Speed versus throughput: How to gain productivity in scanning

Steve Blanken.
Steve Blanken.

Here, Steve Blanken, General Manager of Contex Americas (Chantilly, Virginia), presents a list of important questions that you should ask yourself before purchasing your next wide-format scanner. Contex is the world’s largest developer and producer of large-format scanning and large-format imaging solutions. Contex was established in 1923 and currently provides scanning solutions to customers in over 90 countries.

In today’s competitive environment, many equipment manufacturers love to compare competitors’ technical and mechanical specifications. While these specifications are always impressive, they don’t measure the true productivity of a device or a 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 actually 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 by up to 15%!) How much file handling is done after the scan? Does the operator have to manually move the file to another location after it’s scanned? Does he or she have to QA the file or 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 a 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. colour management, file indexing, presets that can be easily adjusted, accounting, re-image 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 colour and deliver back a 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 a user 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)? (NOTE: This technology is extremely important for accurate colour, monochrome and grayscale reproduction. If there’s no dedicated gray channel, then the scanner will use the green channel to produce monochrome and grayscale – and that’s not a true black or grayscale image!) Will the scanner scan a 48-bit colour file and deliver back a 48-bit colour 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 colour files and 16-bit grayscale files? What’s the true optical resolution of the scanner, and will it scan in 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’s ever any doubt in your mind, then conduct side-by-side evaluations from any of the manufacturers that you’re considering.

Contex was establised in 1923 and today, as mentioned previously, provides scanning solutions to clients in over 90 countries. Since 1986, its scanners are recognized by a wide range of industries for their reliability, value, high performance and exceptional image quality. Every scanner manufactured goes through comprehensive testing to ensure that it lives up to all key specifications – especially accuracy and durability.

The IQ Quattro 3600 Wide-Format Scanner.
The IQ Quattro 3600 Wide-Format Scanner.

Contex recently expanded its popular IQ Quattro line. The IQ Quattro 3600 Wide-Format Scanner is ideal for scanning technical documents up to 36 inches wide and unlimited length. This newest model completes the IQ Quattro series, which now includes 24”, 36” and 44” models. The 3600 joins the family of IQ Quattro Scanners designed to improve customers’ productivity by helping them to spend less time on scanning. The IQ Quattro 4th generation CIS scanner from Contex, “is the fastest in colour than any other wide-format scanner,” said the company. It features up to 14 ips/sec. in colour with Sigma and Color Fringe Removal. It can scan A0/E size documents in 3.5 seconds with a one-second start time.

IQ Quattro scanners are equipped with Contex CleanScan CIS modules and facilitate optimal image quality with dual-sided LED light. This eliminates wrinkles and folds in originals and provides clear, crisp scans. The scanner series uses the Nextimage professional suite of software products. It can also run rainforest365, a free Contex app that allows users to operate the scanners securely with their smart devices. The IQ Quattro also comes available as a ScanStation, featuring a 21.5” touchscreen.

More information: https://www.contex.com.

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.