Scanning begins with the capture of your drawings, either original tracings on paper, vellum, linen and Mylar, or reprographics copies such as blueprints, sepias, blacklines, bluelines, xerographic and CAD plots including electrostatic and inkjet. We also scan film originals, such as 35mm aperture cards, microfilm rolls, microfiche and large format films such as color or black and white aerial photos and half-tone masters. There are two ways to accomplish this task:
- ROLLER SCANNERS
- FLATBED CAPTURE
We use both types, but we are now shifting to the flat-bed process due to the non-contact nature of this system. This preserves the integrity of your originals, especially very delicate materials and invaluable historic documents.
On the right is one of our three roller scanners. This system has a 42" wide capacity and captures 24-bit color images as long as 15 feet. This unit has a variable-height gate, allowing for up to 1/4" thick originals to be scanned. Image quality is excellent, especially when the project specifications call for extremely high resolution scans of very large originals. We use this type of scanners for basic drawing items, such as recent originals, paper CAD plots and the like. We do not use it for valuable or delicate historic documents.
Our newest scanner is shown below. This one is a 36"x54" flatbed system, capable of capturing 300 DPI images at full-size in less than one second. The main advantage is image quality, as it produces unsurpassed color rendition with extended color depth to 48-bit. This preserves extremely faint items such as faded pencil lines and very light color shadings. Shallow 3-dimensional objects can be captured as well, such as very thick mounted renderings and textured or delicate items. We often scan framed artwork, always with excellent results.
The most compelling benefit of the flatbed design is the absence of a glass surface pressing against the original. This eliminates the possibility of damage to the drawing as it is pressed by rollers against the glass. This also eliminates the "banding" or striations caused by debris accumulated on the glass. Dark lines appear on the scan as the original moves across a single speckle on the glass. This is unsightly and has the potential to obscure critical information.
Another advantage is the ability to set the quality and skew of drawings before the image is actually captured. As the operator places the original face-up on the copy board, the live image is displayed on the monitor to visually confirm all settings, including exposure, color balance, cropping, centering and alignment before the scan button is pressed. This eliminates the need to correct for skewed or improperly cropped images after the scan.
Always, the end result is an image free of artifacts, extremely sharp, with correct color balance, well centered and aligned (not skewed) and cropped properly. Even black-and-white drawings benefit from this technology, which is the basis for our reimaging technology
The reimaging process starts with a full color scan. Unlike most reprographics companies, we always scan all originals in full 24-bit color, even drawings that contain no color information at all. We do this because even subtle differences in color can be used during our exclusive reimaging process to bring out detail that would be lost if scanned directly to black and white PDF files. Below is a small (partial) view of a typical "raw" color scan.
Clearly, this is not a bad original, but it has a challenging background from the blueprinting process, plus some paper yellowing that developed over several years in storage. This drawing is approximately 30 years old.
Next, we process the image to remove background "noise" based on color pixel values, not just the lightness or darkness of the image. Color processing is what sets our technology apart from the rest. Once enhanced, the remaining color is removed, and lines become sharper and better differentiated from the image background. This substantially improves legibility.
Finally, we convert the image to 1-bit monochrome format and save it to a standard black and white PDF file. The resulting lines are optimized, with text edges that are smooth and free of spikes. Most background speckles are eliminated, resulting in smaller file sizes with improved clarity. Best of all, our process makes washed-out or overly dark portions of the drawing a thing of the past (areas that are too light or too dark). Even thin pencil notes and light color highlighter markups remain legible. Integrity is preserved.
The image above is the one we deliver to our clients, but if requested, we can deliver the color "master" as well, without rescanning the original. This is a major bonus, as these color images can be set aside for future reference or for preservation purposes.
For comparison, the same original drawing is shown below. Only this time the original drawing was scanned directly into a monochrome PDF at the scanner, instead of using color and our reimaging to monochrome process. The difference is abundantly clear.
Next step is indexing your scanned drawings. Although it is not absolutely required to access your drawing database, indexing offers a major benefit when you need to find a single file (or a group of files) within a pool of several hundred or even thousands of drawings.
Documents are maintained in PDF format, were each original full-size paper drawing corresponds to a single PDF scan. Small-format documents, such as letter-size manuals, contracts, correspondence etc., are saved as multi-page PDF files. The index incorporates all types of media, ranging from scans of manual drawings to AutoCAD or Microstation files, Word or Excel documents, technical specifications, illustrations and photographs. Even video clips may be viewed through the index.
The core component of the index is an Excel file that handles the relational database. Through this industry standard, non-proprietary interface, the user can search tens of thousands of drawings and find one or more in a matter of seconds. Typical searches take only 3 to 5 clicks, and the results can be viewed immediately. Searches are based on a variety of criteria, including drawing number or date, project number, site location, discipline, description of contents, revision numbers, or any other client-designated data field. Most importantly, these parameters are cumulative. Search criteria can be overlaid with a second, and a third or more constraints, yielding only the group of documents that meet all search parameters combined. This way, a database of 50,000 drawings can be isolated down to the 1 or 2 relevant drawings you need right now.
Above is an illustration of our typical index page. Simply using the drop-down list, you can isolate the year “1976” and further, the month of “April” to list only records dated April, 1976. All other line items will be instantly hidden from view. This results in a drastic reduction in the number of drawings to search. Multiple date ranges are possible too, simply by selecting only the required months as candidates, even with time gaps in-between. Then, the time stamp can be overlaid with a known project number (or even a partial number), and perhaps the first name of the Project Engineer. Lastly, you may select the key word "Electrical" to narrow-down your search. Now you have a listing of only the very few drawings that match all specified parameters.
Next, you can open the selected drawing in Adobe Acrobat by clicking on the PDF name listed right on the index page. Once open, all necessary tools are available, including zoom and pan, markups, selective area printing, commenting, etc.
Our index is a truly powerful tool that enables users to search for and quickly locate and open any document in the database. These records are not limited to engineering drawings, but can include a variety of information ranging from vellum tracings, CAD files, photographs, renderings, installation documentation, contracts, letters and maintenance records. Information becomes available immediately, on demand.