All you need to know before buying a large format scanner for CAD!

If you are intending to print your scans, you will probably want to use the large format printer you already have. Some software supplied with scanners has restricted printer support. You need to ensure that your printer is supported.

Printing features to look for include the ability to print to scale, reduce, enlarge and print multiple copies. Some print software supplied with scanners includes colour matching to ensure that colours that are printed closely match colours on the original scanned document. As stated, this function is unlikely to be of significance to CAD users scanning technical documents with limited colours.

If you are going to do a lot of printing, consider a RIP (raster image processor). A RIP is a program that makes printing faster, more efficient and gives you more control over the printing process.


Contex have a proprietary software networking solution for almost all their large format scanners. Colortrac and Graphtec do not.

Most scanners are required to run from a dedicated host PC but can be networked using WIDEsystemNET (Contex) or SCP EasyScan software (Colortrac and Graphtec). Networking requires scanning software and/or drivers to be installed on the dedicated host PC and on every workstation.

New generation network scanners, like the Image Access WideTEK 36 and the Contex Puma G600 iJET have built-in PCs which make the need for a host PC redundant. Both can be run directly from internet browsers across a network.


Some companies offer an on-site warranty. This tells us they believe in their product. Others offer return to factory (RTF) warranties that can be upgraded at extra cost to on-site or swap-out. Most scanners are robust and adequately supported by an RTF warranty which typically runs for two years. The cost of extending an RTF warranty after two years is not a cheap option. RTF warranties require the scanner to be returned in the original large box which must therefore be stored, possibly an unwelcome encumbrance.


  • CIS scanners are suitable for scanning most monochrome or colour technical drawings.
  • CCD scanners are recommended to those for whom precise colour accuracy is the main requirement.

For most CAD users a 36", 400 dpi optical resolution, 24-bit colour scanner is suitable for scanning large format technical drawings. Happily, large format scanners today are comfortably over-specified for the needs of CAD users.

However, if you have dirty and "difficult" technical drawings we recommend that you should evaluate the scanning software and its overall usability with as much enthusiasm as you examine the hardware. Increasingly, it is scanning software that makes the difference in terms of productivity and the quality of results.


This article is republished with the permission of:
Softcover International Ltd,
364 Milton Road,
Cambridge CB4 1LW,
Tel: +44 (0)1223 42 43 42.
Fax: +44 (0)1223 42 44 00



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