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Scanners4CAD interview with Image Access

23rd of February 2007

The following interview was conducted by Scanners4CAD with the President and CEO of Image Access Germany, and is reproduced here with their permission.

INTERVIEW: Thomas Ingendoh, Image Access GmbH

Scanners4CAD spoke to Thomas Ingendoh, Image Access' President and CEO.

Scanners4CAD: "You started Image Access in 1993 and now employ over 60 people. What is your core business?"

Ingendoh: "Camera sub-assemblies for major OEMs as well as for our own scanners are our core business. Our current capacity is more than 600 cameras per month. Also key to our business is the Bookeye range of planetary scanners which are sold through ImageWare, as well as our own line of WideTEK flatbed scanners.

(Editor's Note: A planetary scanner is a mounted camera that takes captures images of documents placed beneath it. It is suitable for fragile documents, like rare books, as it requires less contact than other types of scanner. This camera technology is the basis of CCD scanner technology.)
"In the past Image Access served a niche market of 48" colour scanners. We've now entered the main stream large format market with our newest model, the WideTEK 36. So, the third part of our business, the one with the highest growth potential, will be a new range of products for the large format sheet feed scanner market".

Scanners4CAD: "What was the first product Image Access developed?"

Ingendoh: "We developed a high resolution 24bit colour graphic board with 1600 x 1200 pixels, as early as 1994".

Scanners4CAD: "How did you get into the scanner market? What is your background and what were your influences?"

Ingendoh: "Shortly after the graphic card line was established, Image Access developed the HiSCAN series of scanner interface boards. We then slowly made our way into scanner electronics, developing the first high speed colour scanner camera in the late 1990s. In 2002, we started designing complete scanners for niche markets".

Scanners4CAD: "Is Image Access now the biggest German manufacturer of large format scanners?"

Ingendoh: "Yes".

Scanners4CAD: "Do you see opportunities for continued growth?"

Ingendoh: "The planetary large format scanner market is growing steadily and we are already the market leader in many countries.

"The sheet feed large format scanner market is relatively new to us although the technology is more than 80% identical to that in the planetary scanner. With all the experience we already have through a decade of manufacturing planetary scanners, we expect to be the No. 3 manufacturer worldwide by the end of 2008".

Scanners4CAD: "You are exhibiting at CeBIT 2007 (Hall 1, A40) from 15 to 21 March 2007 in Hannover. Why?"

Ingendoh: "CeBIT is by far the largest international show for digital equipment. We are at CeBIT because it is a platform to make new international contacts and reach potential distributors and resellers that would otherwise be hard to identify. Our permanent booth in Hall 1 with an exhibition space of 210m² plus a second story 100m² for invited guests is a showcase of our and our partners technology".

Scanners4CAD: "That's a huge booth! Do you plan a major announcement?"

Ingendoh: "The new WideTEK 36 will be shown to the general public - and to our competitors - for the first time during CeBIT. We will also announce a significant new strategic partner in the USA, plus that Softcover International Limited, the British publisher of Scan2CAD, will be appointed the exclusive distributor for the UK".

Scanners4CAD: "The WideTek 36 CCD scanner shares 1200 x 600 dpi optical resolution with Colortrac's similar Gx series. What are the significant differences between them?"

Ingendoh: "The WideTEK 36 is a standalone department solution -- not just a scanner. 'Walk-up scanning', operated through the user friendly touch screen interface with built-in job control, is now a reality for the first time in this industry.

"The WideTEK 36 scans 36 inch (A0) colour documents at 300 dpi in 4.2 inches per second. At 1200 dpi it does this at 1 inch per second. Both these speeds include A0 image cleanup, gamma correction, white and black point normalisation, sharpening, rotation, on-the-fly compression and output over the network to an FTP server, a local or remote disk (PC), to a USB stick or to Email (PDF)".

Scanners4CAD: "What are your plans for the WideTEK product range?"

Ingendoh: "A 'stretched version' of the WideTEK 36 will come out in the third quarter of 2007. This scanner will have an identical feature set but a fourth camera will extend the scanning width to 48 inches. On the other end of the product line, we will update our existing 24 inch flatbed scanner to a new 25 inch model using all the new technology from the WideTEK 36".

Scanners4CAD: "What is your relationship with Scan2Net? Are you the same company?"

Ingendoh: "Scan2Net is a technological platform created by Image Access. It is not a company. More and more scanner vendors are using this technology".

Scanners4CAD: "What is special about Scan2Net? What are the benefits of this system over standard scanning software?"

Ingendoh: "Scan2Net is about connectivity. "For example, if you purchase a professional colour laser printer for your department would you even consider one of these USB-connected low end laser printers, whose intelligence and performance completely relies on the driver installed on the hosting PC? The answer is most likely No! If you have to spend thousands of pounds on a printer, you want it networked, independent of any host and operating system and you also deserve the ability to remotely administer the device over the Intranet.

"Scan2Net does exactly this. Simply assign a valid IP address to you newly acquired Scan2Net scanner, start your browser and scan. It's as easy as that!

