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Data Matrix

Data Matrix is a two dimensional symbol (2d barcode) laid out in a square or rectangular grid.  Now widely used, unlike traditional 1d barcodes, the data matrix code supports lifetime traceability of a product or component.  It is much smaller and carries a great deal more information.

Cradle to grave tracability allows manufacturers to improve product quality, improve supplier compliance of quality standards, makes it easier and less expensive to manage product recalls particularly in the automotive sector.  Components and parts need to be able to tell a story: 

By directly part marking a part with a data matrix code using laser marking, electrochemical marking (also known as chemical etchine or chemi etch) or dot peen (also know as dot marking or micropercussion) the component can be traced through its entire lifespan.

There are a number of marking technologies suited to data matrix direct part marking including Laser Marking, Electrochemical Marking and Dot Peen.

The marking technology for data matrix is normally specified in the marking standard from the end user.  The choice of marking technology is critical for the type of component and the production method being used to produce the parts.  

Dot peen marking is typically used in the automotive sector and the gas turbine engine industries as this is an ideal technology for production line integration. With the gas turbine industry it is ideal for producing a low stress permanent mark for applications such as marking on the fir tree of a gas turbine blade.

Laser marking is ideal for high contrast marks on most metal surfaces and is capable of producing extremely small data matrix codes with either a standalone system or integrated laser.  The advantage of laser is that it is a non contact marking system.

Electrochemical marking is typically hand applied or semi-automated.  Due to its extremely low stress marking it is often used for thin walled section components within the Aerospace industry.  

The data within the data matrix code is read using camera technology and is decoded with reading devices which can be either fixed position readers or hand held readers.  The fixed position readers are ideal for production line applications and can operate independently or be connected to the factory network.

The hand held readers are ideal for large and/or awkward shaped components. They are well suited for stores and inventory logging as well as logging the component at each stage of production.

The amount of data capacity of a data matrix makes it very reliable.  The symbology standard includes provision for encoding error detection and correction.  This means data matrix symbols with some damage such as scratches, holes and stains can be successfully read without any loss of data. They also cope well with harsh environments such as grease and chemical coatings.  

The readers allow automated data collection which eliminates human error as it identifies the part and any information recorded in the code.

Here at UMS, we are independent specialists for data matrix readers and can advise on the best reader for your particular application.

Reader Terminology

There are three different reader processes:

Reading - this is the basic read and decode of the data matrix.

Validation - this checks the data string is correct in the decode.  The most typical application for this is within the Aerospace engine manufacturing industry.

Verification - this is used to measure and check the accuracy of the data matrix code.  Verification can only be used on flat surfaces and there are a number of standard measurements that can be taken.  This is particularly useful for dot peen marking applications.

A number of industries have introduced marking standards which set out the parameters within which the data matrix code has to be produced, often combining both human readable text and data matrix codes.

The Aerospace industry were the first to really spearhead the development of data matrix marking applications, particularly for cradle to grave traceabiliy of aero-engine components.

Aerospace standards include ATA Spec 2000 as well as aero-engine manufacture specific standards that we have a great deal of experience with.

Automotive - AIAG B11

U.S. Department of Defense (IUID standards - mil 130n)

Medical devices and others

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