To the graphic arts, capture means more than digitizing and archiving. On a larger scale, sophisticated wide format scanning solutions are necessary for fine art reproduction. It is important to recognize that the correct mix of consumables, substrates, and printing equipment won’t necessarily produce the best results. The graphic must be high quality.
"The fine art market is relatively untapped when it comes to large format scanners," says Steve Blanken, North American sales director, Contex. He notes artists’ apprehension, mounted artwork, and the declining cost of high-end digital cameras and digital camera backs as reasons. "A $20,000 to $25,000 24x36-inch flatbed scanner would really open up the fine art market and offer scanner manufacturers the opportunity to invest at a much stronger rate then in the past.
Those looking to expand print services to include fine art reproduction, or dive in head first, must look for specific features, including image quality, color accuracy, original handling, and throughput. A number of manufacturers and distributors provide scanning solutions specifically tailored to the intricacies of fine art.
Aztek, Inc. offers a range of wide format scanners, up to 54 inches, capable of serving graphic arts requirements. The Aztek Digital Photolab (DPL) 2054 wide format scanner offers a unique media calibration control system that handles the capture of photos, posters, maps, and fine art professional media. The solution scans originals up to .6 inches thick, such as foamboard, Gatorboard, and canvas art frames. The device offers scan resolutions of up to 64,000 dpi, or a 96 GB file size. Combined with the company’s Digital PhotoLab Professional software, the DPL2054 directly scans to any connected, compatible output device.
Colortrac Ltd. fills the many capture needs of the graphic arts with its line of SmartLF Gx+ scanners. The devices allow for the adjustment of media hold down roller pressure based on specific settings for artwork and photographic material. "This applies less pressure than the CAD/MAP scanning setting, which features imaging and media protection benefits," says Peter de Winter-Brown, sales and marketing director, Colortrac.
SmartLF Gx+ scanners use a proprietary LED lighting system in lieu of fluorescent tubes. This technology enables a pure, stable light source to aid in calibration. The lights offer a long life expectancy and warm up is not required. LEDs are also eco-conscious—they do not contain mercury and are ENTERY STAR qualified. SmartLF Gx+ scanners use 1,200 dpi optical resolution for detecting fine image details.
All Colortrac products are sold by local distributors and dealers that offer warranty and post-sales service and support. Devices typically offer a full range of printing as well as scanning technologies and training.
Contex Americas offers its sheet-fed line of HD scanners for fine art reproduction scanning, including the HD3630, HD3650, HD 4250, and HD5450. These sheet-fed scanners are gentle on originals while delivering high-quality, color-accurate output.
For users not looking for a sheet-fed scanner, the company also offers its Flex 50i. The 18x24-inch flatbed scanner delivers the same quality as sheet-fed, but without the risk of original damage. However, since the device is limited to 18x24 inches, end users need to purchase software for stitching larger images together.
Cruse Digital Imaging Equipment offers equipment to fill a niche market for high-end scanning. Mike Lind, sales manager, Cruse, says the company’s product line is specifically designed for capturing fragile, irreplaceable originals. "Nothing ever touches the original," he explains. Cruse manufactures several wide format scanning solutions, which fill a variety of needs.
For fine art scanning, Cruse Synchron Table (ST)-FA models are available from 36x48 up to 80x120 inches. Variable resolutions range from 175 to over 1,000 dpi, in true un-interpolated optical resolution. Speed is dependent on the lighting technique chosen and required quality of scan. Cruse’s ST-FA models are primarily designed for fine art applications, but are also used by archives, museums, and mapping facilities.
The company’s museum special scanners, its ST-MS models, are offered from 40x60 up to 80x120 inches, also with variable resolutions from 175 to 1000 dpi. Designed specifically for museum and fine art markets, the ST-MS models are portable and easy to setup. "Because of their special geometry, nothing hangs over the priceless paintings, making museum curators happy," says Lind.
