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Large Format Scanning — What You Need to Know

Large Format Scanning — What You Need to Know

large format paper drawings

Do you have large format paper drawings or maps that you’re considering scanning to digital formats?  If so you’re not alone.  Nearly every day we talk to someone who has flat files full of old drawings that they need to preserve.   Our clients have included mining companies, government agencies, newspaper publishers, piano roll preservationists, municipal archivists and more.   Regardless of the business or the type of large format document, nearly always the reasons for scanning and problems in digital preservation fall into the same categories.  So, we decided that it would be a good idea to write a  post about large format scanning — and what you should know about digital preservation.

Why Do Organizations Scan their Large Format Documents?

Generally decisions to scan large format paper archives come about for one or more of the following reasons:

  • maintain electronic images of large documents for safe keeping
  • save on document storage costs
  • improve efficiency by making scanned drawings available at the click of a mouse
  • convert the drawings and maps to a digital CAD or GIS system
  • preserve deteriorating historical records
Scan their Large Format Documents

It’s important to understand what the goal of the scanning process is, and what the scope of the project is.  Too often, organizations underestimate the number of large documents that need to be scanned, as well as the deterioration that has occurred in the paper drawings.  Both condition and amount are important in determining the best solution for the large format scanning project.

Should You Scan the Drawings Yourself?

Choosing a Scanner

A large format scanner is a device that is wide enough to scan a C or D size drawing or map and that may use CCD or CIS technology.   When it comes to large format scanners, the market is full of options: from small models to large, monochrome to color, simple to advanced features, low speed to high speed, scanners designed for ease of use and scanners engineered for high volume production use. All of these models and options exist for one good reason: Because documents exist in a wide variety of size, content, media, and condition. In addition to your planned use of the scanner, your documents will help determine which scanning solution is best for you.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure that you consider not only the legacy large-format documents that need to be scanned but also whether there will be daily needs beyond the legacy drawing that you will, In addition, make sure that the images that the scanner produces are in accordance with your needs.

What About Personnel to Do the Scanning?

What About Personnel to Do the Scanning?

You will need to determine whether you have the expertise in-house to do the large format scanning job.   Just as organizations often underestimate the number of documents and their poor condition, they also underestimate the difficulty of doing a large scanning job in-house.  Large format scanning is far more than just passing a drawing through a scanner.  There is the need to properly handle deteriorated documents so they are able to be scanned and preserved.  There is the knowledge required to ensure proper scanner settings as well as the best file format for storage and/or conversion use.  There is the determination of how the scanned images should be stored – on CD/DVD, an in-house server, or “in the cloud?”    For most organizations when all things are considered, in-house large-format scanning for large archival projects is not a cost-effective solution.

Considering Outsourced Large Format Scanning

Oftentimes, image type, image quality, and file conversion are where a professional large format scanning service may be better suited to the task than an in-house scanning project.  A professional large format scanning service can optimize file size to minimize storage overheads and maximize the efficiency of an electronic document management system you may use.  Additionally, professional large format scanning services are usually more adept at the scanning process, frequently have better, faster, and more large format scanning equipment than you can afford to purchase, are much better versed in converting the scanned files to CAD or GIS formats, and are therefore often much more efficient and cost-effective than an in-house scanning project would be.

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