Home > Scanners, Workflow > You feed the document, we do the rest

You feed the document, we do the rest

At the FOSE trade show in Washington, amid the new Blackberries and enterprise security software, could scanners have much sex appeal? When you need a production-speed scanner — we’re talking 15,000 sheets a day to 10 times that many — one good place to turn was the Kodak booth. Scanners are the workhorses of any office that needs to take large volumes of paper documents and convert them to digital form.

Scanners don’t get the blood going, but they are indispensable machines in a million government offices. They remind me of other machines Kodak made decades ago — more on that below. At FOSE, Kodak was showing scanners. And because Kodak’s Jack Kaspersky is one my favorite of the old fashioned PR guys, I always look at the new Kodak scanners.

The newest product is the i4000 series, ranging in price from $10,000 to about $15,000. The top model will scan 120 pages per minute, and the pages can be a mixture of regular stationery, cardboard, tissue carbon copies, crinkled stuff, even plastic. And, up to 12-inches wide. It outputs to readable PDFs, Word documents, and a variety of other formats. It will also send the images to e-mail or to printers.

It can also pick faces out of documents and separate out their images, which would be a useful technology for an agency looking for someone from a big pile of documents.

Kodak last year acquired scanning assets from Bell + Howell. Yes, there still is a Bell + Howell, of sorts. Kodak has badged a Bell + Howell scanner into the Truper 3210 , a lower-volume 15,000 page per day scanner that designed to fit into a variety of workflow situations because of the range of document types and sizes you can feed it. At up to 100 inches, Kodak says you could scan an electrocardiogram printout or similar medical documents.

The 3210 incorporates both an automatic  feeder and a one-at-a-time flatbed.

Real power in scanners, after the robustness and reliability of their mechanics, comes with the software they incorporate. In that regard, from what I could see, the creation of many file types was fast. Also noteworthy, according to Kodak officials at the booth, although most scanners are manufactured in China, Kodak builds some units in the U.S. for federal agencies concerned with buy-American procurement provisions.

Now about those machines of yesteryear. My challenge is, when I visit the Kodak booth, my mind invariably wanders back to the many darkrooms I have worked in. I’ve been involved with the Eastman Kodak Company one way or another since, gosh, 1970 or so, when I first took up photography while in junior high school. Lesson one: “The bigger the number, the smaller the hole.”

Kodak dominated the market for silver halide, light-sensitive materials. Their films and printing papers and even their cans and packets of pre-mixed chemicals had exotic-sounding names. Dektol, D-76, Super XX, Ektalure.

Back in those days, Kodak also made and marketed boring-looking but highly useful hardware, like the Ektamatic Processor. In the darkroom, you would feed an exposed piece of photographic paper into the processor, which was about the size of a color photo printer of today, only with two upside-down, quart-sized bottles of chemicals on top. A few seconds later a developed print, still damp, would roll out the other side. Those prints didn’t last long unless you fixed them in a proper hypo bath then washed them thoroughly. (Anyone remember what I’m talking about?) The processor was widely used by newspapers and in graphic arts shops for quick proofs, contact sheets or prints that only needed to last as long as it took to make a halftone out of them. And also by photojournalism students in a hurry to pin up their latest assignments.

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