Quality Innovations: Picture Perfect

Advanced barcode reader offers reliability at a low cost.

The DataMan 500 is the only high-speed array vision-based barcode reader on the market. Source: Cognex Corp.

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and it is no different when talking about barcode readers where it is important to capture an entire area in a single snapshot.

In factory automation applications where there is a need for code reading, tracking and sorting, laser-based scanners and image-based readers are typically the systems in place. The laser scanner provide high read rates when there are good quality barcodes, however, when the conditions are less than perfect, it can be difficult to attain a read.

Line scan-based camera systems tend to be used in high-scale applications because of their cost, but they do provide improved read rates. While both systems have their own advantages, there has been a need in the market for a lower cost reader with the effectiveness of the image-based systems.

Launched at the beginning of the year, the DataMan (DM) 500 series from Cognex Corp. (Natick, MA) is the only high-speed, area-array image-based barcode reader on the market that combines the simplicity of a laser scanner with the reliability of an image-based reader.

“With breakthrough, proprietary imaging technology, combined with best-in-class one-dimensional (1-D) reading algorithms, the DM500 is able to bring the read rates of image-based readers to the high-speed lines of the logistics market,” says Jorge Schuster, Cognex’s director of ID sales, Americas. “Essentially, the DM500 combines the read rates of vision technology with the ease of use of traditional laser-based barcode readers.”

Unlike lasers, the DM500 allows the operator to see what the reader sees live. For example, if there is a “no read,” it is easy for the operator to understand that a label is missing by looking at the image. This can be done on a monitor or saved for viewing later by using an automatic FTP transfer for image archiving, which is enabled by the Ethernet connectivity that provides a direct connection to the factory network.

“The 1-D Max algorithm provides best-in-class barcode reading, with the ability to handle the types of codes that cause problems for laser readers, including low contrast, short height, quiet zone violations and damage and extreme perspective,” says John Keating, manager, product marketing. “The DM500 also has the ability to decode 1-D and two-dimensional (2-D) bar codes. As companies migrate to include DataMatrix codes, image-based technology can grow with them. This reader helps to future-proof the production line as operators can upgrade their existing DM500 systems with DataMatrix reading capability when they have that requirement.”

The concept for the DM500 is a result of a market demand for a high-speed imaging processer to handle a variety of different applications, one being to decode barcodes on high-speed conveyor lines.

According to Schuster, the system is unique due to the fact that it can process images at a speed of 1,000 frames per second (fps) making use of Cognex’s proprietary vision system on a chip (VSoC) technology. In addition, the DM500 provides an omnidirectional reading so there is no blind spot for the reader. Unlike laser scanners, there are no moving parts, thereby increasing the robustness and reliability of the reader.

Other features include auto-trigger and auto-focus, which is accomplished by the liquid lens technology that provides the DM500 with maximum operating range flexibility for even the highest speed applications. This technology may sound familiar because it is already implemented in all Cognex industrial readers.

The DM500 will compete against all laser readers, line scan camera systems and radio frequency (RF) technology, and customers range from material handling integrators, packaging companies, tire manufacturers and food companies, among others.

For more information, contact:

Cognex Corp.
One Vision Drive
Natick, MA 01760
(508) 650-3000


  • Image sensor: 1,024 by 768 global shutter
  • Acquisition max: 1,000 fps
  • Decode rate: Max 90 per second
  • Lens type: CS-mount
  • Auto focus: Optional liquid lens
  • Trigger: Manual; external: single, burst and continuous; internal: self and presentation
  • Material: Aluminum housing
  • Weight: 350 grams
  • Dimensions: 106 millimeters by 70 millimeters by 52 millimeters
  • Operating temperature: 0 C to 40 C (32 F to 104 F)
  • Lighting: integrated bright field
  • Protection: IP65
  • RoHS certified: Yes
  • Operating system: Windows 7 and Windows XP
  • Communications: Ethernet and RS-232
  • Power: 36VDC to 57VDC (PoE)

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