Much effort goes into designing unique identification (UID) labels for equipment to be used by the military. How to label the items, where to place the 2D Data Matrix symbol that contains the Item Unique Identifier (IUID), what size the symbol should be and what information it should contain are all issues that must be evaluated.
But at the end of the process, what really matters is whether the symbol can be read by machines designed to do so. An IUID verification system,such as those available through ID Integration Inc.,will assess the readability of the Data Matrix symbols in addition to data contrast.
An IUID verification system will look at the contrast between the symbol and the background. Whether it’s a dark symbol on a light background or a light symbol on a dark background, if there’s not enough contrast, the mark will receive a low grade. If the mark is applied to an item whose surface color varies, placing the mark on an area where the color is uniform is recommended.
The UID symbol should be surrounded by a “quiet zone” — empty space that’s needed for the scanner to read the data matrix. The quiet zone should be at least as wide as a cell in the data matrix; a quiet zone whose width is 10% the length of the longest data matrix side is recommended.
The U.S. Department of Defense standard for UID labeling, MIL-STD-130, specifies the minimum and maximum size of a cell within the data matrix. The longest side of the Data Matrix should be 1 inch or less. Factors such as the size of the item being marked and how much flat, smooth surface is available may limit the size of the Data Matrix; but in general, it’s best to use the largest symbol possible. A larger symbol is better able to withstand damage and remain readable.
An IUID verification system will assess the symbol’s room for error, for example, if part of the symbol should become damaged and thus unreadable.
Consulting an expert in IUID systems can make the process much easier. ID Integration has more than 12 years of experience in this area. They sell a wide range of part-marking equipment as well as IUID scanners and verifiers, and can answer questions relating to the various government UID standards. They can also provide expertise on integrating UID labeling into a business’ existing systems.
For more information, visit the ID Integration website id-integration.com.