If you’re an AEC professional, then a large format scanner addresses a few special concerns that others outside of the industry may have never thought of:
- Efficiency: Get rid of clutter and free up office space.
- Security: Store your information digitally, as part of a disaster preparedness plan.
- Flexibility: Share information with anyone, anytime and anywhere.
If you don’t already have a scanner, then here are a few questions you could ask to find out if you need one:
- Are plans from two decades ago still cluttering your office?
- Are your documents at risk of being damaged in case of an accident?
- Do you need a more convenient way to share files with your coworkers and clients?
If you answered yes to all three of these questions, then a scanner could be just what you need to get some peace of mind at work.
“Architects, large contractors, county assessors and mapping agencies – anybody who has been in business for more than 25 years probably has a room full of drawings that could be scanned.”
– Dan Soldavini, Vice-President of the Printing & Imaging division at CSDS
It’s all about assessing your needs and choosing the right equipment for your workflow. Let’s take a look at a few of the main things you should look for in a large format scanner.
What footprint best suits your office?
Footprints may range from 18 inches wide all the way up to 64 inches wide in the case of a standalone large format scanner. HP offers a large-format multi-function printer (MFP) with the scanner and printer combined. This single unit may fit better into smaller office spaces. On the other hand, separate units for the scanner and printer may be a better solution for businesses and government agencies with high-volume scanning needs.
Many times, scanning can be the main priority for a customer. Most MFP solutions are a solution of “convenience scanning” meaning that it’s there when you need it. However, when scanning is the driving force behind the need, a standalone scanner can have many more tools in the way of workflow to make scanning easier.
It’s also important to note that scanning is one thing, but being able to find, catalog, and name the files after scanning is a completely separate issue. This will be the most important pre-sale decision you’ll have to make as a consumer.
If you scan documents but you can’t find them, then what good is it? Standalone scanners have much better solutions for this than MFPs. So be sure to take into consideration the user-friendliness of your scanning software.
How sensitive are your originals?
Take a good look at your originals before you purchase a large format scanner. If you’re dealing with damaged or sensitive files, then the way that a large format scanner accepts your documents could have a big impact on your workflow. We typically deal with flatbed scanners, where the documents go right through the machine. However, for those who have very delicate originals it may be appropriate to go another route.
On our flatbed scanners we use carrier sheets, which are envelopes made of mylar paper, to handle fragile documents with minimal disturbance. But when even this isn’t enough, you may consider using desktop scanners. They’ve got big lids that open and close without touching the paper with any wheels or rollers.
Additionally, if you need to make scans that automatically clean up spots and remove stained paper on your originals, make sure that your scanner has real-time threshold capabilities. These would be important considerations for places like art museums.
What resolution do you need?
The quality of an image is usually expressed in dots per inch, or dpi. Optical dpi – or sometimes called “true dpi” – generally ranges up to 600 dpi. According to HP, this true dpi “is the ability of a scanner to scan a single dot at every location on a grid.”
This is in contrast to addressable dpi, which is “the ability of a scanner to selectively position dots on a grid finer than the true dpi grid.” Addressable dpi enables higher scan quality without changing the dot size, helping achieve higher much higher dpi numbers.
However, it works by using algorithms to interpolate and make assumptions about where dots should be. Sometimes those assumptions aren’t accurate, which could potentially become an issue. First of all, this could create huge files which may also be distorted. Secondly, most people don’t need more than 200-300 dpi. That’s why we use optical dpi as our standard.
Do you need color or black-and-white?
A color scanner obviously captures multi-colored originals, but it also comes in handy for scanning markups in various colors. However, black-and-white scanning runs faster than color and generally creates smaller file sizes. Scan speed takes into account everything from warm-up time to the speed of individual scans.
How do you collect finished scans?
Something people forget about when they’re scanning is how they’ll catch the scans when they’re done scanning. It may not seem like a big deal, but imagine that you’ve got these big sheets of paper. You’re up at the scanner and you’ve got 50 sheets that are 24×36 that you need to scan. Here are three scenarios:
- Your scan falls on the floor, and you have to go around and pick it up.
- If your scan comes back to you, then you’ll need to have a place to put it.
- You put a rack behind the scanner and they stack up on top of each other.
There’s reasons to do all three, but you need to pay attention to what happens to the drawing after you scan them. That’s something a lot of people forget about.
What types of documents are you scanning?
Based on your needs and the types of files you scan, you’ll need a different type of scanner. If you’re scanning CAD drawings, we’d recommend a CIS (contact image sensor) scanner. If you need to capture high-quality color for photos and maps, we might suggest a camera-based scanner.
We have the advantage of speaking from experience, since we use this equipment ourselves internally at our Century Graphics reprographic stores. We practice what we preach, so if you call us with a problem we’ve probably already had it and solved it for ourselves.
When should you upgrade your large format scanner?
This is perhaps the most important question. If you’re having compatibility issues or if your scanning volume suddenly increases, you need a new machine. For example, if you’ve just landed a big project.
Got more questions? Get our expert opinion on which large format scanner will work best for your company’s specific needs.
Call CSDS today at 800-243-1414 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.