You'll need to have at least a bar code reader if you plan to implement the use of barcoding. You might also consider adding a portable data collector and/or a dedicated bar code printer. RTA offers a line of quality barcoding hardware and supplies for your convenience. Contact our sales department for more information. These products are guaranteed to work with the RTA system with minimal setup and are supported should you have any questions or problems.
Bar Code Readers
Bar codes scanned in by a bar code reader appear on the computer just as if they had been input on the keyboard only without the typing errors. Bar code readers are usually stationary and do not store data. Their only function is to read in bar codes. They can be used anywhere you are prompted for data in the system. If you have a printed bar code for that item (e.g., part number, vehicle number, etc.), simply scan it in with the bar code reader.
RTA's bar code readers are laser guns that employ a "point and shoot" technology. The operator can obtain instantaneous readings for distances up to 15 inches from the bar code. These laser guns work efficiently on flat or irregular surfaces, scanning repeatedly until a good read occurs. For hands-free scanning, the laser gun can be placed on a weighted base stand.
Portable Data Collectors
The portable data collector sold by RTA is known as the TriCoder. The TriCoder is a portable bar code reader with an integrated microcomputer system and laser scanner. It includes a display, keypad, communications ports, batteries, and memory for data and program storage. The TriCoder has the ability to be programmed with basic data capture instructions, and the data collected can be stored in the TriCoder's memory. It can be used as a bar code reader though the real benefit is its portability. It can be unplugged from the computer and taken onto the shop floor, parts room, fueling lanes, or wash bays to accomplish the task at hand. The TriCoder comes preloaded with three programs of your choosing (discussed later in this chapter).
Bar Code Printers
Bar codes can be printed on practically all types of printers so it is not necessary to purchase a separate printer in order to print bar codes. However, there are advantages to doing so. If you print labels frequently, you will find the convenience of having a dedicated bar code printer worthwhile. A dedicated bar code printer eliminates the hassles of loading and unloading labels, printing alignment tests, and prevents label waste when regular print jobs are accidentally printed onto the labels. The label quality and speed of printing will vary depending on the type of printer used. If you are considering purchasing a dedicated bar code printer, read the following paragraphs to ensure the printer you choose will be compatible with RTA.
Dot Matrix Printers
Most standard dot matrix printers produced today have the capability to print bar codes. As long as it supports the Extended IBM Graphics set, RTA should be able to print a bar code to it. Cost is the only real advantage of using a dot matrix printer. It is extremely affordable, and chances are, you have one lying around somewhere that was replaced by another type of printer. The bar code produced by these printers is a medium density bar code and tends to be somewhat grainy. Although still readable by the bar code scanner (as long as the ribbon is not too old and the print too faded), the nature of dot matrix printers makes this one of the least favorable of all bar code printing solutions.
Ink/Desk/Bubble Jet Printers
It is possible to print bar codes with most ink/desk/bubble jet printers. However, this is one of those "doable" but not recommended options. The printers are low cost but special labels are required to prevent the ink from "bleeding," rendering the bar codes unreadable.
Laser Jet Printers
The RTA software will print bar codes on most Hewlett Packard laser jet printers or printers that can fully emulate a Hewlett Packard (HP) printer. Though it is more costly than a dot matrix printer, the advantage of a laser jet solution is that it produces labels at a much faster rate (without adding to the shop noise) with a higher density bar code that is easier to read.
Thermal Transfer Printers
The advantage of thermal transfer printers is speed, producing 2 to 15 labels per second! Thermal printers output a high quality, high density label that can be used for virtually any application, including very long-life and extreme shop environments. The disadvantage to these printers is the cost and unlike the other printer options mentioned, thermal transfer printers are designed specifically to print bar codes.
The RTA software is compatible with several thermal printers available on the market, including the Citizen cl-s700 and s621, C.Itoh S4, Ovation, and Zebra T300 printers. These printers require the purchase of a specialized driver in order to work with the RTA software. The Citizen cl-s700 and cl-s621 printer can be purchased directly from RTA (driver included with the purchase). Contact our sales department for more information.