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In order to help our clients with the complexities of MICR printing, Clearwave Electronics has made available the following reference material:

Reader Sorter

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A machine designed to read a magnetic pattern encoded on a paper check within the CLEAR BAND and then associate that pattern with a specific character or string of characters, called a FIELD, relating to a bank account somewhere.

The reader sorter is capable of reading and sorting 2400 paper checks per minute and each check will reach a speed of 38 miles per hour in its own length-the MICR must meet certain requirements to permit capture at those speeds.

These requirements are spelled out in a series of American National Specifications (ANS) such as X9.7, X9.13, X9.18 and X9.27, the most commonly used.

The reader sorter sequence is simple and direct;
  • The $AMOUNT FIELD, previously MICRO encoded on the check at the bank of first deposit is read.
  • The customers account number, the ON-US FIELD is read.
  • The bank routing number TRANSIT FIELD is read ++++++
  • The reader sorter now sorts the check to the proper collection POCKET with sufficient information to collect X $ from X account at X bank.
  • If a sequential or AUXILIARY ONUS FIELD is encoded on the check the reader sorter also sorts those numbers is sequence as a service to the banks customer.

Reader sorters may perform other functions-the most significant of these being the ability to image the entire check, excluding the background, for the purpose of generating non-paper based storage files as well for signature verification (fraud deterrent).

Several reader sorters at various locations may process checks; if the account number of the check is not located at the bank of first deposit then the $ value is MICR encoded along within in the AMOUNT FIELD area. The AMOUNT FIELD, ON-US FIELD and TRANSIT FIELD, are read and sorted for delivery to the payee bank. Groups of banks are associated with their own Federal Reserve District, or some other form of check clearer, so that if the check travels through any number of clearing districts to arrive at the payee bank it must be reprocessed through a reader sorter in every case.

Quick Printing Standards Reference Guide

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Signal level: All MICR characters must be within 50-200% nominal.

Character to character spacing: Nominal character-to-character spacing tolerance is 0.125”. The minimum and maximum spacing tolerance is + or - 0.010”.

Document format: Amount field 1-12 contains amount of check and is a fixed field. Onus field 14-31 content determined by individual bank, generally contains account number, and may optionally extend to include position #32. Transit field 33-43 is a fixed field contains the financial institution information where the check will be drawn on. Aux-On-Us field 45-65 content determined by individual bank generally contains numbering, transaction codes, and other internal codes, may optionally begin at position 46 or higher. The maximum format tolerance for all fields is 1/16” from right to left.

Voids: The maximum tolerance for a void within a MICR is 0.008” for a single stroke width, 0.010” for a double width.

Extraneous ink: Spots are permissible provided that they are under 0.003” no more than one spot per character position, no more than five spots per field. Any spots that measure over 0.004” maximum are not permissible.

Character stroke width: The nominal stroke width tolerance is 0.013” the maximum stroke width tolerance is 0.015”. The minimum stroke width tolerance is 0.011”.

Check sizes length & width: The minimum length of a check is 6.00 inches; the maximum length of a check is 8.75 inches. The minimum width of a check is 2.75 inches and the maximum width of a check is 3.66 inches.

The 5/8” MICR clear band: The entire clear band must be free of all printing with the exception of the MICR characters; unless otherwise stated by the financial institution. The MICR characters must be printed within the ¼” encoding band area.

Debossment: All MICR characters must not exceed the maximum tolerance of 0.001”. Please note: the only way to measure debossment is to run your index finger and thumb along the back of a document behind the MICR line area; if the back of this area feels like brail then the debossment is to excessive. This type of print quality error usually occurs when documents are printed using a letterpress or numbering machine where the hammer energy is set to tightly.

Embossment: All MICR characters must not exceed the maximum tolerance of 0.003”. Please note: the only way to measure embossment is by laying the document on a flat surface and running your finger along the MICR line; if it feels like brail it is to excessive. This type of print quality error occurs when using a Xerography printing method and setting the toner density level to high; trying to achieve a higher signal level within the MICR characters.


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