Cruses’ ST-RD models cater to the needs of décor reproduction. Several sizes are offered, from 36x48 up to 60x100 inches, with variable resolutions from 240 to over 1,000 dpi. The SD-RD models target the décor market and are designed to capture textures in wood, tile, and stone so that synthetic reproductions feature the same lifelike quality as their natural counterparts.
Cruse systems feature computerized components to provide the best possible results and total repeatability. The production machines leave no parameter to chance and are designed to fit the exact needs of customers. "Cruse is very customer driven, if we don’t have a model for a certain client’s need, we design one," adds Lind.
Graphtec America, Inc. offers scanning solutions designed for a variety of applications. The CS610 is a 42-inch, 24-bit, full-color large format scanner featuring the ability to scan thick, rigid originals up to .8 inches thick. The CS610 is designed for a hands-free automatic thickness control function, which automatically recognizes the thickness of a material without any user intervention.
Graphtec’s CS610 features 600 dpi optical resolution and a 9,600 maximum resolution. It utilizes contact image sensor scanning technology for high-definition scans. It scans at nine images per second (ips) in monochrome and three ips in full color at 400 dpi.
Hewlett-Packard (HP) does not provide wide format scanning solutions specifically designed for the graphic arts. However its HP Artist Software offers an alternative to scanning for fine art reproduction. Designed for third party camera vendors, the software simplifies and optimizes the digital fine art workflow, allowing photographers to increase productivity, extend creative expression, and grow business. A collaboration between HP and Nikon enables an end-to-end, capture-to-print simplified workflow solution for fine art reproduction, optimized for the Nikon D3 camera and the HP Designjet Z3200 Photo Printer.
KIP America’s 2200 color and monochrome scanner provides users with a unique combination of maximum speed and high resolution. The KIP 2200 scan system offers a full suite of state-of-the-art software for color and monochrome copying and scan-to-file operations. 600x600 dpi optical resolution scan quality derives from three independent imaging cameras and a touchscreen user interface.
The system covers the full range of monochrome and color applications, from basic to advanced, while handling the workload of two scanners in a single unit.
Paradigm Imaging Group is a distributor of wide format scanning solutions. The company offers its imagePRO Gx/GxT 42 HD Plus series and the imagePRO Gx/GxT 56 HD Plus series to meet the reproduction needs of the graphic arts. The devices’ media transport system allows for the safe scanning of delicate originals—everything from thin paper to canvas.
The imagePRO Gx/GxT 42 HD Plus series offers a maximum image width of 42 inches, a maximum media width of 48 inches, and handles up to .8 inches media thickness. The scanner features 1,200 dpi true optical resolution and up to 9,600 maximum resolution.
The imagePRO Gx/GxT 56 HD Plus series features a maximum 56 inch image width, a maximum media width of 61 inches, and handles up to .8 inches media thickness. The scanner offers 600 dpi true optical resolution and a maximum 9,600 resolution.
A high-quality, reliable scanning mechanism is one integral part of graphic arts capture. Calibration systems, RIPs, and imaging software are also key to an efficient scan to print workflow. "Print service providers must also consider the best printing and finishing equipment to meet their needs," says Cruse’s Lind. He says some of his clients also incorporate framing into their service offerings to provide customers a one-stop source.
In addition to standalone solutions, a trend towards multifunction solutions is beginning to attract the graphic arts. "Prior to 2007, 100 percent of our sales were comprised of standalone scanners," says Jane Napolitano, marketing manager, Paradigm. "By the end of 2007, 38 percent of our sales were wide format multifunction systems, and this trend is continuing."
Although a variety of scanners, printers, and software are available to serve the graphic arts, it is narrowing down the specific needs of an organization that renders the best results. "Research what is available and find out what other are doing to refine what will best fit customer requirements," suggests de Winter-Brown.
With lower costs and new trends, adding high-quality scanning services is one smart investment for a wide format print operation. Be sure to check compatible or recommended scan and print bundles, discuss preferences and experiences with peers, set up demos, and evaluate future needs.