A large format flatbed scanner is a text and image scanner that is able to accommodate work that measures approximately eleven by seventeen inches. This means that two standard sheets of paper can be placed side by side on the platen surface. These scanners are sometimes called A3 scanners, as they will scan A3 paper, which measures 11.7” x 16.5”. Scanners within this category vary in features according to brand and model.
Chances are, unless you are in an industry that specifically requires the use of them, you have never used or perhaps even seen a large flatbed scanner. Most personal and business flatbed scanners are of the size required to scan documents that are 8.5 x 11 or legal sized documents that are 8.5 x 14. The smaller scanners work great for everyday use, but what if you need scan something much larger? This is exactly where large format flatbed scanners come in handy.
Why Use a Large Format Scanner?
Often called tabloid-size scanners because of their ability to scan large size documents like pages of tabloid size newspapers, large scanners have become more and more popular as people discover how useful they can truly be. Let’ say your daughter creates a wonderful painting in preschool on a big piece of posterboard and you want to show it to the rest of your family. Before, you might have had to take a picture and either mail it or scan the picture itself, but now, thanks to large format scanners, you can often scan the entire painting at once and shoot off the image to any of your friends and family that have a computer.
Another great use is when sending documents. You can often create a scan of many normal size pieces of paper at once so that the resulting images will allow someone to view all of the info you want them to see at once rather than have to scroll through individual files.
Large format scanners are most useful to those industries that require their use on a daily basis. Printers, for instance, often need to scan large images to show clients a proof of what their product will look like. Architects and designers also often use a large scanner when sharing designs or blueprints between individuals on a project.
Large format scanning helps them show scale and transmit information that is already of a larger size rather than have to shrink it down, and scan smaller documents individually. Now, it is important to note that large flatbed scanners are not the LARGEST type of scanner; the largest are known as sheetfeed scanners. Sheetfed scanners scan HUGE documents and materials such as signs and are often as wide as 54 inches.
Scanning Artwork and Scrapbooks
Here are some scenarios and reasons why a large flatbed scanner would make the task much easier.
Scanning for Artwork
If you enjoy drawing or painting, there is a good chance that you very rarely work with a standard letter sized “canvas.” Trying to get your masterpiece into digital format either for storage or mass production can be a royal pain that involves some creative surgery in Photoshop.
Large format scanners typically accommodate paper sizes up to 11X17 inches, so are more than adequate for a typical piece of sketching or drawing paper. Of course, if you are dealing with very large paintings you may be limited on options, but many artists find their large format scanner quite invaluable for the bulk of their work.
Scanning for Scrapbooking
If you are a diligent scrapbooker then you have no doubt experienced the frustration of attempting to digitize an entire newspaper article or your child’s artwork that is just a little bit too big for your small scanner to handle without cutting something off. A large format is the best scanner for scrapbooking since it eliminates this problem for the vast majority of items. You can digitize and scrapbook anything from ticket stubs from the ballgame to posters you picked up at a rock concert with these scanners.
You can also scan your scrapbook pages once they are complete for safe-keeping. Digitizing scrapbooks has become very popular as people realize how vulnerable a physical scrapbook can be.
Scanning of Books
Not all books fit nicely into the dimensions of a standard scanner, and even if they do when closed, it is usually only possible to scan one page at a time. Wide flatbed scanners allow you to open the book and scan two pages per scan, so you don’t invest quite so much time in the project.
When working with documents and books, you do need a certain quality resolution but not as much as with pictures (like comic books). There are affordable large format scanners for books available that are considerably lower-priced than what you would find for super high end scanners for photographs.
Scanning for a Variety of Purposes
It is true that most people very rarely have the use for a large flatbed scanner unless they deal in one of these hobbies or professions. However, most people have experienced the need for scanning a legal-sized document at least once or twice in their lives, only to be frustrated by their scanner’s limited abilities.
If you have the space on your desktop, there are several affordable scanners that will offer the same quality and resolution of typical household scanners with the added ability to scan larger items. Sometimes old wisdom is the best wisdom, even when dealing with technology: it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!
Buying a Large Flatbed Scanner
Flatbed scanners for large format scanning are readily available in any computer store or online and most of the top electronic name brands offer at least one model for sale. If you have the need for scanning larger size documents and you feel that a large format flatbed scanner purchase is in your future, make sure to do your research carefully.
Because of their larger size and greater scanning capability, these scanners tend to be much more expensive than their smaller counterparts. You will want to look at things such as customer satisfaction ratings, the warranty offered, as well as the resolution of the final scanned documents and the software compatibility with your computer as well. A high quality large flatbed scanner can be a welcome and valuable addition to anyone’s computer equipment setup.
