Scanning for Opportunities

As technology and the market for scanned documents evolve, PSPs find that owning a wide-format scanner is increasingly critical in generating customer traffic and profits. A wide-format scanner makes sense from a return-on-investment standpoint as well, because it’s possible to earn back one’s scanner investment quickly.

As Maree Joyce, senior marketing specialist for Canon Solutions America, said of PSPs, “You definitely need a wide-format scanner. Without one, you would be turning away jobs and future customers.”

Many PSPs already have one, either a stand-alone scanner or a multifunction printer, said Steve Blanken, general manager of Contex America.

“The advantage of a stand-alone scanner is that it is built for scanning first, meaning built for volume,” said Blanken. “The biggest difference is that the MFP is built for printing first and the scanner is an add-on.”

Why do PSPs need wide-format scanners? Blanken said they are essential for shops with numerous analog originals that need to be digitized.

These documents may be maps, drawings, or fine art. “They need these scanned and digitized to put them in an electronic format,” Blanken said. “Some are for archiving and collaboration. You get an analog document, make it digital, and then you can share it with whoever is in your work group, to allow you to collaborate and redesign, rebuild, or build something.”

Technology-Based Trends

The trend in wide-format scanners over the past several years has been the shift from Charged Coupled Device (CCD) scanners, which involve cameras and lenses, toward greater use of Contact Image Sensor (or CIS) scanners.

So said Randy Geesman, president Paradigm Imaging Group. “The reason is that the optics are more stable [with CIS] than they are with CCDs, which require use of mirrors to create the focal length. And CIS is a less expensive technology to implement and manufacture.”

At one time, he added, CIS wasn’t capable of producing the same image quality and color gamut that CCDs traditionally could provide.

That is changing. “Colortrac has done something interesting in terms of improvements with CIS technology,” he said.

“They came out with Single-Sensor Technology. All the CIS scanners use an array of about five staggered sensors to cover the width of the scanner. Since they’re staggered, you have to implement some way to combine what the sensors are capturing, so there aren’t any stitching errors. In using Single-Sensor Technology, Colortrac has built one continuous sensor that covers the width of the scanner, resulting in the elimination of stitching concerns. And they’ve done something with the color-capture quality, so that the gap is being narrowed between CIS and CCD. With single sensors, Colortrac can now meet the demands of most scanning applications.”

Still, if a customer’s business centers on fine art capture, Paradigm would point him or her toward a CCD scanner. It’s important to recognize, however, that that kind of customer—which prior to Single-Sensor Technology would have comprised 25 percent of the market—now makes up less than 10 percent.

According to Joyce, the demand for higher-quality scanning has grown. That’s because the market has dwindled for technical drawings, those basic line drawings that formerly made up 80 percent of the market, she said.

“They’re moving to higher-coverage color, the reason being that there is a lot more money in it,” she observed. “And industries are recognizing that in order to communicate effectively, it must be in color.”

Blanken agreed that technology is improving CIS. However, he stressed that CCD remains the choice for color accuracy.

Pinpointing the Opportunities

For PSPs, wide-format scanning opportunities range from technical drawings, mapping and archiving to graphic arts reproduction for museums and curators, Joyce says.

Flatbed scanners allow providers to “get into the higher-end art or photo market, and let you scan fragile documents that cannot go through a roll-fed scanner. The flatbed arena is where the growth will be. PSPs can differentiate themselves by the ability to take on more specialty work,” said Blanken.

Geesman identifies two kinds of applications to be served by PSPs. “Either you’re archiving documents to create a digital library of legacy data, an application we refer to as scan-to-file,” he says. “Or you are producing a hard copy. One of the growing trends is to utilize a scanner as part of a multi-function system to produce copies. PSPs need to look at both applications to derive the greatest revenue from their scanning investments.”

That trend has been driven by manufacturers such as Canon and HP introducing large-format color multi-function systems. On the other hand, PSPs may have several large-format color printers already. If so, it’s more economical for them to add scanners to existing large-format inkjet printers.

“We came out with an entire product line based on that concept, called a flex system,” Paradigm's Geesman says. “You can add it to an existing printer, or have it stand alone. [PSPs] don’t have to purchase another printer when they already have plenty.”

Return on Investment

Most experts agree a scanner can quickly pay for itself in increased business. According to Joyce, if you will be making copies for graphic arts reproduction, the return on investment (ROI) is “extremely quick.” How quick will depend on the volume the shop is handling. “But if they have anywhere around mid-volume, and they’re selling 20 D-sized prints a day, they could make their return on investment for a $10,000 scanner in a month,” she said.

How quickly a shop sees ROI on a wide-format scanner depends on the shop’s current workflow, and how that workflow would change once the scanner is in place. “You could go from a labor-intensive workflow to a much more automated workflow,” Blanken said.

Added Geesman: “ROI can be achieved quickly, especially if you’re targeting both main functions: scan-to-file and scan-to-copy. One large job would pay for the scanner. It’s not uncommon to have a 1,000- to 5,000-document job, which would provide the ROI in a single project.

Success Stories

ABC Imaging, USA won a project to create graphics for the entire interior of a new interactive museum of the German-American Heritage Foundation. The graphics required had to be high-quality reproductions of delicate historic documents and images from foundation members’ archives. Those documents and images were scanned-to-print using the Contex HD5450 and HP DesignJet Z6100. “The Contex scanner is easy to use and always reliable,” noted John Stricker, manager of ABC Imaging’s Grand Format Division. “We can win projects based on the quality we produce.”

Paradigm Imaging installed a Kurabo scanner for general manager Steve Coyle at Miller Blueprint in Austin, TX in October of last year. The choice was based on Coyle recognizing from customer requests that a 24-by-36-inch color flatbed scanner was needed to handle fragile legacy documents and artwork.

“Austin is blessed with a large number of local artists who have come to appreciate our ability to accurately scan and print their original artwork,” Coyle observed. “As a result, we are fortunate enough to have to use the Kurabo scanner every day. It’s one of the most important assets in our graphics department.”

Concluding Thought

Blanken summed up the notion of adding wide-format scanning this way. “It is all about your workflow,” he said. “If your workflow is affected negatively by old technology, putting in a new scanner with the latest technology will certainly improve your workflow, which will improve your efficiency and your ROI.”