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The Basic Types of Scanners

written by: MD Weems•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 7/13/2010

When it comes to scanners, there is not just one type out there. So, here is your basic guide to help you know exactly what the salespeople are talking about when you head out to buy a new scanner.

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    Types of Scanners

    When it comes to scanners, there isn't just one type that everyone gets. There are actually several different types of scanners and, depending what you need a scanner for, you may need one type while your friend's business needs another. So just what are the basic types of scanners that are on the mainstream market today? Well, here is a look at the basic types of scanners to help you out!

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    Drum Scanners

    Let's start out with drum scanners. This type of scanner was actually the very first type that was invented and was used to scan the very first image in 1957. The US National Bureau of Standards built the first drum scanner with a team led by Russell Kirsch. But, this scanner was far from what we know today, it was a large glass drum that produced a very grainy, black and white 5cm square photo of Kirsch's son with only 176 pixel resolution. Of course, today, drum scanners are much better quality. But just what does a drum scanner do? How does it work? Well, these types of scanners capture the image's information with photomultiplier tubes, or PMT, instead of the charge-coupled-devices, or CCD, that are in other types of scanners such as flatbeds. The original document is loaded on a cylinder, or drum, which then rotates at a high speed as it passes the original in front of the precision optics that will then process it into the PMTs. Drum scanners can vary in size from small to extremely large, depending on the manufacturer and type of use. Normally, they are used for 11”X17” documents, but they are also used in film making, engineering, and many graphic art operations.

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    Flatbed Scanners

    Flatbeds are the next type of scanner that we'll discuss here, as they are pretty common in today's high tech world. These are usually a flat glass pane where light passes under and moves an optical array to scan in the original document or piece or work. Anything that is to be scanned on a flatbed scanner is placed face down, so the light and the optical array can see them, thus anything not on the glass pane will not be scanned. In most of the software that accompanies a flatbed scanner today you can adjust the window of the original to be scanned so you can only scan in what you need. Flatbed scanners are extremely popular, especially when scanning in photos or small documents that can get caught in other feeder type scanners.

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    Hand Scanners

    Hand scanners are the next type of scanner that we'll discuss, and they actually come in two different forms: document hand scanners and 3D hand scanners. Document scanners are those that are dragged across the original in an extremely steady manner so that the scanned image is not too uneven or jumpy. These types of scanners usually have a start button so that the person using it can determine where to begin and end, and it produces a decent quality document on your computer. The vast majority of hand scanners that are really popular today are the 3D hand scanners that are used in engineering, film making, and more. These types of hand scanners help to produce a great image of a large 3D object onto the computer screen so that people can see and change the images created.

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    More on Scanning

    So now you should be up to speed on the basic types of scanners that are out there on the market today. Many scanners are also coupled with other items, such as printers and faxes and are used in a wide variety of offices and homes around the world. Of course, some scanners are better than others for different uses – so you need to make sure that you know what you need when it comes to scanning and what you will use it for the most.

    To see some of the best scanning solutions currently on the market which come on these best in class multi-function printers read:

    >>> Best Multi-Function Printers (under $250)

    >>> Best Multi-Function Printers (under $500)