Achieve Measurable Quality Standards for Document Digitization with InoTec
The below has been translated and edited by The Crowley Company from a March 2021 interview with Postmaster Magazine* and re-posted with permission from InoTec GmbH. The Crowley Company has been a distributor of InoTec production-level document scanners since 1998 and has recently worked with the InoTec manufacturing team in Wölfersheim, Germany to achieve Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative (FADGI) three-star imaging ratings on the InoTec 4×3 and 6×1 scanner models.
High-performance scanning systems now meet central standards for image quality – a property that was previously reserved for scanners specific to digitizing cultural assets. Benjamin Meyer, head of development at lnoTec, reports on the background, new areas of application and practical use.
Postmaster Magazine: Mr. Meyer, the lnoTec production scanners SCAMAX 4×3 and SCAMAX 6×1 meet the quality specifications of FADGI and ISO 19264-1 digitization standards. What are the advantages of this for the user?
Benjamin Meyer: The aim of FADGI and ISO 19264-1 is digital reproduction of the analog templates that is true to the original. To do this, the quality of a scan must be measurable and objectively assessable. In this task, the standards provide valuable help based on various criteria. Quality criteria are, for example, the color fidelity and the actual physical resolution without subsequent software interpolation. Quality images are evenly lit and have little to no distortion, meaning they’re neither squeezed nor stretched. Both guidelines are also designed holistically. They always cover the entire system, which consists of many components and processes. In addition to the camera, this also includes the lighting, the document feeder or the paper transport.
Are there different quality levels in the digitization standards?
FADGI and ISO 19264-1 each provide three quality levels. ISO differentiates between levels C, B and A, while FADGI differentiates between two, three and four stars. With the help of limit and threshold values, the digitization systems are classified into the different quality levels. The InoTec production scanner SCAMAX 6×1 is ISO 19264-1 Level B-ready and FADGI three-star compliant; the SCAMAX 4×3 meets the requirements of ISO 19264-1 Level C and also FADGI three-star. In practice, this means that both scanning systems achieve a very good image quality for a large part of the document templates.
What is the [market] difference between the two standards?
The origins of FADGI lie in the digitization of valuable cultural assets in the USA. The standard goes back to the initiative of official organizations such as the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The ISO standard 19264-1 was created in 2017 to internationally harmonize the various approaches to assessing the quality of digital images. The main difference between the two standards lies in the test chart used. There are also key aspects of the test criteria that differ: ISO deals more intensively with the topic of “color fidelity;” FADGI attaches great importance to resolution.
Why are digitization standards gaining in importance for document scanning?
The first reason is the increasing demand from the archive environment. Specialized scanners have been used for historical and valuable documents which date up to the 18th century. With these book or overhead scanners, the templates lie open on the receiving tables and the scan takes place from above. The archives have now reached their digitization activities with documents from the 19th and 20th centuries [which are often found in large volume]. When digitizing these loose documents, sheetfed scanners offer clear productivity advantages.
The second reason is closely related to the first. Document scanners have undergone rapid technological development in the last ten years and have reached a new quality dimension.
Can you give examples of this technical progress?
Camera technology has become even more powerful thanks to high-performance chips and sophisticated software. InoTec production scanners use camera technology developed in-house to achieve images with a resolution of up to 600 dpi and 24-bit color depth. Nowadays, document scanner standards also include LED lighting systems, which ensure homogeneous illumination. The feed and transport systems of production scanners have become safer, more reliable and also more flexible. With state-of-the-art devices, particularly difficult documents can be output directly to the back of the scanner via the straight paper flow. Specific to InoTec scanners, the feed pressure can be adjusted and the speed can be reduced using a “slow-down” option.
Crowley note: The InoTec 4×3 scanner design incorporates glass-free paper guides, a unique system which reduces the sheetfeed stress typical of standard rotary paper guides. The 400- and 600-series scanner models utilize a unique belt transport system that adds a layer of throughput protection. This engineering allows for gentle transport of the original, especially important when working with one-of-a-kind archives.
How can operators use the digitization standards in practice?
Careful calibration of the scanner is crucial for practical use. This must be repeated at regular intervals and adjusted if necessary. The quality requirements of the standards are high, so users should take enough time for the calibration process. A test chart – called a UTT target – and image analysis software can then be used to check whether the standard specifications are met. InoTec supports operators with a precise guide that leads them step-by-step through the calibration and testing process. InoTec also conducts extensive training courses for its distribution partners.
Are there already lnoTec reference projects in which digitization standards play a major role? And how can scanner users benefit from standardized image quality in the inbox [mailroom]?
InoTec production scanners are already in use in some state archives and university libraries. Templates up to A3 format are processed. The document scanners are often part of a hybrid solution. While particularly fragile and valuable documents continue to be digitized with special scanners, the InoTec scan systems capture most of the rest of the templates, significantly increasing production and decreasing the time it takes to complete a project. And users in the inbox [mailroom] are also well advised to pay attention to standardized image quality. Scanning systems with quality level B and FADGI two-star are ideally suited for OCR applications. At the same time, they also increase process efficiency.
*Source: Postmaster-Magazine, Issue 3/20/21
If you are interested in finding out more about how InoTec scanners can increase your production efficiency while still meeting measurable image quality guidelines, contact your Crowley representative today or request a quote or a web/live demonstration.
Even prior to the advent of FADGI digitization guidelines, The Crowley Company and InoTec were working together to help client exceed image and throughput expectations. Read this case study about the digitization of 40 million documents – some more than a century old – were scanned is less than four years.