Danish company debuts “world’s smallest barcode technology”
Danish company Rel8, a specialist in track-and-trace, has developed what is being called “the world’s smallest barcodes”. Its imZERT direct part marking (DPM) technology creates barcodes as small as 1 mm2 designed to enhance traceability for end products reliant on small, outsourced components, such as automobiles and electronics.
imZERT barcodes can be scanned and decoded via smartphones equipped with commercially available barcode scanning development kits (SDKs), such as Code Corporation’s CortexDecoder SDK.
imZERT technology arranges nanostructures into barcodes using standard lithographic methods, then engraves them into the moulds for elastomer and plastic components. More compact and crisp than those created by traditional laser engraving, imZERT DPM barcodes help manufacturers, suppliers and sub-suppliers identify the source of faulty parts or tainted ingredients for product recalls. imZERT’s industrial track-and-trace method also benefits sectors where counterfeits can endanger end users, such as pharmaceuticals and electronics, or erode brand value and impact profits, such as fashion.
“Historically, small plastic components have largely been left out of the tracking loop because marking them was either unfeasible or cost-prohibitive,” said Guggi Kofod, Rel8 CEO. “Our method addresses this hurdle by integrating nanostructures via small, standardised steel pins into an injection mould. The nanostructures are then accurately replicated on plastic parts for 2D barcodes that are optically scannable with a standard camera-equipped smartphone.”
imZERT was initially developed to prevent manufacturing errors when a device or component manufacturer switches from black to white polymers for minuscule — yet vital — components and minimise issues stemming from product updates. The DPM barcode’s high contrast structure is readable with SDK-equipped smartphones, eliminating additional machine vision systems (and associated costs). SDKs are readily available from barcode scanning specialists, such as Code Corporation. In testing, Rel8 favoured Code Corporation’s CortexDecoder SDK for its point-and-shoot simplicity when scanning barcodes as small as 2 mm2 in diverse environments, including dimly lit production halls.
“CortexDecoder recognises imZERT barcodes within one millisecond,” Kofod said. “If the user adds an off-the-shelf macro lens to their smartphone, CortexDecoder will scan 1 mm2 barcodes without fail.”
Automated manufacturing and assembly benefits from consistent and reliable barcodes with sharp edge definition that scan with little effort using off-the-shelf vision equipment. Beyond manufacturing, imZERT technology can benefit pharmaceutical and food production. Rel8’s internal testing verifies that imZERT technology poses zero contamination risk over more than 150,000 usage cycles — imZERT barcodes can be used on packaging and inside containers of consumable liquids, such as medication. As such, imZERT usage could bolster end consumer safety in the event of a recall.
imZERT technology is ready to make inroads with European automotive suppliers and medical device manufacturers. And in the US, identification and traceability are growing in importance and creating additional need for track-and-trace solutions such as imZERT. For instance, the Food and Drug Administration’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative has an open call for firms to deliver low- or no-cost traceability products for end users to identify contaminated foods. Similarly, robust track-and-trace programs are mandatory for medical device makers to maintain FDA compliance.
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