The result of studies carried out in the USA, to introduce a standard code for the food industry, is the UPC symbol, having come into effect in 1973 (Universal Product Code).
The EAN (European Article Numbering Association) builds upon the UPC, which is in use in the USA and Canada to achieve a consistent article numbering. Owing to the only minor logic changes in the EAN as against the UPC, a worldwide compatible barcode system was accomplished. In 1977, the CCG (Centrale for Coorganisation) has taken over the allocation of the numbers for the Federal Republic of Germany. The EAN is based upon a voluntary cooperation between manufacturers and trade embedded in a worldwide agreement between over 20 countries.
The following four barcode variants rate among the group of trade barcodes:

  • EAN = European Article Numbering
  • IAN = International Article Numbering
  • JAN = Japanese Article Numbering
  • UPC = Universal Product Code

The three codes EAN, IAN and JAN are identical in their setup. The UPC Version A is compatible regarding the system, but in practice it cannot be read together with the EAN on the installed scanners in the USA and Canada. The reason for this can be found in the decoding of the code, as the scanners installed in these two countries can only decode 12 digits as against the 13 digits in EAN-countries.

Areas of Application & Branches of Trade

  • Consumable goods, trade
  • Electronics industry
  • Health and medical sector
  • Packing industry


Advantages / Potencies

Disadvantages / Shortcomings

  • Very low Printing Tolerance
  • Can only be utilized by members of the EAN and/or UCC-Organization.

Codeable Character Set

  • Digits: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
  • Margin & Auxiliary Characters: Are automatically generated by the "Visual Bar Code Designer".

Symbol Properties

  • Code type: Continuous (a symbology without any intercharacter gaps, i.e. all spaces contain information. Consequently, the last element of a character borders directly onto the first element of the following symbol character, rendering all elements of the barcode continuous data carriers).
  • Elements per symbol character: 4, consisting of 2 bars and 2 spaces and of 1, 2, 3 or 4 modules width each (margin & auxiliary characters have a deviating number of elements).
  • Self-checking characters: Yes (the characters are intrinsically safe, meaning that a change within a character is recognized to be an error).
  • Symbol Width: Fixed (varying lengths of 2 to 13 characters, depending on the respective symbol type).
  • Ratio (ratio between the four element widths): The ratio of the four element widths among each other should be 4 : 3 : 2 : 1.
  • Omnidirectionally readable: Yes (the barcode symbol can be read in any direction).
  • Check digit: A check digit is mandatory (is automatically generated by the "Visual Barcode Designer").)
  • Character Density: 7 modules per functional character
  • Necessary characters containing no functional information: The equivalent to the 11 modules with the EAN-13, EAN-8 & UPC-A symbols and 9 modules with the UPC-E symbol; deviating determinations in case of different symbol types.

Check Digits & Data Security

Each Barcode Symbol operates with two independent self-control devices. For once, the self-control is effected via the parity of the number of modules, for another, it runs via a check digit, calculated according to Modulo 10, which is automatically generated by the "Visual Bar Code Designer".

EAN / UPC Font Size Table

Font Size SC Enlargement Factor Module Width in mm
0 0,818 0,27
1 0,90 0,30
2 1,00 0,33
3 1,10 0,36
4 1,20 0,40
5 1,35 0,45
6 1,50 0,50
7 1,65 0,55
8 1,85 0,60
9 2,00 0,65

The table above shows as a standard the pre-defined module widths. The font size SC 2 (enlargement factor = 1.00) corresponds to the nominal size. With the "Visual Bar Code Designer", however, other module widths can also be generated. The scanners are able to read barcodes with module widths differing from those in the above table without any difficulty.

Symbol Structure

An EAN/UPC symbol consists of one main symbol. This can be an EAN-13, EAN-8, UPC-A or UPC-E symbol - accompanied, where required, by an additional symbol.


Special Applications