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Wide Format Scanners

Print for pay and enterprises enjoy the benefits of wide format scanning thanks to the availability of integrated solutions. These wide format scanner solutions continue to grow and gain acceptance in the marketplace, but what does this mean for the future of the standalone scanner?

By Melissa Tetreault

Whether you call it a bundled solution, a multifunction device, or an integrated system, one thing is for certain—bundled solutions including wide format scanners and output devices are evolving to support users’ needs.

According to Sandy Gramley, HP Designjet printers U.S. technical segment manager, wide format scanning attracts traditional print only shops to adding scanning to their capabilities. This attraction stems from the ease of use that comes with owning a compatible system right out of the box.

Scanning Over the Market Players
Most wide format scanner manufacturers either sell their scanners with a printer or market compatibility with wide format printers. Despite the popularity over owning a bundled system there are several scanners that are sold alone and, depending on the user, work just as well as a multifunction solution. Product managers, directors of sales, and other noted members of the wide format scanner community weigh in on what their company is offering, bundled or not.

Out of Aztek, Inc.’s product base the Digital PhotoLab 2054 (DPL 2054) is the most popular. This 54-inch scanner is compatible with most output devices, allowing the user to utilize a scan-to-print solution. 99 percent of Aztek’s scanners can be bundled with printers. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of purchasing an Aztek scanner is that the company does not simply specialize in scanner technology. "Aztek is a manufacturer and developer of software, systems, and scanner technology," shares Haddon Stevens, VP of sales. He continues, "Primarily Aztek clients have special needs for custom software and hardware features specifically designed into the product." Both custom software and hardware will lead, in Stevens’ opinion, to newer models that will need less operator intervention and maintenance.

Canon U.S.A. found success with its bundle of the Colortrac SmartLF 4080e and imagePROGRAF W8400D. To build on that success, this past Spring they announced an upgrade. The newest bundle brings together Canon’s 36-inch imagePROGRAF iPF700 and Colortrac’s SmartLF Cx40e. According to Rich Reamer, senior manager, product marketing, large format group of Canon U.S.A., "With print speeds of up to 585 square feet per hour (sf/h), coupled with Colortrac’s scanning speed of up to 10.1 inches per second (in/s), this combination of printer/scanner seems to work well together. In terms of sales, this product has far surpassed our expectations as we are beginning to see more and more of a demand for this type of product from our customer base."

Colortrac’s three newest scanners are what Roger Ilgen, national director of sales for GEI Wide Format Solutions, a Visual Edge Technology Company and North American distributor for Colortrac scanners, calls the "best value for your dollar in the graphic arts scanning business." Like Aztek, most of Colortrac’s scanners are sold as a bundle option. The company’s SmartLF Gx 42 debuted in late Fall of 2006. It runs at 1200 dpi and thanks to its brand new CCD design it is compact enough to sit on a tabletop. The SmartLF Gx 25 is also as compact as the Gx 42. The Gx 25 is a favorite in educational facilities where large documents call for a high quality outcome as well as in the professional graphic arts market, more specifically giclée and fine art reproduction. Colortrac’s SmartLF Gx 54 debuts this Fall. It is similar to the other Gx models; the only difference is it scans documents up to 54 inches wide.

All Contex scanners are designed for architect, engineering, construction, and CAD professionals. A favorite for fine art professionals is the Magnum G600. The 54-inch imaging area handles large color posters, architectural sketches, drawings, detailed maps, and fine art at the highest resolution and speed. In May the company released its newest addition to the Contex scanner lineup, the PUMA G600. It is a full color scanner that scans at 800 dpi—800 dpi resolution is the real performance indicator as obtained from Vidar’s high quality CCDs, 600 dpi optical lenses, and patented advanced digital processing—and operates as either a standalone application or an integrated solution, with the ability to copy in full color as well. The 42-inch scanner is also aimed at protecting the environment, as it is both Energy Saver and RoHS compliant.

Michael Lind, North America manager, Cruse Digital Equipment, believes that there is a wide variety of uses for the Cruse Synchron Table (ST) model. "We seem to find new applications all the time. The ST scanners were originally designed for the décor industry for scanning wood and stone. Then we found a great niche in the art world for extremely high quality art reproductions. Highly accurate map scanning is a new field." What accounts for this diversity in applications is the unique features of the Cruse ST. The scanner has the capability to not touch the original object. With its Endless Scan option it creates files up to four GB in size and originals up to 12 inches thick can be scanned. There is also a Variable Texture option, which illuminates the original in different ways to cast shadows on a 3D surface.

