Documented Advantages

Wide-format scanners play a significant role in the production of high-quality graphics and images. Whether you’re using them for scan-to-file, scan-to-print, or both functions, it’s important to understand they can be of tremendous utility in helping you gain more business, more sales, and more profits.

One shop benefitted by using its scanners to provide a client with an invaluable service, then reaped an unexpected benefit, says Bob Honn, director of marketing services for the Wide-format Printing Systems Division of Océ North America. “They brought in the [client’s] old metal cabinets, with drawers filled with paper documents, and digitized all those documents,” he recalls. “And then they sold off the cabinets on eBay, because the customer didn’t want them back.”

 

Scanner Technology

Reaping a sizable return on your investment starts with understanding the two major scanning technologies and which to choose for your application, says Randy Geesman, president of Paradigm Imaging. If the work involves documents that are more color critical, whether posters, photography, or artwork, a Charged Coupled Device (CCD) scanner is the best choice, because it is capable of producing a wider array of colors with greater accuracy, Geesman says. Contact Image Sensor, or CIS technology, on the other hand, is appropriate for technical documents.

According to Eric DuPaul, Designjet business development manager with Hewlett-Packard, CCD is the older of the technologies, uses multiple cameras, and a florescent light source, and can be adjusted to filter out imperfections. “Traditionally, these CCD scanners have the ability to raise and lower the platen head, allowing you to scan a document that may be attached to a piece of foam core or even plywood,” he adds.

CIS, on the other hand, is the less expensive of the technologies, uses LED lighting, and has very few moving parts, DuPaul says. “CIS technology is really geared toward a customer scanning low-to-mid-volume amounts of documents,” he says. “The types of documents scanned would be rolled, rather than folded. They would be monochrome, or maps with some colors, but mainly lined data...The CIS technology has a tendency to pick up more of the folding of the media, so anything older, such as a Mylar or animal skin, you don’t want to scan with CIS because you’ll pick up imperfections.”

Shops doing 100 to 300 scans a month should be steered toward CIS, especially because CIS scanners are typically bundled with simplistic software that are not intended for a production environment, DuPaul explains.

But if you have a client who arrives with seven sets of drawings, each with 30 pages, and each set is to be scanned and documents individually named, the task is usually beyond the capability of a CIS scanner and its bundled software, DuPaul says. “That’s why it’s recommended to move to a CCD scanner with higher-end production software able to operate it, and to allow for individual file naming and very easily collated individuals sets,” he adds.

It’s also important that PSPs take color management into account. “There is no guarantee that what you see on paper is captured on the computer screen and will be seen when you output it on media,” Geesman says.

“It’s important that you manage color right across those three steps, by implementing ICC color workflow management. You can calibrate the scanner to produce more accurate color by creating ICC profiles for your scanner. You can also do the equivalent task, generating a profile for your screen, so the colors are represented more accurately on the screen.”

PSPs also need to generate ICC profiles for specific medias they use, as well as for specific printer settings, resolution, and the number of passes made by the printhead. “It’s how you really make better use of a scanner,” Geesman adds. “Unless you implement ICC color workflow management, it’s a bunch of trial and error you have to go through, like throwing darts at a dartboard.”

 

Scanners’ Profit Potential

Wide-format scanners can be a rich source of untapped revenue and profit for many PSPs. According to DuPaul, more than 50 percent of the building projects in the US are reconstruction or remodeling projects. That means the architect or engineer heading up the project is heavily dependent on drawings in paper format that where created in the 1980s or earlier. These paper documents must be put in electronic form for manipulation by software programs now used by the AEC industry, DuPaul says.

“The print service provider can take the set of drawings, and scan them into PDFs,” he says. “Then they can take it a step further and say to the customer, ‘Do you want me to vectorize this documentation to allow you to import it into your CAD software, and thereby avoid a lot of manual steps?’

“There is Scan-to-CAD and there is AutoCAD Raster Design, and the one that seems to get a lot of oohs and aahs when I’ve seen it demonstrated is called WiseImage. The reason for the oohs and aahs is that it does a lot of things automatically that otherwise would have to be done manually.”

For instance, he says, it can vectorize maps—a huge benefit because scan service bureaus often depend on maps for up to 30 percent of their business—and in addition can actually geo-reference those maps.

Input a ZIP code, and the program will access a database, locate that plot of mapped land, and put it in a context that users can reference, DuPaul says.

Many PSPs, he adds, don’t realize that the supplementary ability to vectorize the data adds value. “I have to believe that based on cost models, that could become a very profitable service they could offer specific clients,” he says. “There are a lot of building projects. And there are a lot of private mapping companies that could become clients of PSPs.”

In addition, many governmental agencies at the state and local level are dependent on geographic information service (GIS) providers to deliver census data, land use data and environmental protection data, DuPaul says, noting this translates to large numbers of hand-drawn paper maps that have to be scanned to be electronically accessed.

