We are testing the only A0 flatbed scanners that are currently available on the market. As you already realize, this is a very specialized market and there are not many suppliers for such equipment.
Still, we have managed to try out 3 of them, and we will tell you what are our conclusions about which one is technically up there and which one you should buy. In the first paragraph we will let you know how we made this test and what we look for in such a scanner.
|1270 x 915 mm
|1270 x 915 mm
|841 x 1189mm
|Optical scanning resolution
12 sec 300dpi
17 sec 300dpi Fast Mode
|60 sec 300dpi
|Foldable machine for normal door access
|Flat surface 3D Mode
|Get The Price
|Get The Price
|Get The Price
Our A0 flatbed scanner testing parameters
We will be looking at some parameters for our tests, which we think are relevant and sometimes critical when using an A0 flatbed:
- Image quality and resolution – Yes, resolution is important when it comes to image quality, but it is not necessarily the only aspect. Things such as illumination, type of scanning glass used and mechanical characteristics that aid the perfect flatness of the document are also to be taken into account.
- Scanning area and speed – Usually the bigger the better, and as fast as possible. We like to scan large documents at high speed, so that our productivity is top notch. I usually do a lot of testing when it comes to scanning speed. Sometimes I am focused just a bit too much on this aspect.
- Scanning software – When we use a device, not only the device itself is important. What it offers in terms of drivers and software is even more important, as there are certain projects where we need a good software to improve the overall productivity.
- Size and weight – The overall dimension of an A0 flatbed scanner is nothing short of huge. These are devices that usually have to be packaged by specialized packaging companies and sometimes carried with special carriers. You also don’t want to take out doors when you put one of these in a building.
Sma Versascan A0 Flatbed
I won’t lie to you, during our test, this device stood out immediately. There are certain aspects which we absolutely loved from the get go, and we were more impressed as time went on. Also, this is the only device in this test that can go through a door without having to take the actual door out.
The image quality on the Sma Versascan 3650 is nothing short of perfect. Let’s start with the linear CCD unit and the lighting system. Both work hand in hand to offer the best image you can get out of your documents.
So how we tested it. We first took a normal A0 plan and ran it through the scanner. THis is a folded document and we had to use the cover of the scanner to flatten it a bit. Still, the CCD unit managed to capture everything, even the creases that were a bit in depth. This is the thing with this CCD unit, it can capture in depth and then stitch together the image. Practically even when we have creases or folds, the image comes out quite nice.
Than we had the fragile document, it was something a bit smaller than A0. For this I was focused on how hard it is to lay it on the glass and take it out, without damaging it even more. I was quite satisfied and I must say, the height adjustment of the device is something that comes real handy, considering that scanning operators will be of different heights. Image quality was good even with a slightly damaged document, so I guess this should not worry you.
Last but not least, we took a rigid surface, an engraved alucobond surface and tried it out. Up to 5-6 mm in depth, scans came out really nice, and I guess you can also use the 3D scanning option and check how that will affect the scan. Also, we think the glass will be able to hold even heavier materials, so this is a big plus.
If you want to learn more about the scanning resolution, just check our article which explains how to choose the scanning resolution based on certain requirements.
Scanning Area and Speed
The scanning area on the Versascan is slightly bigger than an A0. We mainly scanned formats that were up to A0 or smaller. I even took something that was a bit bigger, and with some work I could scan it and do the stitching manually. SMA offers larger versions for this scanner, so you might want to check those out also.
Speed wise, I found the scanner to match the rated speeds. But this is the actual scanning process not the file processing and transfer after scanning. So first thing first, we took the 300dpi route for an A0 drawing. It matched what SMA is claiming and the file transfer took another couple of seconds. I think that in the 3d mode, it might a bit longer, both the scanning and the processing.
Now we get into 600dpi and things get a little tricky. Suddenly it takes almost double to scan the same A0. We had to wait a bit more than double for the file transfer, but in the end the file went through. I must warn you, this does not mean the scanner is the problem. We are talking about files that are sometimes 1gb in size, which is huge. You might not realize this initially, but after a while with this scanner, you will be filling up hard drives quicker than expected.
