Rake in the Business $can in the Sales
Expand Your Business with Wide Format Scanning
By Melissa Tetreault
Wide format scanning is a revenue opportunity for sign shops due to increasing demand for scanning large documents. Potential customers who need their larger than life documents scanned and managed, stored or recovered are in the thousands. Corporate enterprises, architectural firms, museums, and government agencies are all realizing the necessity of these dependable, affordable, and long lasting devices and are seeking shops specializing in this particular application.
Wide format scanning opens the door to a group of services—scan-to-file, scan-to-print, and fine art giclée—thanks to new technology such as faster speeds, higher resolutions, and smaller footprints.
Scan-to-file, or archiving, is historically one of the most common uses for wide format scanners. Saving large blueprints, engineering, and construction drawings to file not only eliminates storage space but allows for the preservation of the piece at hand.
Scan-to-print is similar to scan-to-file. Duplicating a document is another way for a customer to protect and preserve an original.
Fine art giclée is the most accurate way to reproduce fine art through scan-to-print technology. The high resolution from large format printers allows for exact details, depth, color, and texture reproduction.
Whether you chose to purchase a stand-alone scanner or a bundled solution, such, "affordable pricing has allowed for smaller print-for-pay shops to enter the market, something they haven’t been able to do in the past," states Barry Symonds, wide format product marketing manager for Xerox.
Growing a Studio, One Scanner at a Time
Image capture is also important to a successful giclée reproduction. High-end wide format scanners are critical to the giclée process because of their lighting. Bob Lizza knows all about how crucial lighting is when it comes to fine art reproduction.
Lizza, owner and president of Lizza Fine Art Studios, originally worked out of his home before he purchased his Cruse Digital CS285 ST scanner. He still remembers sitting at his computer three and a half years ago, typing in wide format digital scanners, and searching Web sites.
Lizza has scanned digitally for almost 20 years. At the time of his scanner search he was using a digital scan back, a large format camera where the scanner slips in the back. Unfortunately there were several drawbacks to what was then top tier technology. Lizza explains, "lighting big pieces was difficult. I was doing a lot of work in PhotoShop to compensate for light problems, resolution problems, and lens fall off issues."
Mechanically, the Cruse CS285 ST caught Lizza’s eye because it operates in reverse of a traditional scanner—the lights are stationary and the bed moves. At the time no one in the country owned this type of scanner and Lizza had to send for a sample disc from a German owner. "I was floored by the quality, the clarity. All the issues I was dealing with everyday, this thing was solving all the problems."
Building off the purchase of the new scanner, Lizza increased the physical size of his shop twenty times over by renovating an old skating rink. The space allowed him to add a gallery to exhibit artists’ scanned pieces.
At press time Lizza’s gallery was showcasing John Kascht’s work. Kascht is a prominent artist that paints caricatures in watercolors and oils. Lizza sees Kascht as a good fit for the Cruse CS285 ST; "he uses pigments that are so subtle that most scanners would lose the detail."
Lizza takes special care in controlling the color of a reproduction so it looks as close to the original as possible. "The whole process of color managing depends on what the original is. Some originals are on watercolor paper, some papers have optical brighteners in them, and some are really old. They reflect light differently. We calibrate as much as we can but there is a human element to correcting them at the tail end," he concludes.
Finding a Niche in a Nook
CAD & Facilities Services, Inc. (CFS) dwells high in the picturesque Adirondack resort region. Its location is both key to its success and one of the main reasons why the company decided to purchase a wide format scanner. "Before we had the scanner I used to travel as far as Syracuse or Canada to get projects scanned," explains Tom Brennan, president, "it is convenient to have everything in-house now."
CFS has owned its Contex Magnum XL 54 Plus scanner for two years. When Brennan bought the scanner he originally thought it would be used for engineering and blueprint drawings but he found that there were a lot of artists out there who wanted their art scanned to file or scanned and then printed on CFS’ Hewlett-Packard (HP) Designjet 800 PS plotter.
Other printers in the region, silk screen and publishing sites for instance, don’t own wide format scanners and are referring their customers to CFS. Because of the nature of the area, business has spread through word of mouth and CFS has obtained some very interesting projects.
Thousand Islands Museum in Clayton, NY, brought in antique photos of the region to be scanned. Through scanning and cleaning up the images, fine details were seen in the final product. Erin Woodkirk, graphic designer for CFS, explains the process, "We printed the photos in a sepia tone to make them look antique, mounted them on foam core, and then laminated them. With the new photos, the museum was able to display them in an exhibit that allowed people to interact without the originals getting ruined."
