About UPC (Universal Product Code) Barcodes

UPC (Universal Product Code) is a type of barcode used in retail applications to identify products. There are two variations of UPC: UPC Type A and UPC Type E. Both variations have a check digit that is automatically calculated by the barcode generation software. Additionally, each variation can be appended with a 2 or 5-digit supplemental code.

Note: If you need to create UPC barcodes, B-Coder Pro can create UPC barcodes (UPC Type A, UPC Type E, and UPC Supplemental) and automatically calculate the check digit for you.

UPC Type A (UPC-A)

UPC Type A (UPC-A) symbols consist of 11 data digits and one check digit. The first digit is a number system digit that typically represents the type of product. The following 5 digits are a manufacturer’s code, and the next 5 digits identify a specific product. When creating UPC-A barcodes, you specify 11 digits and let your barcode printing software calculate the 12th check digit for you.

UPC Type E (UPC-E)

UPC Type E (UPC-E) is a smaller seven-digit UPC symbology for number system 0 that is commonly used for small retail items. For UPC-E barcodes, you specify 6 digits and let your barcode printing software calculate the seventh check digit for you.

UPC Supplemental

Both UPC-A and UPC-E allow for a supplemental two or five digit number to be appended to the main barcode symbol. This supplemental message was designed for use on publications and periodicals. If you enter a supplemental message, it must consist of either two or five numeric digits. The supplemental is simply a small additional barcode that is added onto the right side of a standard UPC symbol.

Differences between UPC Type A and E

UPC-E is also known as “zero suppressed UPC” because it compresses a normal 12 digit UPC-A number into a six-digit code by “suppressing” the number system digit, trailing zeros in the manufacturer’s code, and leading zeros in the product ID part of the barcode message. A seventh check digit is encoded into a parity pattern for the six main digits. UPC-E can thus be uncompressed back into a standard UPC-A 12 digit number.

Note that most barcode readers can be configured to automatically convert 6 digit UPC-E numbers to 12 digit UPC-A numbers before transmitting them to a host computer.

The main difference between a UPC-A symbol and a UPC-E symbol is the size. Below is a UPC-A bar code on the left and the same data encoded as a UPC-E symbol on the right.

These two bar codes are equivalent.

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