Royal Mail Barcoded Stamps

Royal Mail is the leading provider of postal and delivery services in the UK and the UK’s designated universal postal service provider.

One of the oldest organisations in the world, Royal Mail can trace its origins back over 500 years to 1516. Royal Mail has been responsible for a number of global firsts, ranging from the Penny Black stamp to the world’s first ‘one-price-goes-anywhere’ Universal Service.

As evident in this case study, that proud tradition of innovation continues today as Royal Mail looks to introduce new technology and digital services as part of the company’s extensive and ongoing modernisation drive.

The Challenge

As a long-standing trusted and valued supplier, Cartor was approached by Royal Mail to print barcodes onto postage stamps.

The barcode, which was to appear on the right side of the Queen’s portrait, would allow for improved operational efficiencies, enable the introduction of added security features and pave the way for innovative services for customers in the future. The barcode contains only the identity of that stamp, and cannot include any personal data.

The Solution

To facilitate the move to barcoded stamps, Cartor invested in advanced hybrid print, finishing and inspection systems, incorporating equipment from selected global specialists, including A B Graphic International (ABG), Domino Printing Sciences and Lake Image Systems.

Cartor’s hybrid digital print, finishing and inspection systems are based on two types of machine configurations – one producing sheets of stamps and the other booklets. For sheets, the inline system consists of a non-stop unwinder to automate by splicing together 2 rolls of material and to ensure a non-stop feed of material into the engine room of the system, plus an ABG Omega Converter 430. The powerful, modular and multi-functional converter houses a four-colour Domino N617i UV inkjet digital print module that prints the stamps and barcodes, printing inline and in colour.

A Lake image inspection system is also integrated and this is surrounded by die-cut and sheeter modules to cut the web down into final sheets. Any sheets with defects are instantly recognised and diverted into a waste compartment for non-compliance, whilst good sheets continue and are fed neatly onto a 2-metre-long shingle conveyor.

The hybrid system for booklets of postage stamps is on the same lines as the sheet configuration, except for the inclusion of a Domino K600i printer to print barcodes in monochrome as well as the colour barcodes printed by the N617i – a barcode is printed on the outside of the booklet as well, to identify the stamp barcodes inside. A second ABG die-cut module is also configured as part of this solution for enhanced functionality from this hybrid platform.

“We are proud to be part of a monumental change in the history and fortunes of the postage stamp. The coming together of experienced print and finishing specialists to create these systems has been both unique and impressive,” said Ian Brigham,  Cartor’s Managing Director.


  • Following a successful trial in March 2021, Royal Mail announced the move to barcoded stamps in February 2022.

  • Recipients of a letter including one of the new stamps will be able to scan the barcode using the Royal Mail app and view content chosen by the sender, such as a birthday message or other greeting. The new barcoded stamps will have a ‘digital twin’ and the two will be connected by the app.

  • At present, there are two videos that are available to choose from. Both have been created exclusively for Royal Mail by animation studio Aardman and feature Shaun the Sheep.