The most popular applications for Data Matrix are marking of small items such as integrated circuits and printed circuit boards. These applications make use of the code’s ability to encode approximately fifty characters of data in a symbol 2 or 3mm square and the fact that the code can be read with only a 20 percent contrast ratio.
Data Matrix is designed to pack a lot of information in a very small space. Since the information is encoded by absolute dot position rather relative dot position, it is not as susceptible to printing defects as are traditional barcode.
Specialized 2D barcode scanners with Data Matrix support are required for reading Data Matrix.
Two main subsets of Data Matrix symbols exist. First subset is the conventional coding for error correction that was used in the initial installations of Data Matrix systems. These versions are referenced from ECC-000 to ECC-140. The second subset is referenced as ECC-200 and uses Reed-Solomon error correction techniques. ECC-000 to 140 symbols all have an odd number of modules along each square side. ECC-200 symbols have an even number of modules on each side. Maximum data capacity of an ECC-200 symbol is 3116 numeric digits, or 2335 alphanumeric characters, in symbol 144 modules.
Data Matrix encodes information in a machine-readable binary code that is dynamically variable in size, format and density. The coding scheme has a high level of redundancy with the data "scattered" throughout the symbol. This allows the symbol to be read correctly even if part of it is missing. The binary code is formed as a matrix. Each binary code symbol has two adjacent sides printed as solid bars, while the remaining adjacent sides are printed as a series of equally spaced square dots. These patterns are used to determine the size, the orientation and the printing density of the symbol.
The Electronic Industries Association has picked Data Matrix as its standard for labeling of small electrical components. The symbology has also been adopted by the Automotive Industry Action Group for the marking of automobile parts, as well as by the semiconductor industry for the identification of semiconductors and silicon wafers.
One can use Label Flow™ barcode software for printing Data Matrix labels for electronics parts and other small items or use Asset Track (inventory software) for managing inventory.