Another project that Woodkirk had a hand in was the recreation of Grateful Dead drawings. "A local resident had contacts to Grateful Dead artist Vince Perez and wanted to create graphics to print on clothing. We scanned the original drawings, some of which were created on tissue paper, and sent the files to a screen printing shop in Canada."
Brennan has a background in CAD but has always had a love for fine art. Recently he noticed a strong relationship between the two disciplines. "Scanning worlds are merging together, there is no more dull CAD vs. pretty fine art. There is a realization that you need to be involved in all aspects of scanning to develop your business in the market."
Scanning to Preserve the Past
Fred Grevin, director, records and archives management for NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), is very familiar with wide format archival scanning. "In an archive environment your goal is to only scan the document one time. If you have a really good image you can file it away and someone can come back in two years and ask for it."
The DEP Archive uses an Océ TDS600 to scan and print architectural engineering and construction drawings for the water supply system in NYC. The purpose of the archive is to maintain all of this documentation for 500 plus years. The actual preservation of the documents is done through microfilm. Digitally, DEP scans drawings for day to day access and distribution. Grevin explains, "These drawings have intrinsic value. Older pieces date back to the 1800s and we don’t like to loan out originals so we scan them into paper prints or put the images on CDs."
Early drawings are incredibly fragile so Grevin’s team had to find a scanner that wouldn’t ruin the original. The scanner had to handle drawings like blueprints that had been hand drawn in ink or wash, a diluted ink put on a brush, and originally created on linen.
Not only did the scanner have to comply with the delicate nature of its input, but it also had to create quality reproductions. The software program that comes with the Océ TDS600 was particularly helpful in this area. Grevin is pleased with the software, stating, "A blueprint is by definition a copy, and they are the hardest to print because of their lines. With the software it reverses the blueprint lines when you scan a blueprint into the system. The lines become black on a white background making it much easier to read."
Grevin’s six employee staff scans on a weekly basis. What they scan is based on the projects that are assigned to them. For example, there was an aqua duct being rehabilitated in NYC and engineers were asking for drawings of the info structure of that particular duct.
Out of the Park and Into a File
Scanning prints to file, regardless of a document’s age, is a complicated task. Mark Cook, maintenance data analyst for Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA), oversees approximately 5,000 blueprints for facilities at the Camden Yards Sports Complex, which include Oriole Park at Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium, the Warehouse at Camden Yards, and historic Camden Station.
In July the company leased its first wide format solution, the Xerox 6204. "It gave us all the functionality we were looking for," explains Cook. Before they obtained the device they sent out a majority of their collection, "We had sent a lot of our blueprints out to be scanned and saved as a digital format. But the way the files were created, it didn’t allow us to pick individual drawings from a set, and send them electronically." Contractors would be asking Cook for ten blueprints and Cook was forced to send a set of 100. With the 6204 he can break the files down.
"Different shops in the complex—electrical, building, mechanical, audio visual—frequently need access to blueprints. We scanned all the blueprints in and set them up in files on the server so that supervisors can access them from their desktop," shares Cook.
Clipping into Digital
Clipping services have existed since the first newspaper was printed. Of course, back then, the whole process consisted of scissors and tape. Newz Group, based out of MO, has gradually updated its clipping process over the past five years. Using two Ideal Premier TX36 scanners, the company scans newspaper pages that have been previously marked by a reader in one of their nine reader bureaus. Newz Group processes these clips to file for their customers creating easier storage solutions and eliminating clutter.
Scott Buchanan, executive VP for Newz Group, shares, "The conversion from physically clipping newspaper pages with razors and scissors to digital imaging has transformed the company from top to bottom. It is unrecognizable today from six years ago. This is interesting because it is an old-line business but the scanning transformation has turned us into a digital company looking forward instead of back."
The company began scanning on an Ideal Panorama 2250 and then switched over to an Ideal Crystal TX40 and soon after added their two Ideal Premier TX36s. By 2004 Newz Group was officially categorized as a wide digital production company.
Buchanan says that most days the company is given about 70 pounds of raw marked paper and scans 2,000 to 3,000 pages. He continues, "With our volume, we’ve found the Ideal Premier TX36 to be best suited to our needs because of reliability, speed, and relatively low maintenance."
Capturing the Main Scene
There are numerous manufacturers offering both stand-alone and bundled scanners that can be used for applications including scan-to-file, scan-to-print, and fine art reproductions.
