2D Stacked Barcodes vs 2D Matrix Barcodes: Which One Should You Use?

2D Stacked Barcodes vs 2D Matrix Barcodes: Which One Should You Use

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Barcodes are essential in today’s world of rapid business transactions and digitisation. They help manage inventory, track shipments and provide countless other benefits. Barcodes are of two types – 1D barcodes and 2D barcodes.

2D barcodes, in particular, have become quite popular due to their ability to store more information than traditional 1D barcodes. In fact, according to Grand View Research, the 2D barcode reader market size is rapidly expanding and is valued at USD 7.32 billion in 2022. It is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5% from 2023 to 2030.

Within the 2D barcode type category, there are two subtypes – 2D stacked barcodes and 2D matrix barcodes. In this blog post, we will explain what 2D stacked barcodes and 2D matrix barcodes are and how they differ from one another. We will also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of 2D stacked and 2D matrix barcodes.

Are you interested in learning more about barcodes and their different types? If so, check out our dedicated guide – barcode 101 and barcode types.

What is a 2D Stacked Barcode?

Definition and four types of 2D Stacked Barcode

2D stacked barcodes are a type of barcode composed of multiple linear or 2D codes stacked one above the other. These barcodes got their “stacked” name because they store information in multiple layers, or “stacks”, one on top of the other.

Each barcode line is read separately and then combined as a single data string. The information in each layer of the code can be different, although redundant data is generally avoided for efficiency.

2D stacked barcode symbology is generally used in applications where the available printing space is taller than it is wide, such as in the labelling of bottles or cans. Some examples of popular 2D stacked barcode types are PDF417, MicroPDF417, Codablock and GS1 DataBar.

Advantages of 2D Stacked Barcodes

Here are some benefits of 2D stacked codes.

  • It can store a significant amount of information. By stacking multiple rows of linear barcodes, 2D stacked codes can encode more data per unit area compared to one-dimensional barcodes
  • Because of their structure, 2D stacked codes can be printed in a small area while still holding a large amount of data. This makes them very useful in situations where space is limited, like on product labels or ID cards
  • Includes built-in error correction capabilities. This means that even if part of the code is damaged or obscured, the data can still be decoded
  • Can encode a wide variety of data types, including text, numbers and binary data

Disadvantages of 2D Stacked Barcodes

While 2D stacked barcodes offer several advantages, they also come with certain disadvantages, such as.

  • Slow barcode decoding as data needs to be captured from multiple lines
  • Lower data capacity in comparison to 2D matrix barcodes

What is a 2D Matrix Barcode?

Definition and four types of 2D Matrix Barcode

2D matrix barcodes, also commonly known as 2D symbologies, are a type of barcode that is composed of small individual elements called cells or modules. These cells or modules are of various sizes and shapes, such as squares, rectangles, hexagons, dots, or bars. The arrangement and number of these elements in each barcode are used to encode data.

2D matrix barcodes are generally used in applications where small, high-capacity barcodes are needed. Examples of popular 2D matrix barcode types include QR codes, Data Matrix, Aztec Code and MaxiCode.

Advantages of 2D Matrix Codes

Here are some benefits of 2D matrix codes.

  • They are high-density barcodes, allowing them to store large amounts of data in small space
  • Omnidirectional capability (the ability of a barcode to be read from any angle)
  • Smaller in size compared to 2D matrix codes
  • Have Built-in error correction capabilities

Disadvantages of 2D Matrix Codes

Here are some disadvantages of 2D matrix codes.

  • Higher demands on printing technology. These codes require at least 203 DPI print resolution and precise printing.
  • Majority of barcodes are not internationally recognised

Thermal printers are considered to be the most efficient option when printing 2D matrix barcodes. These printers do not rely on ink or toner cartridges; instead, they utilise heat to create images on specialised paper. This enables them to have a faster printing speed and a higher level of accuracy than other printers.

At Triton, we offer a diverse selection of premium thermal printers from well-known brands such as Zebra, Honeywell, and TSC and coloured label printers from OKI. Whether you’re in need of a direct thermal printer, thermal transfer printer, barcode label printer, desktop label printer, or industrial label printer, we have it all.

