The power of scanning and the opportunity for placement of scanning technology into a customer's environment is endless. Advances in scanner technology, archiving, and retrieval software make it possible to virtually eliminate the paper generated and repeatedly handled in today's business processes. Sharp offers systems and software in conjunction with our Authorized Dealers to enable your business to take advantage of this revolutionary, yet easy-to-use, technology.
The advent of the Sharp Network Scanner available on our MFP and Document Communication System product lines allow for the rapid integration of hard copy documents into a system where they can be accessed on demand. This eliminates the need to copy documents and forward them internally or to outside constituents, and it makes for easy retrieval if the document is needed in the future.
What Is a Network Scanner?
Many people are familiar with desktop scanners. A scanner converts pictures, graphics, drawings, photographs or text into digital characters for transfer to a computer. The transferred object can then be edited in diverse ways with the aid of image editing software, or "read" with the aid of text recognition software (OCR).
The primary task of a scanner is to digitize a two-dimensional document, e.g. a sheet of paper or a page of book. Digitization involves creating an image of the original document based on digital data. A Network Scanner works the same way as a desktop scanner, except that it transmits a scanned image over a network to a designated file directory or e-mail address.
How a Scanner Works
The most important part of the scanner is the CCD (Charge Couple Device) unit. The CCD, in short, is the "eye" of the scanner.
The following are steps that take place when a scanner performs its intended operation:
- The document is placed on the glass platen or in the auto-document feeder and the scanning process begins (either via hardware by pressing a scan button or by software prompt)
- A lamp is used to illuminate the document on the platen
- The scan head (i.e the lamp and the CCD) moves across the document to make a pass
- The light from the lamp hits the document and reflects. It then goes via a set of mirrors to the CCD array
- The captured image is sent to the computer
Scanning resolution determines the quality and readability of the scanned document. The resolution is defined as the number of digital dots per inch captured by the scanner. Scanners can extend this resolution with interpolation, a mathematical process which produces more dots per inch, but the basic optical resolution is the important number. Modern consumer scanners have optical resolutions in the range of 600 dpi to 1600 dpi.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
Optical Character Recognition is the process of turning a picture of words (such as a scan of a typed document) into an editable document you can open and use in desktop publishing software, word processor, or other text editor.
Tips for Better OCR Results
Whatever type of program you use (and no matter what accuracy rate the program claims) there are things you can do to help ensure the best possible results from your OCR software:
Start with a good original: Wrinkled or smudged originals tend to affect OCR accuracy
Make the scan the best you can: Make sure the scanner bed is clean and smudge-free. Keep the document straight and even so you don't get a "skewed" image. Adjust the color/contrast/brightness so the background is light/white and free of "artifacts" (such as a pattern in the paper) and the text is dark. Scan at 300 dpi or better
Turn one document into many: With older or stripped-down software, graphics, lines on forms, columns of text, and other formatting may cause problems. Try breaking the scanned original down into smaller chunks (crop out non-text elements or save columns of text as individual images) and run your OCR software on each part separately. You'll lose formatting but gain a more accurate text document
Try different settings: Experiment with different options in your software. If your first attempt is less than usable, adjust the controls
Proofread: No matter how accurate the program, all are fallible. Proofread the finished document
Most scanners come with basic image editing software and software which converts a printed page into a typed document for your word processor. Sharp includes Sharpdesk® software for this purpose. Sharpdesk software allows you to OCR, annotate, edit, email and file scanned files.
Features to Consider
When buying a scanner, take into account the many available features. Here's what you should consider:
Optical resolution: Resolution is a measurement in dots per inch (dpi) of the sharpness and clarity of an image. A scanner with 300-dpi resolution can capture an image with 90,000 dots per square inch. In general, 300 dpi is adequate for scanning. But if you plan to print what you scan, look for a scanner with a higher dpi, such as 600 or 1200
Sheet-feeder: Scanners with auto document feeders (or sheet feeders) are excellent to scan multiple pages for document management (like invoices or receipts) or edit in a word processor, then a sheet-fed scanner should be your first choice. A sheet-feeder is also required to scan documents longer that 8.5" x 14" (legal) sized documents
Bit depth: This refers to the number of bits used to capture each dot. The higher the number, the more color gradations will be visible. A 24-bit scanner will be suitable for scanning photos, drawings, and texts, while a 30- or 36-bit scanner is best for scanning film or transparencies.
Speed: If you plan on using a network scanner to scan tens to hundreds of pages at a time, speed is a major consideration.
Ease of use: This feature is more important than numbers. After all, it doesn't matter how high the resolution is if you can't figure out how to use it. Features such as one-step buttons (which allow you to complete routine tasks in one step) and user-friendly software greatly contribute to ease of use.