A common requirement for contractors doing business with the Department of Defense is to label each piece of equipment with an item unique identifier, or IUID. The DoD uses this IUID to track the equipment throughout its lifetime. MIL-STD-130 spells out requirements for the IUID, which is typically a 2D Data Matrix bar code. The label must last the lifetime of the equipment — potentially decades — and withstand a variety of environments. While that’s a key consideration in designing the labels, even more fundamental is ascertaining that the label can be reliably read and interpreted in the first place. That’s where IUID verification comes in.
How a contractor incorporates verification into the overall manufacturing process depends on whether the labels are purchased from an outside supplier or produced in-house. For those making labels themselves, it’s a good idea to verify the labels as soon as possible after they’re produced. That way, problems are detected and can be fixed before many more defective labels are produced. This prevents the waste of time and resources. Continuous monitoring of the IUID verification labels may also indicate when the labeling equipment needs maintenance — before the labels become unreadable.
A prime contractor receiving items from a sub-contractor for a DoD project must also make sure those items are labeled in compliance with MIL-STD-130. Not doing so can result in delays in fulfilling the contract and added expense for the contractor.
IUID verification covers a wide range of parameters. An ideal IUID label will be perfectly square with good contrast between dark and light areas. Dots will be round rather than oval. Dots will stay within the boundaries of the square, and will be surrounded by an empty “quiet zone.” The quiet zone is needed in order for automated Data Matrix readers to be able to read the code. Verification software assigns a grade to a number of aspects of the label as well as an overall grade for the code.
Another option is to purchase labels from a manufacturer who will take care of verification for you. For example, Jet City Laser provides 100% verification of Data Matrix labels. Syntax validation is also included. Every shipment of labels includes a CD with IUID verification and validation results. Jet City produces labels in a wide range of materials to suit nearly any application. Laser marking, chemical etching and dot peen are among the options.
Contractors can spot check the labels received from a supplier for readability as an additional quality control measure.
For more information, visit www.id-integration.com.
Thomas Henderson is an applications engineer involved in MIL-STD-130 applications and IUID verification. His experience makes him a wonderful candidate to share helpful information about the challenges involved in item unique identification.
Verification of IUID Labels Boosts MIL-STD-130 Compliance