In addition to offering high-quality thermal label printers, we also supply consumables that work seamlessly with these printers. These include thermal transfer ribbons, thermal labels, thermal carton labels, thermal carcase tags, and food-safe thermal inserts. Our consumables adhere to strict quality standards, guaranteeing top-notch results.

So why wait? Check out our wide range of products today and experience the efficient printing performance of our printers and consumables.

If you need help choosing the right printer for your needs, get in touch with us today via the live chat widget below! Our knowledgeable team is here to guide you and answer all your questions. We look forward to hearing from you!

2D Matrix Barcode VS 2D Stacked Barcode - What's the Difference?

Comparison in physical structure and barcode composition between 2D Matrix and 2D Stacked Barcodes

2D matrix and 2D stacked barcodes share the same basic functionality. Both barcode types are two-dimensional, meaning they can store data in both horizontal and vertical directions. Both barcodes have high data capacity and are generally used in applications where more data must be stored than in a 1D barcode.

Despite these similarities, there are two important differences between 2D matrix barcodes and 2D stacked barcodes. These include.

  • Physical Structure
  • Barcode Composition

Physical Structure

2D matrix barcodes are composed of multiple types of cells or modules arranged in a specific grid-like pattern.

On the other hand, 2D stacked barcodes are composed of two or more layers (or stacks) of linear or 2D codes, one above the other. In general, a 2D stacker barcode can consist of 2-90 rows of linear barcodes.

Barcode Composition

2D matrix barcodes are composed of multiple types of elements, such as rectangles, dots, squares and bars, that come together to form a unique pattern.

2D stacked barcodes are composed mainly of parallel bars of varying widths and space elements. They do not use any sophisticated patterns like 2D matrix barcodes.

Comparison of Various Types of 2D Matrix Codes and 2D Stacked Codes

Here is a table comparing different types of 2D matrix and 2D stacked codes.

Barcode Type
Barcode Category
Data Capacity
Minimum Size
Error Correction Capability
QR code
2953 bytes; 4296 characters; 7089 digits; 1817 Kanji characters
20 mm; 21 modules
Data Matrix code
1556 bytes; 2335 characters; 3,116 digits
5 mm; 10 modules
Aztec code
1,914 bytes; 3,067 characters; 3,832 digits
15 modules with no minimum module size
5% to 95%
1108 bytes; 1850 characters; 2710 digits
22 mm
0% to 50%
150 bytes; 250 characters; 366 digits
10 mm
4% to 29%
2725 characters; 5450 digits
15 mm
No error correction

How to Generate 2D Matrix Codes and 2D Stacked Codes?

Most 2D matrix and 2D stacked barcodes are in the public domain, meaning they can be generated and used freely without any fees or licensing restrictions. As a result, there are a bunch of online free barcode generators that you can use to create your own barcodes.

However, it’s worth noting that free barcode generators often come with several limitations. These limitations often include a limited number of barcode generation, lack of error correction capability, low accuracy & compatibility, low resolution and limited customisation features.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive barcoding solution with no compromises, you must consider using commercial barcode generators.

One software solution we highly recommend for barcode generation and printing is Seagull Scientific’s BarTender software. BarTender is a leading label design and print solution with a powerful barcode generator, enabling you to create and print high-quality codes easily. BarTender includes a vast library of over 400 preformatted barcode components based on 105 different barcode symbologies and over a dozen barcode standards.

At Triton, our commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction is paramount. We take pride in offering Seagull Scientific’s BarTender Software as part of our suite of business solutions.

Each organisation’s needs are unique, so we offer all four BarTender on-premise editions: Starter Edition, Professional Edition, Automation Edition and Enterprise Edition. We also offer BarTender Cloud, a powerful cloud-based label design and printing solution from Seagull Scientific.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, both 2D matrix codes and 2D stacked barcodes offer a versatile method of storing large amounts of data in a compact format. Despite their distinct compositions and physical structures, they serve the same fundamental purpose of improving data management and accessibility.

We hope this article has helped you understand the differences between 2D matrix barcodes and 2D stacked barcodes, as well as how to generate them.

Thanks for reading!

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