Graphtec America, Inc.’s SP200W Series is a scan, copy, and print mechanism. Perfect for CAD/GIS and reprographics, it is an EIS bundle that supports over 550 printers and all Graphtec wide format scanners such as the IS200, CS500, and CS600 series. These three are all 42-inch scanners that utilize CIS technology. The IS200 series is perfect for those looking to scan in monochrome and limited color. The CS500 and CS600 series are targeted toward high performance color scanning.

The ScanPlus 6 LF642 was recently released by GTCO CalComp. A 42-inch self-contained model, it has a built-in PC, data storage area, and LAN connection capability. This newest addition to the GTCO CalComp scanner family fits into what according to Bill Mitchell, product manager of large format scanners for GTCO CalComp, is the rapidly changing market of wide format scanning. To keep up with the fast pace GTCO CalComp is "offering direct printer interfacing, faster scanning speeds, and higher scanning resolution." The new ScanPlus 6 LF642 incorporates the best features of GTCO CalComp’s most popular model, the ScanPlus 6 LF742, while adding increased functionality. The LF642 model’s resolution is rated at 800 dpi compared to the LF742’s 600 dpi. It scans in color at three in/s as opposed to the LF742 scanning one in/s. Most of GTCO CalComp’s scanner models are used for a variety of applications including computer aided design, geographical information systems, architectural engineering, construction, and reprographics.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) scanners are very specific, in that they only support HP Designjet printers. According to Gramley, this isn’t a problem. "We believe the value we bring to the market is the integration with our printers. The reason people would choose our scanners or our multifunction programs is because they are very integrated single vender solutions." Two HP Designjets that already come integrated with their very own scanner are the HP Designjet 820mfp and the HP Designjet 4500mfp. The Designjet 820mfp is HP’s entry-level solution, however in Fall 2007 it will be upgraded to a Designjet T110mfp solution because the printer it was originally paired with will be upgraded as well. The Designjet 4500mfp is a higher speed printer/scanner with a higher quality of color used in high production environments. Lastly, HP offers a Designjet 4500 scanner, the same scanner that comes bundled with the 4500mfp. It can be used with any other Designjet printer that does not already come with a scanner.

Included in KIP America’s product line up is a variety of both color and monochrome wide format scanners. A popular choice is the KIP 2200, a monochrome/color standalone scanner that can be integrated with all KIP printers. It scans at up to 600 dpi at rates of 3.2 in/s monochrome, 1.4 in/s grayscale, and 1.4 in/s color. Markets served primarily include CAD, GIS, mapping, and reprographics industries. KIP also offers several scanning devices that are bundled as print production systems, including the KIP 3000, KIP 5000, KIP 5200, KIP 7000, KIP 7200, and the KIP 8000 series.

Kyocera Mita’s range of wide format multifunction devices is targeted towards the ever-expanding consumer. All four of its mfp products have resolutions of up to 600 dpi, the only difference between them being their output speed. Both the KM-3650W and KM-P4845 devices generate output at a rate of 4 d-sized copies per minute, the KM-P4850w outputs 6 d-sized per minute, and the KM-4850 outputs an impressive 7 d-sized copies per minute. The KM-3650W is a heavy-duty production machine. Kyocera Mita cautions that its maximum monthly duty cycle caps at 10,000 pages.

Océ offers both color and monochrome wide format scanners. Its Océ TDS610 monochrome scanner can be used as either a standalone scanner or bundled with a print engine. Ana Versaggi, product manager, Océ North America Wide Format Printing Division, shares that "the scanner is very productive, making it easy to copy large sets of drawings quickly." The Océ Flexible Scanner can capture in both monochrome and color. It is compatible with three different Océ printers, the Océ TCS500 color printer, Océ TDS450, and more recently the Océ TDS700. Perhaps what makes it so user friendly are the customer definable scanner templates as well as Océ Direct Scan and Océ Image Logic technology. Both applications create highly accurate images thanks to the high quality lens in the single, high-resolution camera in the scanner and the ability to automatically enhance the image by analyzing it pixel by pixel. According to Versaggi, "Whatever the condition of the original, the appropriate detail is retained and background noise is eliminated".