Haddon Stevens, VP of sales for Aztek, Inc., notices that more and more corporate and military businesses are attracted to the market. "Corporate and military buyers are scanning things that are awkward, large sizes, and no other scanner can do that for them," Stevens states.
The company, who started dabbling in the wide format scanner market in 1998, highlights its Digital PhotoLab 2054 as its most popular wide format scanner. The 54-inch scanner is used in a variety of applications, including color posters, architectural sketches, maps, drawings, and fine art professional media. The only thing Stevens warns against is running stretch canvas or acrylic paints through, "because of the friction feed systemit could damage the object being scanned."
Canon with Colortrac
Canon teamed up with Colortrac this past May to create a premiere scanning workflow solution designed for the novice user. Rich Reamer, senior manager of product marketing, says "There’s a huge demand to bring everything in-house. This machine is really an all-in-one solution that can add more value to a print shop owner’s capabilities."
Colortrac believes the all-in-one solution is beneficial for those looking for time saving options. Peter Sandberg, business development manager for Colortrac, says "Sign shops are usually stressed out. To get excellent quality in one click is a tremendous benefit. Instead of re-designing a sign you just take the old sign and click copy. Operator time requirement goes from 30-60 minutes down to a few seconds."
The W8400 D can scan-to-print in color or B&W at 3.36 inches per second (in/s) and ten in/s respectively. At 44 inches in length the device is ideal for scanning maps, blueprints, etc. up to 40 inches wide. According to Brian Coombs, product planning associate for Canon, the decision to use Colortrac’s SmartLF Cx 40 scanner was based on its, "ability to capture fine detail, fine lines, and line renderings."
One of the more attractive features is the variety of compatible software available. "For a sign shop owner we include software called PosterArtist which allows them to custom create their own poster. It comes with over 1,500 templates, and images," shares Coombs. This Fall, look for the imagePROGRAF iPF700, a 36-inch device, to be offered in a similar bundled solution.
Thanks to Contact Imaging Sensor (CIS) technology, the folks at Colortrac are very confident in their SmartLF Cx 40 series scanners. Roger Ilgen, national director of sales for GEI wide format, the North American distributor for Colortrac SmartLF, feels that the CIS technology makes for a, "very compact, very durable type of scanner."
There are three different versions of the Cx 40—the 40m, 40c, and 40e. The 40m is a monochrome scanner that scans at 10.1 in/s; the 40c is a color scanner, scanning at .84 in/s; and the 40e is an enhanced color scanner that scans at 3.4 in/s. Ilgen shares, "The technology that Colortrac uses to make the scanners is very user friendly so you don’t have to constantly re-stitch or re-calibrate the scanner. You just set it up, and are ready to go, making it inexpensive to maintain."
Contex Scanning Technology
Contex prides itself on offering wide format scanners, like its 42-inch Crystal G600 and Chroma G600 that can be used for a variety of applications. The company’s Americas marketing manager, Robert Gonzales, cites both the Crystal and Chroma scanners as, "strong points for the color and monochrome market, particularly because of their use for CAD, GIS, and reprographics."
Helping to differentiate these two scanners from Contex’s competitors, continues Gonzales, is Contex’s advanced 48-bit CCD Technology. "We pride ourselves on scanners capturing 48 bits of color data." The technology is targeted for 90,000 pixel image capture, which Contex believes is four times more pixels than most scanners on the market today.
Cruse Digital Equipment
Mike Lind, North America dealer for Cruse Digital Equipment, sees a lot of customers in the art market. "A lot of our customers are museums that love to be able to scan their artwork in one piece. We want to help them do that," Lind states. The company has already started in that direction with their 4GB size file feature available with their Synchron Table Fine Art (STFA) scanner series. The scanner is used for mapping, color paintings, and fine art reproduction. Cruse has even sold STFAs to NASA and the Pentagon.
Why is the machine so popular? According to Lind it is because nothing ever touches the original object being scanned. "The paint can be wet from the original, you can even scan paintings still in their frames—we have scanned Rembrandts and Monets." This is due to the frame correction option that comes with the STFA. This geometry with the scanner, as well as its accuracy, and ability to scan the original items is what Lind feels differentiates Cruse Digital’s products from its competitors.
Graphtec America, Inc.
