How Do Scanners Work?

How Do Scanners Work?

Did you know that scanner technology is over 60 years old? The first scanner was built in the 1950s and the first image ever scanned was a photograph of the infant son of one of the inventors. Today, people still use scanners to preserve family photographs, but their most frequent use is in the office setting. Scanners are complex pieces of office equipment that enable workers to digitize documents quickly and affordably.

Preparing the Document

There are different types of scanners, such as handheld scanners, drum scanners, and sheet-fed scanners. The most commonly used in an office setting is the flatbed scanner. To scan a document, you place the paper inside the scanner on the glass plate. Then, close the cover. The cover creates a uniform background (either black or white) that enables the machine’s software to accurately assess the size of the document. However, it’s still possible to scan bulky items, such as books, without closing the cover.

Scanning the Document

The scanner comes equipped with a lamp. In newer models, it’s typically a cold cathode fluorescent or a xenon lamp. The lamp lights up the document to enable it to be scanned. Then, the scan head moves across the document on a belt powered by a motor. The scan head is comprised of mirrors, a lens, filter, and a charge-coupled device (CCD). As the scan head moves across the document, a stabilizer bar prevents it from wobbling as it completes the pass. 

Reflecting the Image

Some scanners are built for three passes of the scan head, although most modern scanners use just one pass. Slightly curved, angled mirrors reflect the image onto a lens, which divides the image into three versions, each of which is smaller than the original. Then, the lens “pushes” each image through a different color filter (red, green, or blue), which is located on the CCD array. Next, the three images are combined into one full-color image. The final step is to transfer the digitized image to the computer.

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