Selecting the Best Wide-Format Scanner for Your Needs4 Sep, 2008 By: Henrik Vestermark of BERTL imageSource
Selecting the Best Wide-Format Scanner for Your Needs
When faced with the decision to purchase a new wide-format scanner, people
often ask what scanner is right for their needs. With more than 89 wide-format
scanner models on the market ranging from 25- to 54 inches, the choice can seem
overwhelming. How do you narrow the list down to a more manageable number? It’s
actually quite simple — we must first learn about the scanner manufacturers then
I’ll provide you with five easy steps to select your next scanner.
Vidar Spectra 600e
Who are the Scanner Players?
There are three major scanner manufacturers and one minor manufacturer in the
world. Surprisingly, none of the major vendors are based in the United States,
despite the fact that approximately 30 to 35 percent of worldwide sales are in
the U.S. The scanner manufacturers are as follows:
• Contex (major) based in Denmark.
• Colortrac (major) based in the United Kingdom.
• Graphtec (major) based in Japan.
• Image Access (minor) based in Germany.
Contex offers the same scanner under three different brands and two OEM
brands: Contex, Vidar, GTCO Calcomp, Océ, and HP. The differences between the
various Contex-branded products are cosmetic. For example, one may have a
different streamer or color touchpad. Functional specifications and actual
performance is identical. Other than cosmetic differences, the difference lies
between each company’s level of commitment to quality customer service and
Colortrac has one OEM brand: Paradigm imagePRO. In addition, Image Access has
just established an OEM brand through Bowe Bell+Howell in the United States. No
one scanner size fits all solutions, and each scanner manufacturer offers a
variety of different-sized scanners ranging from 25- to 54-inch width. Below is
a table listing each scanner manufacturer and the number of scanners they offer
within each wide-format size, ranging from 25- to 54 inches.
Availability of Scanner Models by Width from Different Vendors
Now, let’s narrow down your choices.
Step 1: What is Your Maximum Scanning Width Requirement?
This first step will eliminate the majority of available scanners. Go down
to your drawing archive and estimate the maximum document width. Don’t worry
about the document length since virtually all scanners support unlimited
scanning length. Be critical — most companies only need to scan D-size (24 inch)
or E-size (36 inch) drawings. Or you can choose a scanner size that equals your
printer width. The wider your scanning needs are, the more expensive your new
scanner will be. The best bargains in scanners support a maximum scan width
between 36- and 42-inches.
Step 2: Color versus Black & White
Surprisingly, many customers today still need only black and white scanning.
However, the future could bring a need for color scanning as well, so naturally
you may want to have color scanning capability. The good news is that all the
listed manufacturers produce scanners that are based on color scanning
technology, so even if you buy a black and white scanner, under the hood it’s
all color scanning technology. If you only need black and white scanning right
now, then select a scanner that offers moderate color performance. If you want
color, think about the trade off between color performance and price. The better
the color scanning performance, the higher the price will be. Be careful when
evaluating color scanning performance. The connecting computer is the
bottleneck, and therefore it is often questionable to select a scanner that
provides a color scanning speed above 1- to 1½-inches at 200 dpi. In other
words, it is more beneficial to ensure you are using a high performance computer
than a high performance scanner. There is, of course, one exception — in our
tests, the Image Access scanner has delivered considerably higher color scanning
performance than any other scanners in the market.
Step 3: Which Scanning Resolution?
Choose the scanning resolution that meets your demands for quality.
Typically most scanning is still done at resolutions between 200- to 400-dpi.
Ignore the specification for maximum scanning resolution, which is done by
simple scaling. Use the optical scanning resolution as an indicator of quality
and select a scanner with a higher optical resolution than your maximum
resolution need, assuming all other measures are equal. See the Scanning
Resolution Myth article from the December issue of iTchat.
Step 4: How Many Documents?
Always estimate how many documents you will need to scan over a selected
period of time. (Without that number, a return on investment analysis cannot be
performed, and your financial controller will most likely turn down your
purchase request.) A lot of companies today still do not really know where the
break-even point is between purchasing and outsourcing scanning needs, but a
good rule of thumb is around 500 E-size documents. If you have fewer than 500
documents to scan, then take them to the local copy shop.
Step 5: Get the Best Price
Nobody pays list prices anymore, and neither should you. It’s unlikely that
your needs cannot be satisfied by two or more scanner vendors, which means you
have a choice. Take advantage of that competition. Always ask for three quotes.
You may be surprised to learn that the typical street price is between 15- to
25-percent off list price. Don’t forget to factor in the different on-site
warranties, which vary from three months to a staggering three years. With
pricing information available, you can now rank your reduced list of scanners
and evaluate the list for secondary features and options.
Happy scanner hunting.