"Every Scan2Net scanner runs Linux on a main stream Intel processor, replacing all of our competitors' dedicated imaging hardware with software that performs many times faster. GigaBit network connections are faster than USB, FireWire or SCSI yet they are affordable, available and standardized. In today�s world, computers and peripherals are made available by connecting them through IP based networks and not via point to point USB cables that are limited to a length of 2 meters or less".

(Editor's Note: Read the full scanner specs on: www.scan2net.de)

Scanners4CAD: "You have invested in R&D and come up with some innovative scanning solutions. What has been your biggest breakthrough?"

Ingendoh: "Besides bringing Scan2Net to the large format scanner community, it has been the idea of completely separating the scanner optics from the document transport.

"Our optical system, whether built with three cameras for large format scanners or single camera A3 flatbed scanners, is integrated in a hermetically sealed metal box which includes the CCD, the lens and mirrors as well as the LED based illumination. This subsystem is factory adjusted, requires no stitching or other adjustments aside from a white calibration and is a field replacement part. Together with the Scan2Net based software, it makes up 80% of a scanner, the rest is about paper path, transport rolls and floor stands".

Scanners4CAD: "Your WideTEK 36 is attractively priced and competitive, yet it is manufactured in Germany where labour costs are high. Do you plan to follow Colortrac and Graphtec into Chinese production or will you remain a European manufacturer, like Contex?"

Ingendoh: "We have no plans to move manufacturing to the Far East. There are compelling reasons for this. Our local electronic assembly house as well as our sheet metal vendors are both Wuppertal-based companies. Short delivery times, tight quality control as well as flexible manufacturing schedules saves more money in the long run than the quick savings one would expect from going to China.

"Manufacturing labour costs add up to less than 20% of the total cost thanks to our highly automated, computer assisted manufacturing processes. And last but not least, our region - including the Ruhr valley, Duesseldorf and Cologne - is the largest industrial region in Europe. This enables us to have a lean manufacturing model, outsourcing everything possible with the exception of mission critical assembly, research and development".

Scanners4CAD: "Contex's development seems to have slowed with the G600 range which is essentially yesterday's scanners in new packaging. With 508 dpi optical resolution their "new" G600 product range looks uncompetitive compared to the emerging new generation of 1200 x 600 dpi optical scanners. What does the future hold for Contex, the world's most successful large format scanner manufacturer?"

Ingendoh: "Believe it or not, I talked to Contex' corporate leadership about a possible integration of our Scan2Net technology into their scanners a couple of years ago. At the time, they did not realise the potential behind this technology, so we went out on this path alone.

"Today, I believe that we have a two to three year lead in technology which will be hard for any competitor to bridge. Contex is the undisputed market leader as of today but with our soon-to-be-announced strategic partnership in the US and many new and enthusiastic distributors and resellers worldwide, we will see dramatic changes in the large format scanner business soon".

Scanners4CAD: "The Contex Puma seems to be similar in some ways to your Scan2Net system. Do you think you let the cat out of the bag when you showed Scan2Net to Contex or is this just an example of synchronicity?"

Ingendoh: "When we talked to Contex some 6 years ago Scan2Net had just been released for the first time and implemented in a flatbed scanner. We designed the Scan2Net logo and have had trademarks in Europe and the US since 2003, which also marked the first year of widespread use of the Scan2Net technology. In 2004 Contex started using the word "Scan2Net" - not our trademarked logo - in their literature as a synonym for connectivity.

"Contex have realized that this technology is a 'must have' in the very near future. What we do not like about Contex using our name is the fact that their implementation in the Puma scanner is less than 10% of ours in respect to speed, functionality, quality and user benefits.

"It's neither synchronicity nor the disclosure of too many details too early. Compare the $20 PDA-style single chip processor inside the Contex scanner with our full blown ATX motherboard, 2 Gigabyte of DDR2 RAM, a 2.8GHz Pentium 4, 1GB/s network interface, built in web server, mail server, FTP server and the capability to scan without a host PC. It's clear to see that Image Access is playing in a different league to Contex. A simple network connection alone does not create a Scan2Net scanner".

Scanners4CAD: "Given that your product is truly innovative and at the cutting edge, where does it stand with regard to MS-Vista compatibility?"

Ingendoh: "Many vendors have already discovered that their current drivers and/or software are not Vista ready. We have tested our Scan2Net interface with the IE 7 on a Vista PC and found no problems, it actually works better with the IE 7 than with the old and buggy IE 6. This again shows the benefits of the Scan2Net technology to the user; it works across all internet enabled platforms because it uses www-standard protocols and does not rely on proprietary APIs and drivers".

Scanners4CAD: "Your product has what Bill Gates calls the "Wow Factor"! As a result, we see you succeeding internationally. Good luck. German engineering is widely regarded as the best. Thousands of UK CAD users drive German cars to work and enjoy the experience. We're confident that soon many UK CAD users will also be driving a German scanner at work. Thank you".