By Melissa Donovan
Part 1 of 2
Architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) and computer aided design (CAD) industries increasingly look for ways to do more with less. One way to achieve this is with wide format scanning technologies—whether standalone or multifunction printers (MFPs). The last few years have brought about many enhancements to scanning technology from user-friendly features to increases in speed, all at reasonable costs.
Get a Good Fit
Wide format scanning is commonly used in AEC and CAD industries. Standalone scanners as well as MFPs that provide scan, print, and copy functionalities are popular. Digital Output considers wide format anything over 24 inches.
In general, wide format scanning capabilities are ideal for both AEC and CAD environments because they “give customers an easy way to backup and digitally store wide format documents. In addition, a wide format scanner allows an office to easily share documents and collaborate with other offices more efficiently,” shares Matt Kochanowski, product manager, Epson.
Steve Blanken, GM, Contex, argues that standalone scanners are commonly used in AEC and CAD because of their power and flexibility. “They can attach to any printer in an organization and do not lock you into one printer. This means you can drive multiple printer brands instead of just one. If you have a separate scanner connected to your printer and the printer goes down, the scanner will still operate so you can scan to other printers on your network.”
“Scanners provide the ability to create copies in order to create drawings to be marked up. With the color capabilities of current scanners, the B&W and color requirements of the document are kept intact,” explains Bob Honn, senior director, marketing support, Canon Solutions America.
Honn points out that in regards to MFP solutions, the smaller, single footprint of integrated scan-and-print devices make them ideal for CAD office environments.
Changes in Technology
Scanning technology continues to advance. Features involving lighting, speed, and proprietary improvements all play a role in the scanning devices available today. Interestingly, despite all the changes, scanner costs have not risen.
The type of light, how it is incorporated into a scanning system, and what is used for is one change over the last few years. For example, at Contex, the company uses LED light versus fluorescent lamps to illuminate the images scanned. “This makes the scanner more environmentally friendly and the lamps essentially last a lifetime,” notes Blanken.
Another light-related feature in some wide format scanners is dual angle lighting systems. According to
Kochanowski, this ease-of-use feature eliminates creases in a folded document.
Scanning speed has doubled over the past few years, adds Blanken. “What once took all day to scan now takes a fraction of the time. Software is also more robust and many new features aid in faster, more efficient scanning and printing capabilities.”
Many companies credit proprietary technology as helping advance the scanner market. Image Logic Technology is Canon Solution America’s proprietary technology “that provides a very productive, reliable, and easy-to-use solution for high-quality copying and scanning. This unique technology consistently turns imperfect originals into high-quality copies and scans. Key to its efficiency is that it works automatically inside Canon equipment with little, if any, intervention by the user,” explains Honn.
With many of these advancements one would think the price of today’s wide format scanning devices would have increased significantly. However, “scanning technology has become much more affordable over the last five years. It’s possible now to get a full 36-inch MFP for under $6,000 and still have all the functionality that a typical technical office requires,” admits Kochanowski.
Mobile technologies including smartphones and tablets continue to grow in usage, and AEC and CAD are not exempt from this trend. MFPs are designed to cater to these new demands, allowing for mobile sharing and sending of scanned hard copies to mobile technologies, enabling viewing in the field.
“If an analog image is needed it can be captured with pinpoint accuracy with a scanner. The image can then be sent digitally all over the world to be used on a mobile device. In addition, we can now use mobile devices to drive the large format scanners so you could actually operate the scanner with your smart device and save the scanned image on your device or send it to a printer anywhere in the world using a cloud print service like Google,” explains Blanken.
While many market verticals are doing away with print, AEC and CAD still rely on it. Honn believes the preferred workflow within AEC is still hard copy and this is because of the consumers of these documents—general contractors and subcontractors. “They still prefer the hard copy since it’s most conducive to the ways in which they work in the field. I believe as more millennials enter the construction profession that this will change, but it will be gradual over time.”
Back in the AEC and CAD office, Kochanowski agrees printing and scanning hard copies are still necessary. “Having a large document printed is much easier for a large group to gather, discuss, and observe when compared to a mobile device.”
Coming at it Differently
While many AEC and CAD environments might consider bringing a wide format scanner or MFP in house, others still rely on print service providers (PSPs) to copy, scan, and print jobs for them. PSPs not offering this service are already missing out on a lucrative opportunity.
Scanning services can add additional revenue for a low investment. “Wide format scanning technology is still underutilized in the technical space and many customers are looking to have their documents digitally backed up and a print provider can provide this service to their customers,” recommends Kochanowski.
Honn agrees, but thinks it makes more sense for a PSP to invest in a standalone wide format scanner rather than an MFP. “You want to make this a standalone service that doesn’t interfere with other print operations. This provides PSPs with maximum flexibility within their print, copy, and scan shop workflow.”
In this scenario, investing in a wide format scanners allows for taking on projects related to scanning large legacy document archives. “This opens up not only target customers within AEC, who tend to have legacy archives prior to converting to a total digital workflow but additional markets as well,” says Honn.
Blanken suggests another approach if you are a PSP. Invest in small MFP systems and distribute them to customers asking for these types of services. “They can print on demand and you charge them for what they print. This strategy locks your customer into your services since you own the hardware, but it is installed at their location. The strategy for standalone scanning is similar, let customers scan on demand at their locations with your equipment and they can do whatever they want with the image once scanned—archive, collaborate, print locally, or over a network—all at their convenience using their labor or yours.”
There are many options when it comes to wide format scanning—from outsourcing to bringing it in house, to whether you would benefit from a standalone scanner versus an MFP. In any scenario, scanning technology continues to improve.
The next part in this two-article series provides information on recent wide format scanner introductions.
Feb2020, Digital Output