What Is the Difference between 2D Vs. 3D Barcode

Written by alicia prince
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What Is the Difference between 2D Vs. 3D Barcode
Traditional 2D barcodes communicate information through a series of horizontal bars. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Barcodes have long been in use as a convenient way to transmit information about an item in a variety of settings. Two dimensional barcodes are the traditional barcodes made up of vertical black and white lines, used in grocery stores and shipping applications. On the other hand, three dimensional barcodes are slightly more complex, and can actually refer to two very different types of barcodes.


The first two-dimensional barcode was introduced in 1988 by the Intermec Corporation. These first barcodes were known as Code 49, but have since evolved and been redesigned in various ways. Today's barcodes can be of different heights and lengths and sizes. Regardless of this, the term two-dimensional barcode refers to all sizes and shapes of barcodes that only utilise vertical lines.

2D Techniques

Two-dimensional barcodes are made up of vertical lines because they only carry information horizontally. In these bar codes, information is indicated by the distance between and thickness of lines, which is read by a laser reader. Additionally, two-dimensional barcodes can make use of different layers to communicate larger amounts of information per code.

Raised Barcodes

One type of three dimensional barcode is printed like a two-dimensional barcode, then embossed to different heights. This type of three-dimensional barcode uses height to convey information in a way that is similar to how two-dimensional barcodes use thickness and distance. These barcodes require a specific reader, that can detect the barcode's height differences.

QR Codes

The second type of barcode commonly known as a 3D barcode is sometimes called a QR code. QR codes are square black and white images that transmit information horizontally as well as vertically. These codes are unique because they do not need a specialised reader, but can be read by lasers, mobile phones and other mobile devices.

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