Barcodes have a multitude of uses and are used across a range of industries. They are commonly used for:

  • batch identification 

  • marking retail goods

  • indicating serial numbers (for example in food manufacturing)

  • scanning trade items

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Code 39 barcode labels

Code 3/9, Type 39, USS Code 39, or USD-39 is a variable length, discrete barcode symbology. Code 39 defines 43 characters, consisting of:

  • uppercase letters (A - Z)

  • numeric digits (0 - 9)

  • a number of special characters (-, ., $, /, +, %, and space).

Each character is composed of nine elements: five bars and four spaces.

Code 128 barcode labels

Code 128 barcode labels (also known as, ISBT-128, GS1-128, UCC-128, EAN-128 and USS 128) are commonly used in the shipping and packaging industries. They can be used to produce alphanumeric barcodes, or numeric barcodes.

GS1-128 barcodes labels can contain all 128 characters of ASCII and have an additional first character known as an FNC1 character.


Code 128 uses 106 various printed barcode patterns.


What are code 128 application identifiers?


Code 128 barcode labels often have special ‘application identifiers’ (numbers in brackets) which precede the barcode characters. Common identifiers include:

  • (01) - a GTIN (Global Traded Item Number)

  • (10) - a batch number

  • (11) - a product date (as YYMMDD)

  • (15) – a best before date (as YYMMDD)

  • (21) - a serial number

  • (400) - a purchase order number

  • (422) - a country of origin (ISO code)


What are code 128 barcode labels used for?


Standards exist that determine how code 128 barcode labels should be generated depending on how they will be applied, for example:

  • GS1-128 (previously known as UCC-128 and EAN-128) is defined by GS1 and used to create several types of barcode symbols that include Application Identifiers.

  • ISBT-128 for printing blood product barcode labels. This system was developed by the International Society of Blood Transfusion (ISBT) and the Working Party on Automation and Data Processing (WPADP).

  • SSCC-18 for serialized shipping labels.

European Article Number (EAN 13) barcode labels

The numbers encoded in EAN-13 barcodes are product identification numbers.

An EAN-13 barcode is a 13 digit (12 data and 1 check) barcoding standard which is a superset of the original 12-digit Universal Product Code (UPC) system. EAN-13 was originally referred to as a European Article Number, but is now referred to as an International Article Number (even though the abbreviation EAN has been retained).

European Article Number (EAN 8) barcode labels

The less commonly used EAN-8 barcodes are used also for marking retail goods; however, they are usually reserved for smaller items, for example confectionery.

2-digit (EAN 2) and 5-digit (EAN 5) supplemental barcodes may be added for a total of 14 or 17 data digits. These are generally used for periodicals (to indicate the serial number), or books and weighed products like food (to indicate the selling price), respectively.

Universal Product Code (UPC) barcode labels

A UPC is a type of barcode widely used in the UK, North America, Australia and New Zealand.


Universal Product Codes are used for tracking trade items in stores. The most common type of universal product code consists of 12 numerical digits which are each assigned to a specific trade item. Along with the related EAN barcode, the UPC is the only barcode allowed for scanning trade items at the point of sale.

A UPC barcode displays a strip of black bars and white spaces, above a sequence of 12 numerical digits. No letters, characters, or other content of any kind may appear on a standard UPC.

ITF 14 barcode labels

ITF-14 barcodes are generally used on product packaging, such as a case box of 24 cans of food. The ITF-14 will always use 14 digits.


The thick black border around the symbol is called the Bearer Bar. The purpose of a Bearer Bar is to equalise the pressure exerted by the printing plate over the entire surface of the symbol, and to enhance reading reliability by helping to reduce the probability of misreads or short scans that may occur when a skewed scanning beam enters or exits the bar code symbol through its top or bottom edge.

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