Scanning in the Wide Format Era
By Thomas Franklin
In an era of digital capture and printing, one would think that wide format scanners occupied a precarious perch, forced ever closer to obsolescence as a digital-to-digital workflow evolved. It turns out that rumors of the scanner’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. According to manufacturers, demand has been notably robust thanks in part to the very forces that once looked threatening.
As more and more documents are created digitally, you may think that the need for scanning would diminish, but in fact, it’s still an integral part of the wide format workflow process, says Joe Levy, monochrome business manager for Xerox’s wide format business. "To give you some perspective, over 80 percent of our wide format product placements include a scanning system."
"The more you print, the more you scan," says Jay Magenheim, president, Ideal Scanners & Systems, Inc. Thanks to the drop in pricing in digital inkjet printing systems, many sign shops are creating high-end large format copiers themselves by pairing printers with wide format scanners, he adds. "The huge install base of large format inkjet printers is driving our business."
"Many wide format documents that were formerly hard copy are being scanned for two reasons—to create an efficient work process and to archive in the event that disaster recovery is needed," Levy states.
Scanners have also been boosted by the, "dramatic move to more accessible color technology. What was a behind-the-glass technology a few years ago, requiring trained operators, multiple software applications, and expensive hardware, has become much more accessible to all types of users," says Penny Holland, business development director, wide format printing systems division, Océ North America.
There will also be a technological trickle down, predicts Holland, with, "an increase in the availability of professional quality color copying and scanning technology for the average end user." Like monochrome products, Holland says she anticipates a similar shift to easy, productive digital color scanning in the coming years. "There’s already been a big shift toward color," Magenheim notes.
While color scanners dominate, there is still a strong market for high-speed, monochrome multi-function engineering copier/printer/scanner systems in the medium and large corporate and service bureau sectors, notes Peter de Winter-Brown, director of sales and marketing, Colortrac, Ltd.
The emergence of contact image sensor (CIS) technology has also driven wide format scanners deeper in the market. CIS, which replaces the CCD sensor, offers several advantages, de Winter-Brown says. "The advantage is cost, compactness, lower power requirements, and stability. That combination of much lower cost with much easier installation and operation is expanding the market for large format scanning to a new community of customers who previously could not justify either the equipment cost or the investment in time needed to learn and understand how to incorporate wide format images into their environment and workflow."
Going forward, 90 percent of the market of legacy originals—large format print work that can be scanned—can be captured by 36" to 42" imaging width scanners, de Winter-Brown says. In newer prints, however, "there appears to be a trend towards D-size and smaller formats brought about by higher imaging resolution printers capable of holding fine details at smaller output sizes, and by the desire of customers for more easily portable and user-friendly paper sizes—in the same way that a tabloid newspaper is easier to handle than a broadsheet."
Large format sheet-fed scanners are all pretty close to the practical speed limits for moving paper through a feed mechanism.
While there is a trend towards higher optical scan resolution, this is driven mostly by specmanship, rather than a real requirement or need for higher resolution, de Winter-Brown adds.
A Sample of What’s on the Market
Aztec, Inc. offers a 42" and 54" wide format scanner, models 2042 and 1254. Both scanners use quadruple linear color CCDs and can automatically scan photos, color posters, colored architectural sketches, maps, drawings, and fine art professional large format graphics up to 0.6" thick. They can scan with a maximum interpolated resolution of 64,000 dpi for files up to 4GB in size. They feature a 48-bit media density, calibrated color features including ICC profiles, and scan-to-file, scan-to-print, or simultaneous scan-to-file-and-print capabilities.
Included Digital PhotoLab software provides infinite un-dos, scanning to multiple formats, concurrent scanning, color correcting, and unattended batch scanning. An optional ScanServer program offers Macintosh compatibility.
Colortrac Ltd.’s flatbed for the fine art GIS market, the FB24120, scans items up to 24" x 36", using a 36-bit tri linear CCD with APO chromatic lenses. It features 2D intelligent adaptive thresh holding hardware, 24-bit RGB color, and a 600 dpi optical resolution (3,600 dpi maximum via interpolation). It can scan opaque or translucent documents and offers Gamma and brightness adjustment, automatic light level adjustment, B&W point adjustment, and downloadable indexed color paletting.
The FB24120 connects to PCs via FireWire. For archival use, it can automatically index file names, and supports multiple raster file formats including TIFF, JPEG, JPEG2000, PDF, and PNG. Scanned archives can be batch-processed with a choice of image filtering tools and file conversions, and a batch scheduler setting lets a batch processing job run unattended for overnight runs.
Contex Scanning Technology recently introduced two 36" front-loading scanners with built-in CPUs that let the units serve as standalone scanners. Ideal is distributing the Contex-made machines, and they’re aimed at CAD, GIS, reprographics, sign and copy shops, and POP/display markets.
