The Data Matrix part-marking system is useful in keeping track of smaller items at NASA, such as this specialized aerospace tooling part. The square Data Matrix mark (upper left) is permanent and uses a 2D matrix symbol.
A small 2D symbol is helping NASA keep track of an enormous number and range of parts, including tiny electronic components no larger than a dime. Although a bar-code system has traditionally been used throughout the agency, barcode labels don't work well on miniature items, and sticky labels can contaminate some parts.
To solve this problem, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama partnered with CiMatrix and its parent company, Robotic Vision Systems of Canton, Mass., to develop Data Matrix — a part-marking system that uses the 2D matrix symbol capable of storing up to 100 as much information as a linear barcode of the same size.
The matrix symbol is a small, square-shaped mark resembling a checkerboard that is permanently marked in the surface of the part. The mark is scanned, much like a barcode, using an optical reader.