How to scan large format documents

Our tips for converting blueprints and architecture drawings to digital formats.


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Anyone who works with oversized documents regularly knows that converting them into digital files can be a painful but often necessary process.

Whether you are looking for a way to create secure, permanent backups, or consolidate a physical archive to reduce storage requirements, a document scanning and indexing service is your best bet for consistent, high-quality large format document conversions.

But what are the special considerations that need to be made before starting the conversion process? As it turns out, it’s not all cut and dry.

What is the process of scanning a large format document?

Large format scanning differs from the standard scanning process primarily in the type of equipment used. Since most consumer-grade scanners are designed to handle legal and letter-size documents, a high-quality oversized scanner must be used to avoid splicing and editing multiple digital files together into a single image.

The scanning pipeline and workload is also a bit more involved and labor intensive. Consider the case of engineering drawings or blueprints, both of which would be considered large format documents.

The size of these documents and the standard method of storage (most often rolled storage) adds additional handling, labor, and care requirements to the standard conversion process.

This process is quite a bit more involved than a typical box of letter size documents fed directly into the document feeder of a high speed professional scanner.

What are large format documents?

A large format document is any paper record that is larger than the “standard” paper sizes, which includes letter size (8.5″ x 11″) and legal size (8.5″ x 14″) sheets. A typical consumer grade scanner will generally be limited to handling sheets that fall within this range.

Of the two main paper size standards used in the US, ANSI is the accepted standard. Any sheet larger than class ANSI B is generally considered a large format document. Below are the ANSI specifications:

ANSI ClassPaper Dimensions
ANSI A8.5″ x 11″
ANSI B11″ x 17″ (2 ANSI A sheets)
ANSI C17″ x 22″ (4 ANSI A sheets)
ANSI D22″ x 34″ (8 ANSI A sheets)
ANSI E34″ x 44″ (16 ANSI A sheets)

A few typical examples of a large format document would include:

  • Architectural Blueprints
  • Engineering diagrams/drawings
  • Large non-standard book pages
  • Newspaper sheets
  • Maps
  • Schematics

Digital formats after conversion

Once your documents have been scanned and digitized, you will generally receive your files in one of the standard digital file formats you’re used to, including .PDF, .JPG, or lossless .TIF, making manipulation and storage no different than any other digital image.

In some cases, you may index your image files, making it easier to locate a particular file quickly when you need to.

High Resolution Files

At SecureScan, your documents are converted into high-resolution digital images at 300dpi ( dots per inch). That means that for every inch of your document, a printer would output 300 small dots. These files offer significantly better image clarity at the expense of greater storage requirements. That said, due to steady technological improvements and decreased hard drive storage costs, digital storage is much more affordable long term than physical storage.