Now to the scanning software and driver. The technology behind the scanning head means that this scanner works with proprietary software. It’s called BSW and it’s kind of built around the machine.
We tested out first the 3d Mode, and it seems to be working quite nice. It is easy to use and once you get the hang of it, you’ll know exactly how to set it up quickly for each scan. I don’t know why we started with the 3d Mode but I guess it seemed to be the most attractive.
Another thing to try out is the multi crop feature. This works by doing a quick prescan, after which you manually select what you need to be cropped. We tested this feature with different size photos and it works as expected. Still, we only scan on the scanner and then use our own solution to automatically do the cropping. DOing it manually would require too much time in my opinion.
Also, we scanned to different file formats. For this scanner we focused on the RAW TIFF file as I think there will be requests for this. Being a scanner for old fragile documents, there will always be demand to have a master scan of each document. Still, you can output in JPEG, PNG and the PDF version for each file. Other options include deskew and cropping but these are less critical on such a scanner.
Size and weight
Yes, finally we have got to one of the most important things about these devices. Probably it will seem odd to you why we are so worried about this, but in all fairness, you have to understand that these scanners won’t go in your average building. So SMA thought about this and found a clever solution. The scanning table will turn vertically, and now the entire device will fit through your average office door. It’s a big improvement over the other two and you will see what we mean.
We tried this when tested the Versascan. We actually chose to take it out, and then try and bring it back into the building. I must say, we had some issues where doors were really close to each other, but this was a characteristic of our building, and it’s not the device’s fault. All in all, it was a good experience how easy it was to move such a large device into the building.
Competitors to the SMA Versascan 3650
There are 2 competitors to the Versascan 3650, the Kurabo K-IS-A0FW and the Microtek LS-4600.
Even though we have listed 3 alternatives, the SMA Versascan is the only machine that is market ready and has more than 100 installations. The other two are experimental products and they are not really market ready.
We tested them quite briefly, but it did not feel like a finished product. Scanners would give out errors from time to time, and we had no idea why this was. Also, the scanning glass on both seemed to be a bit flimsy and could have done with a bit of reinforcement.
But let’s say those issues did not exist. There is one major area which makes these scanners impossible to use. This is the size and weight. First of all none will go through your average door. If you are not on an industrial estate, you are not bringing these fellas into the building. But let’s say this was to be solved. The next thing you have to think about is the packaging and movement of these scanners. They are impossible in this sense, and offsite scanning will never exist with them.
So that is why we are not even considering these 2 scanners, even though they can actually scan. But they lack behind the Versascan technically and they are a big pain to own and move around.
SMA Versascan 3650 Price
The price of the SMA Versascan 3650 or the other models of the Versascan series is more or less in the market region. To check for the exact price of the machine, just contact the manufacturer and they will provide the exact value in your market.
Even more, for light customization, you can check with us and we will try to help you with the manufacturer. There are numerous projects around the world which need modified scanners.
Let us know what your project requires and we will get back to you with the appropriate solution.
Which A0 flatbed scanner should I buy
From our point of view, it’s a clear win. The Versascan 3650 just makes sense. It has the following main advantages:
- We have noticed from our test that the scanning speed is very good and also the transfer happens quite fast.
- The software and the device were really stable during usage so we expect this to be the case in real life. With the other two, there were small issues and glitches that came up especially after scanning a decent batch. Sometimes we even lost the scanned data, which was not satisfying.
- SMA’s machine is foldable, which means you can angle the flatbed at 90degrees and move it through just about any standard door. The other two scanners are giant boxes. You will either need a plane hangar or you’ll have to take doors and walls down to install one. And once you do that, it will not move out, as you’d have to take the doors down again.
- It is much lighter than the two which means it’s easier to move around.
- The best thing of all is the market feedback. There are lots of Versascans running well all around the world. I have never heard of installations of the other two machines.