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what is laser barcode scanner

A laser barcode scanner is a type of barcode scanner that uses a laser beam to read and interpret the information encoded in barcodes. Laser scanners are known for their accuracy, speed, and ability to scan barcodes from greater distances compared to other types of scanners. Here’s an in-depth look at how laser barcode scanners work, their components, advantages, and typical applications:

How Laser Barcode Scanners Work

  1. Laser Emission:

    • The scanner emits a laser beam, usually from a laser diode. The laser beam is directed towards the barcode.

  2. Scanning Mechanism:

    • The laser beam is typically directed through a series of mirrors or a rotating prism to sweep across the barcode. This sweeping motion allows the laser to scan the entire width of the barcode.

  3. Reflection and Detection:

    • As the laser beam moves across the barcode, the light is reflected back to the scanner. Dark bars absorb the light, while white spaces reflect it. The reflected light is captured by a photodiode or similar sensor within the scanner.

  4. Conversion to Electrical Signal:

    • The sensor converts the reflected light into an electrical signal. The intensity of the reflected light varies based on the pattern of bars and spaces in the barcode.

  5. Decoding:

    • The scanner’s decoder processes the electrical signal, interpreting the variations in intensity to decode the barcode. The decoder converts the patterns into digital data representing the alphanumeric characters encoded in the barcode.

  6. Data Output:

    • The decoded data is then sent to a connected computer, point-of-sale (POS) system, or other devices, usually appearing as text input.

Components of a Laser Barcode Scanner

  • Laser Diode: Generates the laser beam used to scan the barcode.

  • Scanning Mechanism: Often a rotating mirror or oscillating prism that sweeps the laser beam across the barcode.

  • Photodiode/Sensor: Detects the reflected light and converts it into an electrical signal.

  • Decoder: Interprets the electrical signal and converts it into digital data.

  • Housing: The outer casing that holds all the components and is designed to be ergonomic for handheld use or durable for fixed installations.

Advantages of Laser Barcode Scanners

  1. Accuracy: Laser scanners are highly accurate in reading barcodes, even if they are slightly damaged or poorly printed.

  2. Speed: They can quickly scan and decode barcodes, which is essential in high-volume environments.

  3. Range: Laser scanners can read barcodes from a greater distance compared to other types of scanners, making them useful for scanning items on high shelves or from a distance.

  4. Versatility: They can read a wide variety of 1D barcode symbologies.

Typical Applications of Laser Barcode Scanners

  1. Retail: Used at checkout counters to scan product barcodes for pricing and inventory management.

  2. Warehouse and Inventory Management: Scanning barcodes on shelves and products to manage stock levels and track items.

  3. Logistics: Scanning barcodes on packages for tracking and sorting.

  4. Healthcare: Managing patient information, tracking medications, and inventorying medical supplies.

  5. Manufacturing: Tracking parts and products through the production process.


  • 2D Barcode Scanning: Laser scanners are generally limited to reading 1D barcodes. For 2D barcodes (like QR codes), imaging scanners or camera-based scanners are required.

  • Reflective Surfaces: Barcodes on highly reflective surfaces may be more challenging to scan due to glare.


Laser barcode scanners are a reliable and efficient solution for many applications requiring fast and accurate barcode reading. Their ability to read from a distance and handle a variety of barcode conditions makes them a popular choice in retail, logistics, healthcare, and more. However, for applications involving 2D barcodes or specific environmental challenges, other types of barcode scanners, like imaging scanners, might be more appropriate.

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