that don’t require reading two-dimensional (2D) barcodes. Because laser scanners can, however, read PDF417, a 2D-like symbology, they can also be a cost-effective option for applications using those types of codes.
6. Laser scanners also provide more precise scanning in applications where multiple barcodes might be present. Because the laser is emitted from the line of sight of the scanner’s sensor, accurate scanning is easy. The laser line represents exactly what the scanner’s sensor sees, so the operator can intuitively aim the scanner properly to achieve quick decodes. Imaging scanners take a picture of whatever is in front of them and rely on software algorithms to sort out the scans.
7. Laser scanners can provide greater flexibility when it comes to labeling materials. Highly reflective, shiny labels can cause glare that blinds the camera sensor in an imaging scanner. Laser scanners, however, perform well with both shiny and matte labels.
However, for applications where users will only be scanning linear barcodes, or where there is a requirement for operation in low light or for long-range scanning, laser scanners still provide performance and price advantages that are worth considering.