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What is a Large Format Scanner?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated May 16, 2024
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The use of a large format scanner is becoming more and more important as technology moves towards digital storage and digital printing. This type of scanner used to be quite costly. With the introduction of easier printing formats, however, the price has come down and the scanners have become easier to use.

In general, a large format scanner is a sheet-fed or roll-fed scanner. There are also giant flatbed scanners and a few oversized flatbed scanners. Oversized flatbed scanners are difficult to find, but they are available if one searches hard enough.

The average coverage area for a large format scanner is 34 x 36 inches (about 0.86 x 0.91 meters). These scanners are light based, and many of the newer units use a cooler format. They require some room, however, so many of the units come on their own stand and have wheels, allowing them to be easily moved.

The uses of a large format scanner are invaluable to countries trying to preserve their history through scanning relics of the past. Similarly, they are useful for companies who are trying preserve records on abnormally large documents. A large format scanner is also often used to preserve photographic images of indigenous textiles.

A large format scanner is used when working with historically delicate parchments and materials, such as old newspapers. There are a number of natural and unnatural dangers, such as moths, rot, earthquakes, fires, civil unrest, and insects, that can destroy historically significant materials. Newspapers are required to archive past copies.

In order to do this properly, newspaper pages need to be scanned and stored on a special material called microfilm. A large format scanner is the only type of scanner that can allow for the full pages of a newspaper to be scanned in one piece. A large format scanner can be used to preserve the record of these items, thus allowing the original items to be vaulted away while still allowing the public to view them.

Some large format scanners can scan at widths up to 40 inches (about 1.02 meters) and documents up to half an inch (about 1.3 centimeters) thick, such as posters or poster board. This helps if materials or archival items are mounted on board or are inherently thick.

The large format scanner is used all over the world. It is used to reproduce architectural drawings and colorful textiles, as well as to document historical texts such as codices in the Middle East. Since a large format scanner is created to scan items at a greater width than the average scanner, it takes more power to operate. When it breaks down, it takes a little more time and expense to replace the parts. The large format scanner, however, serves an invaluable purpose for the user.

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