Land developers who bid on government-owned land want to be able to look at the land online. But many government-owned parcels are mapped only in paper form. That spells opportunity for PSPs who choose to embrace CCD for the scalability it offers them, he says.

The bottom line is that “architects, engineers, and GIS professionals want to focus on designing and being creative,” DuPaul adds. “They don’t want to be thinking of copying and scanning. CCD systems can definitely justify their costs.”

PSPs can build revenues from printing customers who could also benefit from scanning, Honn notes. “The customer doesn’t know what’s possible,” he says. “The customer may have a very dogmatic view that a scanner is a narrow desktop [machine]. They don’t know you have production speed scanners that can be used to archive documents.”

Companies with a lot of paper documents recognize they could be much more efficient by ridding themselves of the paper and freeing up space. But they put it off because it’s such a time-consuming job. Using outside vendors is one way to accomplish that task and improve the quality of the stored documentation as well. The documents are often very old, have fold marks and can be dirty.

“But someone who does this routinely can do the digitization and the cleanup, so the documents look better,” Honn says. “It’s a benefit to the PSP’s customer. It expands the value proposition to existing customers. They’re in these accounts frequently, may be walking by the stored documents.

“And it’s a matter of having an educated eye that there is a potential revenue source.”

 

Is it Pepperoni, or a Scan?

At the high end of the market sits Cruse. The Cruse dealer for North America is Cruse Digital Equipment. “We really add textural effect to what we scan,” says owner Mike Lind. “It’s very lifelike, as opposed to a flat scan...It’s a way to get almost anything in digital form. Some of our customers started out with fine art, but then may have expanded into other subject matter, including old fragile artifacts that can lie on a table, and because this is contact-less scanning, even wet art.

“Everything lies on a table, with the image up. The light is an inch or two away, and the lens and the scan head is a little farther away than that. We can even scan things in a frame, because we have the ability to have our lights a bit higher and more removed from the subject.”

This Cruse scanner can also scan older, very fragile documents, including large-format maps and books up to 7x10 feet and larger. This capability opens up new areas of revenue for providers, from museums and private individuals with collections of books, jewelry, and other priceless holdings.

“You name it, we can do it,” Lind says. “I sold one to a company that was scanning old hand-drawn parts drawings of helicopters. They’re so accurate they were able to vectorize the scanned images to enable them to create templates to manufacture those parts again. Art galleries will make giclee prints of an artist’s original, and sell them 100 times as a limited edition. If it’s an unknown artist, he can have five copies made, sell those, and come back for more.”

The highly textured, 3D effect scans generated by the equipment are so true to life that individuals looking at the scan of an oil painting are tempted to approach it and touch it, because they believe it is textured. “We actually made a scan of a pizza, put it in a box, and people thought it was real,” Lind says.

It’s true the equipment he offers is “pretty expensive,” Lynn says. But there are ways to access the quality even if that expense is prohibitive.

“We have over 100 scanners in the United States, and generally when [providers] find out about us, we try to refer them to scanner owners near them,” he reports. “This is a great way for them to expand their markets. Generally, if they are doing 20 or 30 of the scans a month, that begins to justify the lease payments. Once it’s been scanned in a high-quality way, they can take that file back to their labs and still do the printing themselves.”

There’s money to be made in the fine art space, says Steve Blanken, sales director, North America,Contex Americas. According to Blanken, people working in the fine art realm “are the least resistant to price, and the most interested in making sure it is well represented. They’re more concerned about their original artwork being accurate. That’s a space we’re trying to occupy.”

He says a comparatively untapped market is the scanning of artwork onto canvas. A bond paper print might command $4 to $6 a square foot, something on photo paper $5 to $9, but a canvas $8 to $12 a square foot.

Blanken also notes that the industry has arrived in the early stages of low-cost MFP, with prices in the large-format marketplace coming down to the point where a printer and a scanner can be packaged for under $10,000.

Print service providers can place one of these systems in the front of their store and reap revenues from walk-in large-format color copying. “And our software will keep track of what a customer just printed, allowing a store to charge the customer accurately for that service,” Blanken adds.

“They can also bring in scanning service work, that might not be printed out at all, but saved to a flash drive or a CD, whatever storage medium they might choose. And it can be printed out later at the customer’s location or at the service provider’s site.

 

Trends to Watch

Greater opportunity to profit through the use of these scanners is surely around the corner. So what trends should PSPs keep top of mind?

Cloud-based initiatives represent one area of interest, says DuPaul.

Another trend worth noting centers on an initiative by President Obama, who, according to Honn, has laid down the gauntlet to government agencies to improve records management by moving to electronic records. “We’re actually targeting government agencies,” Honn says. “We call on them at the federal, state, and local level and use this as an entrée to talk about electronic records.”

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