First Impressions of the 8680i Wearable Scanner

The 8680i is a small 2D scanner that can be mounted on the back of a glove and is triggered by touching your thumb against the back of your middle finger. You can see the contacts on the glove:

The scanner connects to the glove mount by snapping it together, allowing it to break away if needed.

The scanner’s radio supports Bluetooth (standard) and 802.11 WiFi (advanced). The advanced scanner includes a software development kit that allow an application to send and receive data to the scanner through a socket connection.  The scanner has a small display that can show two lines of text. This picture doesn’t do it justice, it’s really pretty bright and readable:

Put together, it looks like this:

The scanner can also connect to a computer or handheld via Bluetooth, but I think the best use of this device is using the 802.11 radio with an application directing a user through a pick list. We will be testing out this feature in the near future as well as the range of the 802.11 radio.

You’ll need Honeywell’s EZ Config utility to set up the scanner, version 4.5.27 or better. This can be downloaded from Honeywell’s tech support FTP site.

The glove and scanner are pretty comfortable, the scanner works well, and the finger trigger feels natural. This is a very nice set up and may redefine hands free picking.

CN80 Preliminary Test Results

We got a couple of demo CN80 computers from Honeywell and were surprised by the results of some of the testing we put it through.

The first is the range of the radio. Normally, we’d see a Honeywell reader drop off the network at when it got 350 to 400 feet away from an access point. We were able to get over 700 feet away with the CN80. We repeated the test with an old Cisco 1242 access point (802.11g only) to see if it was beam forming that accounted for the extended range, but we got the same results with the old access point. This will be of great interest to anyone who has an outdoor wireless network.

The second surprising result was the standard range 2D scanner, which uses the Honeywell N6603ER engine. We enabled DPM mode and it read most of our DPM samples as well, if not better than dedicated DPM scanners. It’s performance was very impressive.

Avoid Interleaved 2 of 5 Code

I was asked to recommend a scanner by a customer who sent me samples of their bar codes. They were all Interleaved 2 of 5 code, which is a numeric only code whose only saving grace is that you can print a lot of digits in a small space. Here are three symbologies encoding the numbers 1 to 8:

You can see that Interleaved 2 of 5 takes up the least space, but Code 128 is pretty close. Interleaved 2 of 5 has a built in defect in that the stop/stop patterns are not unique and if the scanner enters or leaves the code in a spot that resembles a start or stop, the code can be short scanned.

Code 128 is always printed with a check digit anyway and has a unique start/stop pattern, making it a superior code to I 2 of 5.

My customer’s bar code looked like this:

This is a picture from our microscope. Notice that the narrow bar measures .1 mm, or 3 mils. This is a 300 dpi printer. The wide to narrow ration of this code should be 3 to 1; this is printed at 4 to 1. Lastly, the narrow bar under the red arrow should be one element wide, this one is two.

Their printer is doing a bad job printing this code, but fortunately for them modern scanners are pretty forgiving and this code can be read reliably with a Xenon with high density optics.

 

PM series printer real time clock

All PM series printers have real time clocks in them. They become functional when a battery is inserted in the printer’s motherboard. You’ll have to remove the cover to access this; the PM43c battery slot looks like this:

The printer’s display will show the date and time if a battery is installed.

Only printers configured with 802.11 WiFi boards can be ordered with a battery installed from the factory. You can order the battery separately, part number 318-051-001 , but they are a standard battery that you can get anywhere:

In the newer firmware you can also configure the printer to contact a time server to synch its clock. Select Wizards, Calibration, Date & Time from the main to enable the time server.

If your printer can’t be connected to the Internet you can sill use the real time clock by manually setting the date and time using the Wizard or the System settings.

NB: When you set the time manually make sure that you use GMT time, not your local time. There’s a bug in the firmware that will change the clock setting according to the time zone and DST settings when the printer’s power is cycled after the clock is set.

 

How accurate are bar code scanners?

We sold some badge scanners to one of our customers who later said he was getting incorrect data from his scanners. We got a sample badge from them, scanned it, printed it, and attached it to a label rewinder. We then took the badge scanner apart and mounted the scan module near the label and recorded each scan into Excel:

We were able to collect over a million characters in just over a day. The result? Zero errors. We looked elsewhere for the customer’s issue.

Determining if it’s Daylight Savings time in Fingerprint

Although the current revision of PC and PM printer firmware supports time zones, any time arithmetic in Fingerprint is done in Greenwich Mean time, so you have to adjust your numbers according to your time zone and if it’s Standard or Daylight Savings time.

