A Concise Guide To Micr And Associated Technologies

A Concise Guide To Micr And Associated Technologies

A Concise Guide To MICR And Associated Technologies
Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) was developed to​ utilize the benefits of​ computer technology in​ the banking industry .​
Prior to​ the use of​ a​ MICR line, check sorting by account number was a​ manual process .​
Two systems were previously used to​ handle the large numbers of​ checks processed in​ the banking industry: Sort-A-Matic and Top Tab Key Sort.
The Sort-A-Matic system included 100 metal or​ leather dividers numbered 00 through 99 .​
Each check was placed in​ the corresponding divider by the first two numbers of​ the account .​
The sorting process was then repeated for the next two digits of​ the account number, and so on .​
When the process was complete, the checks were grouped by account number.
Under the Top Tab Key Sort system, small holes punched at​ the top of​ the checks indicated the digits .​
For instance, the first hole indicated the value of​ the first digits (0, 1, 2, 3...) a​ metal key was inserted through the holes to​ separate all of​ the checks with the same value in​ the first digit, and this step was repeated for each digit until all the checks were sorted.
Both of​ these systems worked, but they were time-consuming .​
With the advent of​ the computer and its movement from the laboratory into the business world, a​ sorting and matching task seemed ideal .​
Stanford University and Bank of​ America were the first to​ successfully use computers to​ sort and match checks .​
They developed what is​ now known as​ MICR .​
The Development of​ the MICR Font
The MICR font was developed by Stanford University in​ conjunction with Bank of​ America and approved by the American Banking Association .​
The font is​ known as​ the E-13B font .​
E-13B has a​ total of​ 14 characters: ten specially designed numbers (0 through 9) and four special symbols (Transit, Amount, On-Us, and Dash) .​
The letter E indicates the fifth version considered .​
The letter B indicates the second revision of​ that version .​
The number 13 is​ derived from the 0.013-inch module construction used for stroke and character width .​
This means that all character widths, both horizontal and vertical, are in​ multiples of​ 0.013 inches ranging from 0.052 to​ 0.091 .​
The significance of​ this will be explained more thoroughly later in​ this article.
MICR Readers
Three types of​ machines are used to​ read MICR characters .​
The two that read the characters magnetically are referred to​ as​ MICR readers .​
The third machine is​ an​ Optical Character Recognition (OCR) reader.
E-13B characters are printed with toner containing iron oxide, which is​ capable of​ being magnetized .​
MICR readers transport the checks containing the E-13B magnetic characters past a​ magnet, thereby magnetizing the iron oxide particles .​
The magnetized characters then pass under a​ magnetic read head .​
The magnetic field (flux pattern) caused by the magnetized characters generates a​ current in​ the read head .​
The strength and timing of​ this current allows the reader to​ decipher the characters .​
Magnetic readers come in​ two types: single track (single gap or​ split scan) and multiple track (matrix or​ pattern) readers.
Single-Track Reader Characteristics
Single track uses a​ read head with one gap to​ detect the magnetic flux pattern generated by the MICR character .​
When a​ magnetized E-13B printed character moves across the narrow gap of​ the read head, the electric voltage caused by the magnetic flux from the character generates a​ waveform unique to​ each character.
Multi-Track Reader Characteristics
The multiple track reader employs a​ matrix of​ tiny, vertically aligned read heads to​ detect the presence of​ the magnetic flux pattern .​
The small individual read heads slice across the character to​ detect the presence of​ magnetic flux .​
This sensing of​ magnetic flux over time produces a​ unique matrix pattern for each character.
An OCR reader does not use magnetic properties to​ detect the E-13B characters .​
Instead, it​ uses a​ scanner to​ detect the amount of​ light reflected from the character and the amount of​ light reflected from the background .​
a​ photocell column detects the presence of​ the dark area of​ a​ character.
