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10/21/2005
04:15 PM
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Fast Scans For Fast Times

Laser scanners already are pretty darn fast, and thousands of companies use them in their supply chains to capture bar-code or radio-frequency identification tag information, such as inventory levels.

Laser scanners already are pretty darn fast, and thousands of companies use them in their supply chains to capture bar-code or radio-frequency identification tag information, such as inventory levels. But what happens when you throw in a little nanotechnology, the science that develops materials at the molecular level?

Intermec's EL10 scan engine can operate at 500 scans per second.

Intermec's EL10 scan engine can operate at 500 scans per second.
Intermec Technologies Corp., in conjunction with the Fraunhaufer Institute, has spent the last five years doing just that. The result: a new scan engine that Intermec says can operate at 500 scans per second, with the potential to go to 4,000 scans per second. That's nano-times faster than today's typical scan rates of less than 50 per second.

The engine, called the Intermec EL10, employs microelectromechanical systems, a type of nanotechnology used in sensors in anti-lock brakes and airbags. The EL10's micromirror is 1/66th the size of the mirrors used in conventional laser scanners, about the size of a sugar cube.

The engine will be available in some of Intermec's scanners by year's end. "It's jumped us to the next technology curve," says Dan Bodnar, Intermec's director of data-capture product strategy. "Because it scans so much faster, we can take it all the way to using the device to read two-dimensional bar codes, which carry much more information, such as data on products that might contain spoilage or shelf-life information." The technology could also help out with passive RFID, which doesn't require line-of-sight scanning, by projecting a beam onto an RFID tag that lets people know that the scanner is actually aimed at the right spot.

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