For example, if it’s five o’clock local time in the Eastern Time zone and you want to calculate an expiration time two hours later, your result will be two hours earlier than the current time during Daylight Savings, and three hours during Standard time. This isn’t a big deal, you only have to add the time offset, but determining if it’s DST or not isn’t obvious.

There’s a function in the Fingerprint language, WEEKDAY that returns a number for the day of the week where Sunday is 1, Monday is 2, etc. So you can get the number of the first day in November,  subtract it (plus  one) from 7 to calculate the first Sunday in November, when DST ends:

zDST$ = “F”
zCURRENTDATE$ = DATE$

REM WHEN DOES DST END?

A% = WEEKDAY(LEFT$(zCURRENTDATE$,2) + “1101”)
zSTOPDAY$ = RIGHT$((“0” + STR$(7-A%+1)),2)
zSTOPDST$ = LEFT$(zCURRENTDATE$,2) + “11” + zSTOPDAY$

Likewise you can calculate when DST begins (the second Sunday in March)with the same function:

REM WHEN DOES DST BEGIN?

A% = WEEKDAY(LEFT$(zCURRENTDATE$,2) + “0301”)
zSTARTDAY$ = RIGHT$((“0” + STR$(14-A%+1)),2)
zSTARTDST$ = LEFT$(zCURRENTDATE$,2) + “03” + zSTARTDAY$

IF zCURRENTDATE$ <= zSTOPDST$ AND zCURRENTDATE$ >= zSTARTDST$ THEN zDST$=“T”

Of course, Daylight Saving begins and ends at 2 in the morning, but the above should be sufficient for most applications.

 

Writing an RFID tag with Direct Protocol

I recently had to send a customer a Direct Protocol sample that wrote to an RFID tag and printed a bar code. The sample in the manual didn’t work, but this one does:

INPUT ON

REM BAR CODE
PP168,204:AN7
BARSET “CODE39”,8,3,1,102
PB “1234567890”

REM HUMAN READABLE
PP244,113:NASC 8
FT “Univers”
FONTSIZE 24
FONTSLANT 0
PT “1234567890”

REM RFID
TAGFIELD “@ID”,4,10
TAGFORMAT “ASCII”
TAGWRITE “1234567890”

PF

Send this to an RFID equipped PM43 and a bar code with human readable text will print, and an RFID tag will be written with the same values.

PC43, PC23 and 802.11 Roaming

A customer called in with an issue with his PC43T that had a wireless card installed. He had tested it in his conference room without issue but when he took it out to his warehouse it wouldn’t connect to his wireless network, even though he was only 20 feet from an access point.

The issue was roaming; it’s off by default on the PC series printer. You can get to the roaming setting through the web interface (Communications, Wireless 802.11) or through the front panel. There are four settings; set it to 1 and the printer is most willing to roam, 2 less so, and 3 less than that.

Once roaming was enabled, my customer’s printer worked as expected.

Replacing an Intermec PC43T or PC43D printhead

This one bit me, so here’s a tip on replacing an Intermec PC43 printhead.

The printhead comes out very easily, you just move the blue catches on each side outward and it pops right out out.

There’s one connector that attaches the printhead to the printer and you need to remove that. The thing that bit me was getting the replacement printhead inserted properly. This is a side view of a correctly placed printhead:

What is critical here is that the body of the printhead has to be positioned inside the gap of the two plastic holders. A more obvious photo of one holder:

I would always line up the printhead with the guide posts and would miss getting the printhead inside of the gap.

If you get the printhead inside the plastic holders the guide posts will automatically line up. Press the printhead up against the springs until it clicks. Close the printhead assembly. If it’s difficult to manually pull on the label, you’ve done it correctly. If the label moves easily, you’ve missed the plastic holders; try again.

PC43 USB to serial adapter

I recently ordered a USB to serial adapter for a Honeywell PC43 printer and was told that it had been obsoleted without a replacement. I confirmed this with tech support but the marketing department says that the part is still valid.  In any case nobody has this adapter in stock and until this is straightened out there is another USB adapter that works.

I plugged in one of the old cables (part # 203-182-100) into my PC and saw that is used an FTDI driver. I found this cable on Amazon that used the FTDI chip set , plugged it into my PC43 and it worked.

If Honeywell does continue to supply 203-182-100 you are probably better off buying from them for support reasons, but this cable does work in the interim.

UPDATE 7/27/18:  Honeywell has fixed this issue and this cable is now available from them.