Offering scanning wasn’t always an option for print shops. Scanners were expensive, the software needed to run them was hard to master, and the entire notion of scanning being a profit center seemed years away.
But the future is now for many wide-format imaging professionals. Scanning equipment is now well within their financial range, and the software currently available makes the transition easy. What’s more, the market for scanning services is ready made. Many of the same customers that wide-format shops serve from the printing side are likely to want scanning services as well.
Those in the business of supplying large-format scanners report there are a multitude of ways for print providers to make money in wide-format scanning.
Among experts voicing this argument is Jane Napolitano, of Costa Mesa, CA-based Paradigm Imaging Group. “Depending on the type of scanning, you can do large-format black-and-white, including engineering documents, plans, and drawings,” Napolitano said. “Or you can do large-format color, which could be anything: renderings to photos to fine art to plans with redlining or markups. It’s more popular for people to scan their own fine art pieces and make copies, and sell those copies.”
Many municipalities are looking to scan old blueprints and building plans to convert them to digital format. They use 24- to 55-inch scanners that start at less than $4,000 for black-and-white scanners, upgradeable to color, she said.
“Repro shops are becoming more and more interested in it, and are now moving from being interested to actually buying the scanners,” she added. “It’s another revenue stream for them. They have opportunities walking in the door, but can’t do anything to serve these people without the right equipment.”
Those print providers have sacrificed the business of wide-format scanning to others because it was too expensive a business for them to enter, and the software was difficult to deal with, Napolitano said. Today that’s no longer the case. Prices have fallen on newer scanner models, and today’s software makes transitioning easy.
“Should they add wide-format scanning?” asked Neil Zdunkawicz, product manager for Santa Ana, CA-based Graphtec America. “They already have clients in that business, and they’re doing print jobs for them. If they’re already doing printing jobs for those kinds of firms, those firms would need scanning services.”
At Océ, Chicago-based product marketing manager Maree Joyce reported that for print providers, the ability to offer scanning services sets them apart. “Scanners not only supply a differentiating factor, but they also allow companies to be more efficient in their workflow,” she said.
Phil Magenheim, president and COO of Herndon, VA-based Contex Americas, Inc., agrees that print providers are looking at scanning as a way to provide additional profits. “There are many who focus on big signs, big graphics, and they find that having a scanner gives them the opportunity to do short-run reproduction of existing artwork and existing images they have and want to recreate. That’s been the most common usage. There has also been a big increase in selling or renting the equipment for their customers to use. For example, they’re placing the equipment in architectural offices or construction trailers to provide black-and-white markups...[Those users] will do the smaller projects on site, but for the bigger distribution will send that work back to the shop.”
Is It Worth the Investment?
To learn whether an investment in a scanner would be a wise one, shop owners first need to determine the number of scans needed to pay for the scanner, the computer, the software, and the scanner operator, “because you obviously need someone to run it,” Zdunkawicz said. “That involves a cost analysis to justify the purchase.”