GS1 Barcode Quality – ITF-14

First Published: December 27, 2023

Is yours one of the many companies that need to add the ITF-14 GTIN barcode to your secondary packaging?

If you do, you’ll probably be aware that your barcodes need to meet the quality standard outlined in the GS1 Specifications, or you risk chargebacks from your retailer customers.

For linear barcodes such as the Interleaved Two of Five (ITF)m the quality level is determined by verifying the barcode to test its conformance to the ISO/IEC 15416 Standard.

When using a suitable barcode verifier device, a number of parameters are examined:

  • Minimum Reflectance
  • Symbol Contrast
  • Minimum Edge Contrast
  • Modulation
  • Defects
  • Decodability
  • Decode

Each parameter is graded, and an overall score is produced – this overall score is actually the lowest result from the parameters tested. The score is given a numeric grade from 0 -4.

0 = Fail, and 4 = best.

Overall Grade Practical Results
3.5 or better (A)The best quality barcodes that should scan quickly and accurately in most circumstances.
2.5 – 3.5 (B)Barcodes in this range are usually perfectly good for most logistics labeling applications.
1.5 – 2.5 (C)For most barcodes that are used in the GS1 system, this quality range is the minimum level that is acceptable and is the quality level included in most GS1 specifications.
0.5 – 1.5 (D)This level is not acceptable for most barcodes, but is accepted as the minimum quality for ITF-14 barcodes in certain situations.
Barcode Grades in ISO 15426 (and the Older ANSI System)

This convenient lowering of the quality score, applies with the x-dimension (the width of the smallest bars) of the ITF-14 barcode is 0.025″ or larger.

As stated by GS1 in the General Specification:

For ITF-14 symbols printed on labels with off-set, thermal, or laser print with an X-dimension 0.495 millimetre (0.0195 inch), the minimum quality specification is 1.5/10/660. For ITF-14 symbols printed directly on corrugate or labels with an X-dimension greater than or equal to 0.635 millimetre (0.0250 inch), the minimum quality specification is 0.5/20/660, (D in the ANSI table).

GS1 General Specifications, Section 5.12.3.2
From the GS1 General Specifications

This is particularly important for companies wanting to print their barcodes directly on the packaging as an alternative to using a label.

When printing directly to brown corrugated materials, the contrast is never as high as when printing with thermal or thermal transfer printers to labels or direct print methods on white corrugated.

The fact the GS1 standard reduces the minimum quality score makes it feasible to use direct print technologies, such as flexo or inkjet on corrugated materials and be in compliance.


A Slight Anomaly – Walmart

As you can see, the Walmart Supply Chain Standard asks for higher quality scores than GS1 does – despite Walmart claiming to follow GS1 Standards.


In Conclusion

The fact that it is possible to use the slightly less demanding quality score for the ITF-14 barcode ensures that a number of print technologies can be used on corrugated packaging materials.

Note that this only applies to ITF-14 barcodes with an x-dimension larger than 0.025″.

It does not apply to GS1 128 barcodes, making it impractical to print these more data-rich barcodes directly to the packaging material.

Have you taken advantage of this for direct printing of barcodes to your own packaging?

Further Reading

Barcode Validation and Verification

Walmart Supply Chain Standards

GS1 General Specifications

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