With the Graphtec EIS System, Graphtec customers can scan-to-file, scan-to-copy, and scan-to-print. Jane Hicks, GM of marketing, observes, "customers are using scanners as more than simply an input device. We are seeing more customers using scanners as a total scanning and copying solution."
The most popular scanner in the Graphtec product base is the CS500 according to Hicks. The scanner is used for applications ranging from architectural, archiving, GIS, and reprographics and can scan up to 42 inches wide. It also uses CIS technology, like all scanners in Graphtec’s line.
"CIS technology provides higher geometric scanning accuracy, higher scanning reliability, higher scanning productivity, and the lowest technology cost. CCD scanners often require images to be restitched and recalibrated; this is not necessary with CIS technology. Also, there is no warm-up time required with the Graphtec scanner," Hicks explains.
GTCO offers a unique ScanPlus scanner line, according to Bill Mitchell, product manager of large format scanners. The company’s scanners are strongest in three different applications, CAD—architectural and engineering; mechanical CAD—manufacturing; and GIS—mapping and planning.
Its 36-inch scanners, the ScanPlus 6 LF436 and ScanPlus 6 LF736, are attracting the CAD market the most because of the primary need to scan blueprints. The LF436 and LF736 scan at 10 in/s and 12 in/s in monochrome, respectively. Mitchell believes this is their most appealing feature. He feels the scanners offer maximum value because of the additional option of scanning in color. The scanners can also serve as generic front ends to any digital printer. With this added functionality Mitchell terms both, "stand alone solutions with generic applications."
The HP Designjet 4500 scanner accepts original documents up to 43 inches wide. According to HP’s graphic arts public relations manager, Michael Swack, "the HP Designjet 4500 scanner is primarily targeted for medium and large architectural, engineering, and construction companies, reprographic houses, and public sector/GIS customers."
The scanner can handle both oversized and heavyweight originals of anywhere up to .6 inches thick, without any limitation to scan length. Another selling point is its, "seamless, simple integration into the workflow," which occurs because it is designed and optimized for use with HP Designjet printers including the 5000/5500, 4000/4500, 1000, and 500/800 series.
IDEAL.com Software Solutions
"A reliable scanner is the basis for any scanning system; the scanning software and the application software are the keys to efficient workflow," remarks IDEAL.com’s Diane Mitol, director of marketing. This philosophy is evident in this Contex distributor’s ScanOS scanner operating software and ArchiveCenter large format document management software.
The ScanOS is key for any scanner according to Mitol because, "it is versatile, the machine becomes an affordable multifunction scan-to-print system with it and allows you to use your multifunction scan-to-print device for scan to file." The software program also enables the use of capturing images rather than simply printing them. An efficient tool when it comes to storing, managing, and scanning images in conjunction with your IDEAL scanner, ArchiveCenter software is an added bonus to any system.
Presently, IDEAL/Contex’s Crystal 42-inch scanner is their most popular product on the market for a scan-to-print application and is compatible with both of the above software systems. The scanner is one of the company’s green scanners just released this past Spring. Both environmentally friendly and energy efficient, the Crystal 42-inch is certified Energy Star Compliant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
KIP America offers a wide range of both monochrome and color scanners. The company’s newest machine, the KIP 3000, is a copy, print, and scan system featuring an embedded monochrome scanner which Steve Kozle, national marketing manager, labels as an, "integrated single footprint system."
Perhaps the biggest selling stand-alone scanning system is the KIP 2200. A monochrome and color scanner with a scanning width of 36 inches, the machine scans any standard paper thickness including bond paper, film, and vellum. According to Kozle, it is the most popular stand alone scanner that KIP offers because it performs a, "full range of applications and eliminates the need for two different [color and monochrome] devices."
Unlike other wide format scanner companies, Kyocera Mita America does not market its wide format scanning devices individually. Its scanners are integrated with either wide format MFPs or wide format plotters/printers. One such scanner is the KM-4850w MFP, which can scan documents up to 36 inches wide.
The KM-4850w MFP is a successful unit because it can print, scan, and copy and offers customers a single-footprint. "The single-footprint is one such feature that Kyocera was the first manufacturer to market," says William Cassidy, associate director, product and solutions marketing for the company. "Kyocera’s reputation for reliability and durability, as well as the overall value we provide this market, have been some of the keys to our success."
Océ Scanning Systems
36-inch scanners are generally the most popular color scanners out of Océ’s CS4000 line. They attract more customers according to John Gallo, product manager of the color wide format printing systems division of Océ, because, "For color scanners, they are frequently teamed with inkjet printers to create an affordable copy device. This width scanner is also the most popular size for archiving purposes."