In May 2007 Vidar announced the shipment of the Titan 600e. With the addition of iJET technology the Titan 600e is now fully able to not only work as a standalone scanner but can be networked to scan and copy. The 42-inch image area handles architectural sketches, sepias, blueprints, detailed maps, and large color posters. It is both RoHS and Energy Saver compliant.

Widecom’s SLC series scanners scan in full color. The SLC936C, SLC1036C, SLC954C, and SLC972C also possess the ability to perform monochrome scans for service houses, engineers, planners, utility managers, and technicians who create and maintain their own maps. Documents up to 0.6 inches thick, items such as foamboards, gatorboard, and artwork, can all be scanned with Widecom’s machines. With Widecom’s print driver these scanners can be converted into a copier as well.

Xerox also offers both standalone and bundled scanner systems. Both its Xerox 6204 Wide Format Solution and Xerox Wide Format Scan System are used in the production of B&W and color scans for commercial print shops, architectural, engineering, and construction companies. The Wide Format Scan System is the company’s most popular standalone offering. It can scan in B&W, grayscale, and color and scans up to a half-inch-thick documents at up to 42 inches wide. According to Charles Gonzalez, VP, wide format line of business, Production Systems Group, Xerox Corporation, "The Xerox 6204 Wide Format Solution is the fastest printer and multifunction offering in its class." Perhaps one of the biggest draws to the 6204 is that it is compatible with the Xerox FreeFlow Accxes Print Server, which supports both Design Web Format and a Raster Feature Key.

Scanning into the Future
With all of the changes in wide format scanning one has to wonder if there is any room left for improvement. Ilgen makes the point, "Most scanners now are very reliable and easy to install, almost all are user installable. Resolution is a lot better. Some graphic arts scanners have motorized controls to handle the thickness of documents." With these capabilities currently available to the user do we need to improve the wide format scanner? Most say yes.

Scan time, ability to scan larger documents continually, and better resolution may have improved already but they are still features to be toyed with. Ilgen believes that there is a continual push to get better pricing for products and higher speeds.

Versaggi points out that a big change in the past year was the move to color scanning and although it has grown leaps and bounds, it still has room to grow. "Moving forward, more people are looking to have color scanning capability tied not only to a color printer but also to their monochrome printers for optimum flexibility."

Software is another issue. Reamer believes there is room for improvement when it comes to the software coupled with scanning devices. "As more and more people are beginning to take their scanning/printing of large format documents in-house, we will most likely see software introduced that is not only more robust in order to suit the needs of the wide range of customers using the devices, but also more user intuitive."

Everyone Benefits with a Bundle
The benefits of a bundled scanner solution are endless—a simple interface, print drivers that are already installed, one stop support, and one type of software. The pros certainly outweigh the cons when it comes to integrated wide format scanners.

According to Gramley integrated scanner solutions have the greatest growth potential and "will be the most beneficial in the lower end of the multi functioning markets." They are designed for an in-house customer, one who does not want to deal with the hassle of figuring out how more then one printer or scanner works, and how they work with each other. Gramley explains, "If you have a sophisticated repro house they can work with high end multiple printers, figure out how to make all the interfaces work and that is how they add value to their business. When you get to an in-house customer the last thing that they want is to buy software from one company, a printer from one company, a scanner from one company, and then try to make it all work."

Ilgen agrees, "You don’t have to be at a corporate level to own a bundled scanner anymore." Prices are going down as compatibility is rising. "Everyone benefits from integrated solutions."

Don’t worry, standalone scanners are not a thing of the past. Mitchell believes they have their place in organizations that have "bought and paid for" printers. "The stand alone scanner compliments the printer and adds value by increasing functionality." However Mitchell also supports both Gramley and Ilgen’s viewpoint that bundled systems are benefiting the smallest digital print owner as well. "They are helping to fuel growth in the market, especially for those companies who are in the market for both a large format printer and a large format scanning device."

Ultimately, nearly all businesses will make the switch to a bundled device in the near future according to Reamer. "What you have to consider with the bundled devices, is that nearly any business or application that requires a wide format scanner will most likely require an equally large output device. It would only make sense to have those devices bundled and working seamlessly together," Reamer concludes.

Sep2007, Digital Output

 
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