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No engraving shop would be complete without a scanner. A scanner is a device that electronically captures black-and-white and/ or color drawings, photographs, and text at high resolution. These "bitmap" images are transferred into an editing program such as Corel Draw that can "vectorize" the image for engraving. Only vectored images may be engraved. Creating a decorative graphic or corporate logo is the primary reason we scan.
There are other options to scanning images. We can purchase clipart already in a format that is compatible with our engraving system. This is a vectored image. We can also "digitize" the image through a process that may include the use of a digitizing tablet and mouse. A form of this can also be done with your computer mouse and an appropriate software program with no tablet required. Digitizing has its place and many older shops still use this effectively to create their engravable artwork. I have chosen to focus on the scanner and the more state-of-the-art software due to its ever-increasing popularity among engraver operators.
A scanner works similar to a typical copy machine. Artwork is placed on the scanner surface and the image is digitally copied into the computer. This image may be then transferred into the editing software for further cleanup and vectorization. Provided that the original artwork is of an adequate quality such as a black and white print or film, the image may require no additional editing or cleanup. If the original art has been taken from a photocopy, matchbook cover, business card, letterhead etc, more work may be required to edit the image to produce an acceptable finished engraving. The cleanup of the image may be done while it's in a bitmap form or after vectorization has been completed. (Vectorization is a software-controlled process that may take as little as a few seconds to a minute or two to complete). Clean up work may involve the removal of small specs that could result in an engraved dot on the work. More serious clean up may include the removal of stray lines, uneven lines, smoothing of circles or "node" reduction to improve the engraving efficiency and increase cutting speed. (Nodes are points that tie the intersecting line segments of the graphic together.)
Since rotary engraving does not involve colors but instead line art, black and white artwork and a black and white scanner are all that is required. Almost all scanners today are color capable and it would be difficult to find a black-and-white one. A color scanner may be of other use in your shop if you plan to work with other processes such as vinyl cutting or designing your own letterhead advertising or business cards. Typically, the scanner will be capable of scanning an image with a resolution of 300 to 1200+ dpi (dots per inch). You will find that most scanning can be done with a 300 to 600 dpi setting. If you scan at higher resolutions, you may find more detail in the finished image but this level of detail may also mean that additional dean-up will be necessary. Scanning is not a difficult process. It's wise to work with the 3rd party software supplier to determine the ease of use as well as the flexibility of the program in accepting different quality levels of artwork.
A common misconception is that by purchasing a scanner that is advertised with a resolution of up to 9600 dpi, that you can expect a better scan. This is not necessarily so. The 9600 dpi is the software resolution and not the optics or hardware resolution. Although the 9600 dpi may be beneficial in picture scans etc., and produces a smoother image, it will also create huge file sizes. This is not something you will want to work with.
A flatbed scanner should cost you somewhere between $100.00 to $300.00. There is no right or wrong answer here except to say that you generally get what you pay for. Pick a company with a trusted name that offers a warranty and the ability to let you return the scanner should you have compatibility issues.
A little shopping will be necessary. If you are new to this, the exercise of shopping will help you to get a better overall understanding of the process and available programs.
A peripheral device that most computer users take for granted is a printer. Almost anyone that buys a PC today plans to have a printer as an output device. Oftentimes PC suppliers bundle the printer as part of the PC package - truly a "value added" product.
There are several reasons why I recommend having a printer in an engraving shop:
When selecting a printer there is one consideration. Does your business require a laser jet or an ink jet printer? If you do excessive amounts of correspondence then a laser jet printer will probably be a good decision. The ink jet may be of additional benefit to you if you select a high quality photo capable version. This will allow you to produce the occasional card, colorful letterhead, flyer you may need or photo prints. The decision on model and style is purely up to you.