Waveform Theory
The readers move and read documents from right to​ left .​
The right-hand edge of​ the character, as​ a​ result, is​ the first to​ cross the read head .​
Analysis of​ the signal level created by reading the character 0 will help explain this in​ greater detail.
As the character moves from right to​ left under the read head, the gap detects the magnetism of​ the first right-hand edge (edge 1) .​
This results in​ the increase in​ magnetism and a​ positive peak is​ created (peak 1) .​
As soon as​ the right-hand edge moves beyond the read head gap, no new magnetism is​ found, and thus the wave form returns to​ the zero signal level.
At the second edge, the vertical read head detects a​ drop in​ magnetism, which results in​ a​ -110 signal level at​ peak 2 .​
Again the waveform returns to​ zero until the next portion of​ the inner ring of​ the character is​ detected .​
At this point (peak 3), an​ increase in​ magnetism (+110) is​ indicated .​
Finally, the outer portion of​ the character is​ read, resulting in​ a​ negative peak (peak 4) of​ -130 .​
The placement of​ the vertical edges must occur in​ increments of​ 0.013 inches from the first right-hand edge .​
There are five characters that have two positive and two negative peaks similar to​ the character 0 and also appear in​ a​ positive-negative-positive-negative format .​
They are 0, 2, 4, 5, and the transit character, which are differentiated from one another by the horizontal location of​ the peaks in​ the waveforms .​
The peaks do require different amplitudes, but ANSI standards allow them to​ vary from 50% to​ 200% of​ the nominal amplitudes (Canadian standards allow them to​ vary from 80% to​ 200% of​ the nominal amplitudes) .​
This is​ why the placement of​ the waveform is​ so important and why the characters are shaped unusually .​
What Affects the Signal Level?
Signal level can vary based on a​ number of​ factors .​
The amount of​ iron oxide (concentration) that is​ present in​ the character will affect the signal level .​
This is​ a​ function not only of​ the toner itself, but also of​ how it​ is​ laid on the paper and the pile height, which can be controlled by numerous other cartridge components (i.e., hot OPCs).
The taller the vertical edge of​ the character, the taller the peak (either positive or​ negative) .​
a​ vertical edge that is​ not regular and/or not vertical will result in​ a​ reduction in​ the amplitude of​ the peak and will flatten the peak out .​
Keys to​ proper waveform detection are:
* All peaks in​ a​ character's waveform must be detected .​
The reader sorter must know that the peak is​ there .​
* The peak must be located at​ or​ near its anticipated location .​
* No significant extra peaks can be present .​
* There cannot be wide variations in​ the signal levels of​ peaks within a​ character .​
What to​ Look for in​ MICR Printers and Consumables
Printers that are used for MICR printing must have a​ unique MICR font that is​ modified to​ suit the unique printer engine, and it​ must be modified to​ the pixel level to​ match the magnetic toner provided for that printer .​
This is​ essential to​ ensure the correct waveform, dimension, and signal strength when a​ check is​ printed with the correct MICR characters .​
In addition, the MICR font must meet ABA-X9 standards to​ ensure acceptance of​ your checks by banking institutions.
The magnetic MICR toner that you choose must be specifically designed for the particular print engine in​ the printer .​
Ensure the toner has been thoroughly tested for consistent signal readings, image permanence and uniformity, and excellent edge acuity .​
Toner coverage must be solid with no extraneous toner lay down.
OEM cartridges are always a​ safe (but more expensive) bet .​
If you buy a​ compatible brand, ensure it​ has a​ new OPC drum, new primary charge rollers (PCRs), a​ new black velvet magnetic sleeve, and new image wiper blades .​
The hopper system must be filled with high-quality, low-abrasion MICR toner.
The vendor you choose should use the latest and most advance MICR test equipment, such as​ a​ Verifier and Golden Qualifier to​ conform to​ ANSI X9 Standards .​
It is​ also recommended that the systems exceed U.S .​
and Canadian check printing standards.

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