Speed versus Throughput: How to Gain Productivity in Scanning

Questions to Ask When Evaluating Your Next Wide Format Scanner

by Steve Blanken, General Manager, Contex Americas 

In today’s competitive environment, many equipment manufacturers love to compare competitors’ technical and mechanical specifications. While these specifications are always impressive, they do not measure the true productivity of a device or system. 

Many factors can impact the productivity of large format scanning, and machine speed is only a small part of it. Here are some factors that can turn the fastest mechanical device into the least productive device.

Operator efficiency:
  • Does the operator understand how to run the system completely or partially?
  • How much paper (originals) does the operator have to handle, pre-scan and post scan? (Inefficient paper handling alone can reduce the speed of a device up to 15%.)
  • How much file handling is done after the scan? Do they have to manually move the file to another location after it is scanned? Do they have to QA the file? Do they have to index the file?
  • Do the hardware ergonomics make sense (i.e are both the computer and scanner easy to operate efficiently together for the operator?)
Scanner connection:
  • Is the scanner connected to the network or by USB? 
  • Is it connected directly to the network or through a PC to the network? 
  • How fast is the network and is there security software on the network that can cause delays or disruptions?
Computer hardware:
  • How old is the computer? What version is the operating system?
  • How much RAM is in the computer, and what processor is the computer using?
  • Does the PC or on-board controller have a solid-state drive or spinning hard drive?
  • How much “bloatware” is installed on the computer?
Scanner software
  • Is the scanner software optimized for fast batch scanning and/or fast copying, nesting and set printing?
  • Does the software perform image quality corrections on the fly?
  • Will the software auto-rotate, auto-align and auto-deskew for optimal production?
  • Are there powerful production tools in the software (i.e. color management, file indexing, presets that can be easily adjusted, accounting, Reimage technology, and twain?
  • Does the software address all of the printer functions in the native printer language?
  • Does the software easily integrate to the network?
  • Does it capture 48-bit color and deliver back 48-bit raw file?
Scanner hardware:
  • Is the scanner built and optimized for fast batch scanning and copying? 
  • Once set for batch scanning mode or copying, can you continuously feed originals or does the operator have to interact with the scanner or software after each scan? 
  • In batch mode, do you have to wait for the scanner to finish processing the current scan before you can load the next scan? 
  • Is the auto sizing accurate in both scan and copy mode?
  • Does the scanner need additional software to do batch or production scanning?
  • Can the scanner handle thicker originals, if required?
  • Does the scanner use state of the art 4-channel (Quad linear) CCD technology in their cameras (red, green, blue, and gray). This technology is extremely important for accurate color, monochrome and grayscale reproduction. If there is no dedicated gray channel, then the scanner is using the green channel to produce monochrome and grayscale, and that is not a true black or grayscale image).
  • Will the scanner scan a 48-bit color file and deliver back a 48-bit color file?
  • Will the scanner scan a 16-bit grayscale file and deliver back a 16-bit grayscale file?
  • If the scanner technology is CIS (Contact Image Sensor) will it still capture 48-bit color files?
  • If the scanner technology is CIS (Contact Image Sensor) will it still capture 16-bit grayscale files?
  • What is the true optical resolution of the scanner, and will it scan 1 DPI increments up to the maximum resolution?
These are some of the more important considerations when comparing large format scanners, especially if the scanner is for production scanning or copying. 

If there is ever any doubt, conduct side-by-side evaluations from any of the manufacturers you are considering. 

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