The Contex Puma HS 36 Basic color scanner features the iJET Panel to control the copying and scanning operations directly, without a PC. From the iJET Panel, users can set the quality, lightness, number of copies, and reduce or enlarge the copy. The iJET Panel can also control advanced settings and save defaults. The scanners can rasterize drawings up to 36" wide (E-Size), by any length, on media up to 0.6" thick. It offers one-touch copy to a USB printer without a PC. It features 48-bit color depth, variable resolution settings from 50 to 800 dpi, selectable in one dpi increments, and a two-dimensional sampling device.
Cruse Digital Equipment offers a series of seven high-end scanners for fine art and archival purposes, or for scanning, "just about any object," as small as 35mm slides to objects up to five by eight feet, according to Michael Lind, Cruse’s North American dealer. The units all feature a magnetic table, texture effect, automatic light correction, and CSX scanner software with add-ons for a vacuum board, variable texture effect, light box, museum LED lighting, and a speed scan option.
The company can configure the scanner with three scan heads—a 10K pixel CCD for files up to 530MB, a 12K pixel CCD for 775MB files, and at the top, a 14K pixel CCD for files as large as 1.1GB.
Epson America, Inc. recently introduced a successor to its Expression 1640XL flatbed in the new Expression 10000XL wide format A3+ flatbed scanner. The 10000XL will come in two versions based on included software—a version geared to graphic designers and pre-press users and a model aimed at professional photographers. The hardware specs include a 3.8 optical density (Dmax), 48-bit color, and 2400 x 4800 dpi hardware resolution. The scanner’s autofocus system can automatically determine the optimal focus point up to 6mm above the glass.
The Graphic Arts configuration includes a TWAIN Pro scanner driver with Easy Photo Fix color restoration technology, MonacoEZcolor color management utility, Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 for image editing, and ABBYY FineReader Sprint OCR. An optional 11.4" x 16.5" transparency unit (TPU) is available. The Photo Model comes equipped with the TPU and adds LaserSoft Imaging SilverFast SE 6 scanning software to the Graphics’ software suite.
GTCO CalComp, Inc. wide format scanners offer advanced technology for fast, high-quality scanning and copying. The ScanPlus IV 954 C 54" wide format color scanners incorporate the latest imaging technology, for high-quality full color scanning and copying of the largest formats. The scanner’s 54" imaging area can handle color posters, architectural sketches, detailed maps, drawings, and fine art, from small to extra-large sizes. High-speed scanning, high resolutions, Scan Accuracy with ALE technology, quality guide plate rollers, and Automatic Thickness Adjustment Control (ATAC) are all combined in the ScanPlus IV 954 C, making it a qualified device for high-production scanning. These scanners offer unlimited possibilities for professional imaging services, copy service providers, POP/exhibit/display companies, graphic professionals, and mapping, architectural, and engineering offices.
Hewlett-Packard (HP) offers one standalone 42" wide format scanner, the Designjet 4200. It features 400 x 2400 dpi, with variable resolution setting from 50 dpi in increments of one dpi, and a hardware resolution of 800 dpi, 36-bit color, and 256 levels of grayscale. It can produce up to 99 copies from one scan with image cropping and align preview, lightness, saturation, and RGB controls, sharpen/blur, mirror copy, enlarge/reduce, paneling, tiling, and nesting.
The scanner is geared for shops running HP wide format printers, as it incorporates the company’s printer drivers, and bundled software integrates the scanner with other HP printers on a network. The output is available in PDF, TIFF, JPEG, and CALSG4, or to CD, disk, or file.
KIP America Corporation’s 2200 is a dual function color/monochrome scanner featuring 600 x 600 dpi optical resolution from three independent imaging cameras, a touch screen user interface, real time thresh holding technology, and support for JPEG, JPEG2000, TIFF, PDF, and Photoshop, among other file formats.
A Gray mode function lets the scanner tackle grayscale photographs, maps, and graphical data, capturing the full range of 8-bit grayscale data. It can also be used for making accurate copies of B&W photos to inkjet printers. Included Color Mode software offers 24-bit imaging for photo and graphic reproduction and offers the ability to scan to a single inkjet printer or scan-to-file on a network. An optional KIP Color Max software package offers more advanced options including RIPing, scan-to-print to multiple printers, advanced color management features, image editing, paneling, and nesting.
Kodak’s iQ smart line of scanners have been featured in cross-promotion deals with HP and most recently Noritsu, to offer a wide format MFP to sign shops and others in the market for wide format scanning and printing solutions. The scanners use XY stitching to achieve wide format sizes. The lineup offers optical resolutions up to 5,500 dpi, 16-bit color, and a maximum enlargement capability of up to 3,300 percent. The scanners use an inverted CCD, which Kodak claims improves scan quality by preventing fine dust particles from settling on the CCD surface.
The unit can crank out 50 scans an hour (at 300 dpi, 250 percent, 6 x 7 cm) or scan up to 96 35mm originals in one batch. It comes with oXYgen RGB software for ICC color management, automation, and image-editing.