Purchasing a large format flatbed scanner, like any piece of electronic equipment, can be a tough and often frustrating process. There are so many choices involved that it can make the decision maddening. It is important to take a step back, make a list of all of the things that are important about your purchase, then proceed carefully as you make your way into the mire of the scanner marketplace. Armed with the proper information about your needs and after having done some research on the products available, purchasing a large format scanner may not be so difficult after all.
Scanning Large Documents or Photos?
First of all, you want to take into consideration the exact nature of the documents or materials you will be scanning. For instance, if the majority of the documents you will be scanning are black and white text documents, then the actual resolution and color depth capability of the scanner is not as important. However, if you are scanning high quality photographs or artwork, then you will want to make sure that the final scan quality is the highest possible. These features are extremely important as higher quality resolution machines can be much more expensive.
The next choice to be made is the general size of the documents you will need to scan. Large flatbed scanners will have a large footprint in your home or office so if space is a consideration, you may want to go with the smallest scanner that will serve your needs. If you are looking to scan extremely large images or materials such as design blueprints, large pieces of art, or even signs (such as is needed for advertising) then you may even want to look at extremely large sheet-fed scanners. These will allow you to scan material much larger than you would be able to on a large flatbed scanner.
Software compatibility is certainly an issue as well when looking to purchase a scanner. It is important that the scanner you purchase contains the proper drivers for your computer so that the scanner and your computer will “work together.” This is one of the major considerations that many people simply overlook in their haste to purchase a flatbed scanner. It is helpful to check reviews of software compatibility for the type of scanner you are looking to purchase so that you don’t run into problems early into its use.
Check the Warranty
Speaking of problems, the last consideration we will look at is that of the type of service program or warranty offered with the scanner. If your scanner does develop a problem, the severity of it can be greatly lessened by a quality service program or all inclusive warranty. If you are purchasing a large format flatbed scanner, chances are you are going to spend a good deal of money. This investment is well protected by choosing a scanner with a quality warranty that will result in your not paying any additional amount for breakage or electronic failure of the scanner during the warranty period.
The above considerations are all important when looking to purchase a large scanner. Remember to do your due diligence and keep the information we mentioned in mind as you search for your machine. Good luck and happy scanning!
Cheap Large Scanners for Tight Budgets
There are few choices when it comes to large format scanning at home. Two of the more affordable large format scanners are the Mustek A3 1200S and the Mustek A3 2400S. These two scanners are virtually identical except the 2400S scans at a higher resolution.
Mustek A3 1200S
• Can create full color 1200 x 1200 dpi scans
• USB 2.0 interface
• Windows and Mac Compatible
• Accommodates 11.7″ x 16.5″ media
If you are looking for an affordable large format scanner, the Mustek ScanExpress A3 1200S is about the lowest price you will find. So who is using this scanner? From the reviews online this scanner seems to be popular among artists, scrapbookers, and comic book collectors.
The Mustek ScanExpress has gotten mixed reviews. Some people love it, others have had some issues. Most users seem to be happy with the quality of scans but some people have had issues with installation and/or compatibility. So depending on your computer system and level of technical savviness, the A3 1200S may fit your needs. You certainly can’t beat the price.
Mustek A3 2400S
• Can create full color 2400 x 2400 dpi scans
• USB 2.0 interface
• Windows and Mac Compatible
• Accommodates 11.7″ x 16.5″ media
Okay, so the Mustek A3 1200S scanner is the most affordable large flatbed scanner. So what is the next step up? Well, that would be the A3 2400S.The Mustek A3 2400S appears to be quite similar to the 1200S. The difference is indicated in the names: the Mustek 2400 has 2400 dpi optical resolution while the Mustek 1200 has 1200 dpi optical resolution.
Now, how much resolution you need depends on what you plan to do with your scans. If you will be printing out your scans then there is no point in scanning at a higher resolution than your printer is capable of. If you are just looking to scan print for OCR, 2400 dpi may be overkill. Determine your intent and you will know whether you need 1200 or 2400 dpi resolution.
The Many Uses of These Scanners
Large format scanners are useful for many types of projects. Home users find that these scanners are perfect for turning children’s school projects into digital media. This is not only a space saving way of holding onto their childhood artwork, but also means that cherished pieces remain viewable for a lifetime.
A3 scanners are also perfect for scanning in complete pages of old photo albums and scrapbooks. In business applications, this type of scanner is a necessity. Graphic design artists, hobby stores, hospitals and libraries are just a sampling of places that a large format scanner is regularly used. Artists prefer this style of scanner as it can scan artwork in one pass with no piecing of multiple scans required.
Choosing an A3 scanner does not need to be a difficult decision. Taking individual needs into consideration goes a long way in making the choice. A person that will primarily be scanning artwork will want to focus on a machine that offers a higher dpi. They may also want to look at the models that include photo software or an enhanced imaging system. Those that will mainly use the machine to scan in text-based works might want something with faxing capabilities or quick scan times, while dpi will not be on the forefront of the decision. Prices span a large range and vary according to brand, model and included features.