Among the monochrome scanners, Ana Versaggi, product manager for Océ’s monochrome scanner line, observes that the Océ TDS600 is the most popular, "due to its ease of use, reliability, and versatility."
One of the key components of any Océ scanner is its Océ Image Logic technology, which automatically retains the appropriate detail of the object being scanned, and eliminates any background noise—"leaving crisp, clean drawings," Versaggi concludes.
Vidar Wide Format Scanners
This past July, Vidar announced the release of several new products to its wide format family of scanners. One of the reasons for the burst of new products, according to Steve Blanken, sales manager in North America, is price point. "We are offering a lot more features for the same price or less with our newer products."
The Lynx 25e color and monochrome scanner has a 48-bit CCD technology and is perfect for documents up to 25 inches. An additional feature, an industry benchmark for Vidar, is the machine’s scan accuracy of 0.1%+– 1 pixel.
The 600e 42-inch family of color and monochrome scanners includes the Spectra 600e, Surveyor 600e, and Flash 600e. All of which, based on Vidar’s research, have an image capture that is four times higher than most 40- and 42-inch scanners offered by competitors.
Vidar also launched a series of three new 36-inch color scanners, the Atlas 600e, Select 600e, and the Nova 36e. Both the Atlas 600e and Select 600e have 48-bit CCD technology with 77,000-pixel image capture. The Nova 36e is an incredibly fast scanner, scanning 10 in/s in monochrome and 1.5 in/s in color for the base version and 3 in/s for the plus version.
Kandarp Joshi of Widecom Inc. says that the company’s most popular products are the SLC Series 36-inch scanners. These scanners, he continues, are primarily used for scanning blueprints and constructional drawings.
Other favorites are the 54- and 72-inch scanners, which are used in government organizations for scanning topographical data and aerial maps. Widecom is currently the only manufacturer that offers 72-inch scanners.
Besides dodging the competition in the 72-inch market, a Widecom scanner can differentiate itself when it needs to with its Single Line Contact technology. Joshi explains, "developed by Widecom, the end result of this technology is faster scanning speed and crisp scans."
Xerox Wide Format Solution
Xerox’s 6204 36-inch printer, copier, and scanner solution is one of the newest wide format products offered by the company. According to Barry Symonds, wide format product marketing manager, "the 6204 is a great option for customers transitioning from analog to digital printing or those entering the wide-format printing market."
The machine displays two distinct features that add to its appeal. "First, it is a multifunction device in a single footprint, allowing printing, copying, and scanning functions to be done on a single device, without the need of a dedicated PC. Second, it comes with both a TWAIN driver and the Xerox Wide Format Scan Service application," says Symonds.
The multifunction device is specifically used for engineering, mechanical, and architectural drawings, as well as for mapping. Symonds adds, "It is a low cost, fully featured, entry level solution that has proven to be quite popular."
Foreseeing the Future
Wide format scanning is still evolving. Several trends such as speed, color, and file size have led to this popular use of capturing data, but will the technology continue attracting users with new improvements?
Creating an efficient color scanner may be one improvement. Bill Mitchell of GTCO CalComp believes that such a device will evolve. He states, "Color scanners have become more affordable. They make sense for users even if they only need a monochrome scanner because that advantage is in their grasp. For the future I see peak speeds and top resolutions to aid in both the color and monochrome market."
John Gallo of Océ explains, "customers increasingly demand the same robustness and ease of use in color scanners that they have come to expect in monochrome scanners—no warm up time, reduced calibration, automatic image clean-up, etc." These will all lead to a quicker color scanner.
Bundled solutions save time, space, and money and could eclipse stand-alone scanners in the future. Diane Mitol from IDEAL.com views scanners and printers alike as evolving into, "one central virtual repository." She elaborates, "Future trends include remote scanning to a centralized print location and more closely integrated solutions enabling control of all large format activities—scanning, printing, and viewing."
Rich Reamer at Canon credits technology as pushing us toward the bundled office. "As technology changes, bundled solutions will become that much more effective. Easier to use, higher resolutions, faster speeds—all as we move into the future."
Business owners are continuously looking for the next opportunity and wide format scanning is one of them. It not only adds revenue to your business but also widens services you can provide to existing customers. Many successful shops start out small and grow with developed expertise. As speeds change and devices become more composite, one thing is for sure; scanning wide is here to stay.
Oct2006, Digital Output