Kyocera Mita Corporation wide format scanners produce professional results for wide format applications and file types. They provide a combination of high quality and ease of use. The KM-4850w wide format imaging system is a digital wide format copier with optional CAD Master contoller that provides copy/print/scan in less than ten square feet of floor space. It comes standard with two paper rolls and single-sheet bypass. A third paper roll and WF stacker are optional.
Lumiere Technology produces the GIS Jumboscan, a flatbed scanner that uses a monolinear 240 megapixel CCD to digitize maps, textiles, and printed circuit board drawings in bitonal, grayscale, and color at 0.005 percent EMQ or better in less than a minute. The RGB Jumboscan camera may be positioned in fixed and portable settings to digitize cultural heritage materials sized up to 6.4' x 16.5' placed on copytables, book cradles, easels, and in-situ on walls. The full CCD is used when scanning each channel to output the highest resolution and definition images available to visualize the smallest details.
Jumboscan cameras are hard at work at the Library of Congress, Washington State Archives, and Western Michigan University’s W.E. Upjohn Center for the Study of Geographical Change.
Among Océ North America’s newest releases, the Océ CS4044 42" scanner offers 4-liner CCDs for an optical resolution of 508 dpi (up to 800 dpi via interpolation). It is capable of scanning items up to .59" thick with automatic thickness control, and offers scan to copy/email, automatic camera alignment and automatic stitching, and B&W point and full color calibration. It also features dual 2D-adaptive enhancement and dual 2D adaptive gray, 2D sharpening, softening, blur, and color feature extraction.
The company also offers a 54" model, the 4054.
Rowe, Roth + Weber wide format scanner systems distinguish themselves by being modular in construction and service friendly. Rowe’s complete system software and comprehensive range of interfaces guarantees quick and efficient integration into your network and/or digital archive. Rowe considers the Rowe RCS 800 the new benchmark for color and monochrome document scans. Its multitasking setup allows simultaneous scan-to-copy, scan-to-file, and printing from net. Other functions include programmable templates, automatic roll selection, user-specific cut modes, and a 48" scan width.
Screen USA offers Cézanne Elite. The new Cézanne Elite offers significant improvements in many fundamental areas. Scanning with the Cézanne Elite is approximately twice as fast as its previous model, ensuring dramatic increases in productivity. In addition, the latest ColorGenius EX image processing software combines an even easier to use Graphical User Interface (GUI) with new functions that make achieving superior output supremely easy.
Vidar Systems Corporation wide format scanners offer very fast scanning, with imaging up to 54 inches wide. Some of the company’s models, such as the Titan H36 Color Scanners, are bundled with iJET technology-integrated copy/scan functionality. The Titan H36 Color Scanners have high speed and high optical resolution of 600 dpi. Also, they have a 36 inch-wide imaging area and scan up to 0.6 inch-thick documents. They come standard with triple 4-linear CCDs (RGB triplets and panchromatic B&W), 48-bit color capture, 16-bit graytone capture, high-speed USB and LAN interface, and USB out port for printer.
Western Graphtec, Inc. offers high-performance, wide format, color image scanners using contact array sensor technology for accurate, high-resolution scanning of documents from ISO A4 up to ANSI E-size. The CS400-10 is a 40" wide, 24-bit color scanner perfect for scanning large photographs and graphics, while the CS300-10 is a 40"wide, 8-bit color scanner, a practical choice for GIS, mapping, and document archiving applications. Producing scanning speeds of 9"/sec. (monochrome) and 3"/sec. (color) when scanning at 400 dpi, these compact and lightweight scanners also have a superb scanning accuracy of 0.1 percent.
Widecom Inc. designs, manufactures, and markets high-speed, high-performance wide format scanners with various features ranging in width and speed. Widecom provides full-color, wide format scanning at monochrome speed and prices. The SLC936C, SLC1036C, SLC954C, and SLC972C are wide format color scanners which can also perform monochrome scans for service houses, engineers, planners, utility managers, and technicians who create and maintain their own maps. The SLC series scanners are the efficient and premier solution for wide format scanning in a service house environment because of it’s dual functionality.
Xerox Corporation’s wide format scanner system is available as a component of the Xerox 8825, 8830, and 8850 Digital Solutions. It can scan paper sizes up to .5" thick, 100' long, and 42" wide, at speeds from 2 ips to 4 ips, with an optical resolution of 400 x 400 dpi. It offers scan-to-net with indexing, scan preview, link to raster editor, and supports TIFF 6.0 and CALS file formats. It features lead and trail edge adjust/center alignment and automatic centering of an image on output media.
Scanning is a major part of the digital wide format printing process. There is an abundance of choices on the market, all with unique options to meet individual needs. With all the growth seen and projected for wide format printing, the wide format scanning market and technologies should see similar results.