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Standardized barcodes like the EAN-13 or the UPC-A have revolutionized logistics and retail. Now, a new revolution is on the horizon. Companies around the world are modernizing their packaging and product identification and improving the complete flow of information by printing 2D codes.
Up to now, EAN-13 barcodes have been used as checkout codes in retail and logistics. But due to their very limited data capacity and growing connectivity, they are simply no longer up to date. Manufacturers are increasingly expected to provide product information in a simple and accessible way. Whether it's for consumers who want to learn more about a particular product, or for wholesalers and retailers who want to optimize efficiency by accessing accurate product data and supply chain information.
A standardized solutions for digital product marking developed by the GS1 organization combines existing GS1 standards with a new universal code - the GS1 Digital Link. The new GS1 Digital Link standard connects GS1 identifiers - such as the GTIN - to the Internet. Different information about a product can be provided flexibly via a single link using this new standard. This means that the information can be adapted at any time without having to renew the data carrier, such as the QR code, and its content.
Existing GS1 identifiers, such as the GTIN, retain their validity and are embedded in a standard-compliant URL of the brand owner.
Since 2021, the GS1 2D DataMatrix, the QR Code with Digital Link, and the DataMatrix Code with GS1 Digital Link have been approved as checkout codes at the point of sale. Migration to GS1 Digital Link can be accomplished without deep changes to existing systems and processes. The goal is to achieve a worldwide migration to 2D checkout codes by 2027.
The GS1 Digital Link can be used with any type of 2D code - but typically with a QR code. Consumers can then use their smartphone to scan the QR code on the product packaging, which redirects them to a defined website. Depending on the user, different information can be displayed in different languages and formats. Because conceptually, it is one and the same 2D checkout code that is accessed. But different apps lead users to completely different destinations. For example, one app provides consumers with extended product information such as origin, ingredients, or the best-before date (MHD). With other apps, it is again possible to promote customer loyalty measures through interactions with the app, raffles or discount promotions. And for the manufacturer, the very same code can provide information for process control, such as inventory management, traceability, production planning and targeted recalls.
To briefly summarize: The GS1 Digital Link puts GS1 ID's into a web-friendly format that can typically be encoded in a QR code.
In this example, several data contents are linked together in one GS1 Digital Link and encoded in one QR code. The information embedded here is the GTIN 04270001108739, the lot number Lot1, the serial number 12345 and the expiry date 12/31/2022.
This 2D code is therefore much more than just a 2D checkout code at the point of sale. In addition to the GTIN as a uniquely identifiable article number, consumers can access the Internet via their smartphone and obtain relevant information, such as the best-before date –always up-to-date and in real time.
The range of applications for the new GS1 Digital Links is huge. It can be used throughout the entire product lifecycle in all task areas of a company. In the furniture industry, for example, 2D Data Matrix Codes (DMC) are modernizing packaging and product marking.
Use cases and added values include:
Some industries using the new GS1 Digital Link Standard include:
In many areas, CIJ technology has been used in recent years. However, due to the low print resolution, the font quality no longer meets today's requirements. Especially for the requirements of 2D checkout codes, the use of small character inkjet printers is only conditionally suitable for printing 2D codes in good quality and at high speeds. High first-pass reading rates, which are particularly crucial at the point of sale, cannot be achieved with this technology.
The opportunity is a CIJ substitution by means of high resolution TIJ technology or by means of laser systems or labeling system.
REA JET HR Coding and Marking Systems based on HP cartridges are ideal for high resolution 2D codes, brand logos or other high-quality markings – and at high speeds. Products and packaging can be marked with a print height of 12.7 mm per print head - several print heads can be cascaded for greater print heights. High first-pass reading rates are therefore no problem at the point of sale.
The high resolution coding and marking system REA JET GK 2.0, based on piezo technology, is suitable for direct, high-contrast marking on absorbent and porous surfaces, such as cardboard or paper. With a variable print height of up to 100 mm, texts, 1D and 2D codes and graphics can be freely combined. All this at a horizontal resolution of 1200 dpi, which ensures high print quality with excellent edge definition.
REA JET CL Laser Systems mark packaging made of organic materials durably, highly precisely and individually. The laser systems are consumable-free. High first-pass reading rates are also guaranteed here.
REA JET FL Laser System mark plastic packaging contact-free, precisely and individually. Fiber laser marking is permanently durable and ideal for harder metals such as stainless steel and titanium as well as for plastics but also for thin foils. The laser systems are consumable-free. Here, too, high first-pass reading rates at the point of sale are guaranteed.
Wherever direct marking with Inkjet Printers or Laser Marking Systems is out of the question, labeling solutions are the obvious choice.
REA LABEL offers suitable solutions for this purpose, from simple tabletop label printers to complex labeling systems for all applications.
Code verification systems from REA VERIFIER are used to ensure that markings and codes are error-free and comply with international standard specifications. In this way, each marking receives an acceptance test report.
REA offers a complete product portfolio and code know-how for the implementation of this task. Please contact us.