Document scanners come in all shapes and sizes

Document scanners range from small portable solutions to impressive large-format devices. The key element that differentiates each scanner category is the format of the paper that needs to be digitised. Offering the right hardware in document scanning and capturing to your customers can be a huge challenge. Scanners and software should accelerate the document management and integration of documents by using an automated process. 

Different types of scanners 

Simply put, there are four main categories of document scanners:  

  • Flatbed scanners 
  • Sheetfed scanners 
  • Large format scanners 
  • Special purpose scanners 

Each of them responds to a specific digitisation need, and their use and function vary with each project. Some are meant to be easy to use, and some of them are designed to handle a large volume of documents.  

Flatbed scanners 

Flatbed scanners are probably the most commonly known devices. Their strength lies in the usage: simple and easy. Technologically speaking, a flatbed scanner is an optical scanner which uses a flat surface for scanning and capturing all elements on the document. When it comes to volume, however, they're really only meant for scanning one page at a time. Flatbed scanners are typically found in offices as part of multifunctional printers. If you have to digitise multipage documents on a regular basis, a sheetfed scanner is definitely a better option. 

Sheetfed scanners 

Instead of glass panels and coverings, automatic document scanners employ sheet feeders. The so-called sheetfed scanners are specifically designed for scanning loose sheets of paper and unbound documents. The paper is placed in a feeder tray and once the scanning process is started, the pages are fed through the machine automatically and digitised one after another. Sheetfed scanners are usually compared in terms of the paper weight and size they are capable of handling, duty cycle rating, and scanning speed (the number of pages scanned per minute). Some models also offer a duplex capability, meaning they are able to automatically copy both sides of loose paper sheets.  

Large format scanners 

Flatbed and sheetfed scanners are perfect for handling paper formats up to DIN A4, however large format scanning requires a different type of hardware. Large format scanners are employed to digitise oversized documents and convert oversized paper documents into digital files. Commonly, large format documents include any paper larger than DIN A4, such as: 

  • Blueprints 
  • Maps 
  • Posters 
  • Banners 
  • Engineering drawings 
  • Circuit diagrams 
  • Architectural drawings 

These machines are much larger than their counterparts and have a flat scanning mechanism mounted atop a stand which brings it up to desk height. The oversized document is manually fed into the scanner until the rollers grip it and position it for scanning. From there, it works very similarly to a giant sheet-fed scanner, with the document sliding through the scanning mechanism and coming out the other side. 
 
Having these types of oversized documents digitised brings many advantages and generally boosts productivity and improves workflows. The resulting digital files can then be easily stored and accessed, for example in one easy-to-manage place such as a cloud platform, where you can search by keyword much faster than if you had to scour through a paper archive! 

Special purpose scanners 

This category encompasses every hardware type not covered previously. This goes from small handheld or business card scanners to specialised book and microfilm scanners up to large-scale high-volume intelligent scanners. Depending on your business or your needs, a specialised image scanning device could revolutionise your workflows. 

Book scanners, for example, are extremely popular in libraries and archives. They are employed to digitise the content of books, hence preserving written knowledge and safeguarding irreplaceable manuscripts from decay and hazards. The technology involved in these types of scanners would allow the books to be placed on a flat or v-shaped support while overhead cameras capture high-resolution images of the pages. Most machines require a manual operator to place the book in the scanner and turn the pages, but some models even come with a fully-automated robotic arm capable of carefully turning the pages of a book after each scan. 

Another example of specialised scanners would be custom scanners for photos. While most flatbed scanners handle photos reasonably well, specialised photo scanners are able to do it without distorting the image. Some models give you the option of scanning from a slide or even directly from film negatives or microfilms, making the process of archiving old photos for storage or producing new prints to replace used and faded images much easier. 

Companies specialising in business process orders (BPOs) can face large volume scanning challenges, such as handling large volumes of incoming mail or digitising decades of paper archives in a matter of weeks. For such applications, specialised intelligent capture solutions are required and can be entirely customised to best fit the workflow they support. They usually involve innovative technology allowing the machine to detect the type and size of the paper as well as optical character recognition (OCR) software to identify the document type and content. The digital image is then processed in a very fast and efficient way and automatically sent to the relevant recipient. Compared to other scanner types, these machines are generally considered very high maintenance since they require extensive engineering knowledge to be configured properly and thus properly trained users. 

Looking for the right scanner? 

With over 20 years of experience in the field of capture solutions and thanks to our large portfolio of hardware, software and services, Dyanix has become the top European independent consultant for digitisation projects. Simply contact us by completing our contact form or calling us at +31 30 7901 900 to receive information, prices and tailored quotes from top professionals in your area. Our dedicated team is looking forward to supporting your digitisation project in the best way possible!