A0 Book Scanner | How to Pick an E-size Scanner for Large Books

A0 Book Scanner for Large Books

It’s not often that you need an A0 Book Scanner.

In fact, I would say that even for scanning professionals, having to scan bound documents that require such a large book scanner doesn’t happen very often.

Still, what is such a machine? An A0 Book Scanner is an equipment specifically designed to accommodate books that open up to 914mm to 1220mm. Such a machine features a book cradle that can fit the entire size of a book that large. At the same time, it has to withstand the weight of it.

What makes a good A0 Book Scanner

The best way to approach this subject is to focus on what are the main requirements of a good large book scanner.

  • The capture unit or the camera – This is what the scanner uses to make the actual scan of the book. Normally, it can either be a line camera or a matrix camera. A good capture unit for such a size has to feature a line camera. This is because it’s almost impossible to have even lighting of the document using a matrix camera.
  • Book Cradle – The book cradle is the support that holds your book. Normal books are maybe half a kilogram in weight. An A0 book, or a book around that size, can have around 20 kilograms. Therefore you have to make sure that the book cradle is capable of holding such a weight.
  • Limited handling of the book – The less you will have to manually handle the book for each scan, the more productive you will be. Therefore, when you go through scan by scan, the only thing you should do is turn the page of the book. If that can be done automatically even better.
  • Robust Construction – I know this might seem strange to you but just think a moment. When you have really heavy books, and you are constantly loading them and unloading them, it can take its toll on the machine. Therefore, think of such a scanner as an industrial machine, rather than a classic IT device.
  • Good Price Point – This kind of machine will set you back up to 100 grand. Analyze carefully what you are paying for.

Technical specifications of a large book scanner

We will now go through a couple of technical specifications that we think should be important when purchasing such a scanner.

  • Scanning Size – This should be A0 or bigger. This means 36 inches by 42 inches or even more. Most manufacturers will make the scanning size a couple of inches bigger. This is to accommodate those strange bound documents, that either open up differently or are just a bit larger.
  • Scanning Resolution – The scanner has to work at 600dpi optically. There are some manufacturers that produce equipment that can scan up to 1200dpi optically. Yes, you will be scanning at 300dpi most of the time. But when you pay for such a machine, you have to know that it is capable of handling these rare projects for high-resolution scanning.
  • Capture Unit and Lighting – This kind of machine will scan very large surfaces. To have a balanced image, with even lighting and consistency, it has to feature a linear sensor. We think this is the only approach that can guarantee the correct scanning quality for such large documents. Maybe a matrix scanner will sometimes work for A2 books, but larger than that, a linear sensor is the only way to go.
  • Scanning Speed – Besides the ergonomics, another important factor in productivity is scanning speed. Considering such a large surface, look for scanners that can scan at 300dpi optically at around 12 seconds. This is a good value, given the sheer size you are scanning.
  • Connectivity – File size and transfer speed go hand in hand. Don’t even think about using a USB scanner. Ethernet connection is mandatory as you will be transferring files that are over 1GB in size. USB just doesn’t work for such values.

What we look for in a large format overhead scanner

I have enough experience in scanning projects to know what to look for in an A0 Book Scanner. So here it goes.

  • Scanning face up – I know this might seem obvious. But just as a reminder, to be productive, you have to scan face up. You can’t pick up the book, flip the page and then turn it face down again, especially for an A0 book.
  • Motorized book cradle – We love a book cradle that goes up and down by itself between the scans. This way we only have to do the page turning. It improves our productivity and our operators are less fatigued.
  • Automatic page turning – Nowadays, there is one brave manufacturer that can sell you an automatic A0 book scanner. We will do a separate review of this machine. But actually, this is not so important, as you will need an operator anyway. Still, it’s a nice feature to have.
  • Linear Camera – A linear camera is mandatory. Combine it with a good lighting system and you will have the perfect scan. The surface is just too big to use a matrix camera. Also, a matrix camera will have more chromatic aberration and generate geometrically uneven scans.
  • Color accuracy – Make sure you use a scanner with a good CCD sensor and lens. The color gamut is much bigger than in CIS or CMOS sensors. Yes, CMOS and CIS sensors have evolved, but the color space of a good CCD sensor is sometimes 3 times bigger.
  • Built to last – Again, this machine will have a tough time given loads of heavy books. Make sure it is built sturdy, looks and feels like an industrial machine. Otherwise, you might even have structural issues as time passes. This can even result in the machine shaking during scans and give you blurred images.

Large format book scanner comparison

We have prepared a brief comparison between the most important book scanners. This should give you a better view of what is currently available in the market. 

SMA ScanMaster 0 – 3650  and 4838

This A0 scanner is built by the German company SMA Edocument. While it may seem relatively new, the company has tenths of years of experience in the archiving business. 

A0 Book Scanner SMA Scanmaster 0

Getting back to the scanner we thought we give you the most important aspects why this is our favorite scanner

  • Build quality – This is one of the most important aspects of this scanner. It is really built to last. Given that most of the A0 books are large, this model will just breeze through them. When you have an E-size book scanner, you know that this will fit just about any book. 
  • Scanning quality – I have to be honest with you. The scanning quality of this machine is second to none. You will be amazed by the even tones you get on a page by page basis. Given the large scanning area, color has to be consistent all across. And trust us, it really is. 
  • Motorized cradle – The productivity of this machine is only limited to how quickly the operator turns the page. His job is limited to that and overseeing images as they are captured. It really is great to work with this machine, as it tends to do most of the things to you. 
  • Scanning speed – When you think that this machine will scan an A0 at 300 dpi in 6 seconds, you just know the machine is really fast. I don’t know any other A0 that can compare. Scanning at 600dpi takes only 12 seconds, so even high resolution capturing of pages is now possible. 
  • Manufacturer support – SMA is a company that will support its products. From what I’ve talked with users, they go above and beyond to solve customers issues and constant updates are available. 

Another interesting aspect is that SMA is now offering an automatic scanning optional for this scanner. 

With this addon, the scanner is transformed into Roboscan 0, the only fully automatic A0 book scanner. 

Should you buy an A0 book scanner

Well, this one might seem like an easy one. But it does make you think a bit. You should consider the following aspects before you go and buy a large format book scanner.

  • The volume of books – Such an equipment is very expensive. If you are a book scanning service or just have an immense volume that needs processing, for me it’s clear. You need to buy such a machine so you should focus on getting the best one.
  • Does it fit your budget – Sometimes even if you have large volumes of books, you might not be able to invest in such a machine. In those cases, maybe you should try and talk with a scanning service, maybe they can do them for you.
  • Scanning operators – You might have the volume, you might have the budget, but do you have the manpower? Such machines require intensive training for operators, especially in production environments. If your personnel is constantly changing, you will have to make continuous training sessions. This leads to significant downtime in production.
  • Is your office large enough – One thing that not many take into account is that you need a large office to do A0 Book Scanning. The scanner itself is big, the books are big and because of that, you also need empty space around them to successfully manipulate them. We have seen low productivity in environments that were not large enough for this kind of work.

Given all these aspects, you should know now if you need and should buy an A0 Book Scanner.

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