How does a scanner work?

Scanners are an established office staple and make digitising a wide variety of documents a simple task. But how does a scanner work? And what different types of machine are available to buy today? 

Why do we use scanners?

We live in a digital world where saving and sharing information is vital both at home and in the workplace. Important documents can be copied, saved, and stored, making hard copies searchable and editable like never before, while also reducing paper usage through digitising and archiving information. Scanning technology has helped enable a revolution in document management, but how does it work exactly?

How scanners work

Scanners work by shining light at an image, document, or object. In simple terms, the reflected light is then directed onto photosensitive technology via mirrors and lenses, then converted into electronic data that is used to form a digital copy of the original.

The latest scanners most commonly use charged couple device (CCD) technology as the light-sensing element. There are a couple of variations on this technology out there however, such as the lower-end contact image sensor (CIS), as we’ll explain. CCD features light-sensitive diodes called photosites which convert photons into electrons. While this is the key element of a typical flatbed scanner, the device will also usually includes mirrors and lenses.

The concept behind scanners can be traced back to early telephotography and facsimile machines from the 19th century, but the first true scanner didn’t arrive until the late 1950s. These were drum scanners which used photomultiplier tubes (PMT) rather than CCD. Today, CCD is used in most everyday scanners while larger and more expensive PMT drum scanners, which still have the leading image quality, are reserved for specialised purposes thanks to their higher cost.

Scanners aren’t just for documents either. The technology has continued to evolve and is now capable of 3D scanning to create physical models of objects. Of course, documents are still one of their main functions and today’s scanners, such as those from Brother, offer the latest state-of-the-art features from intelligent image processing to advanced paper management, wired and wireless connectivity, 2-sided scanning, touchscreens, portable models for working on the go, and more.

What types of scanner are available?

From powerful compact scanners for whenever space is at a premium, to desktop scanners for digitising and sharing documents, there’s plenty of options to pick from. There are even advanced professional scanners for businesses who handle larger volumes, and portable scanners for working on the move – so there really is a scanner for every home and business need. Alongside standalone scanners, it’s also possible to get this technology built into your printer. Brother all-in-one printers for example can print, copy, fax, and scan – ideal for those who need to maximise efficiency and productivity.

It’s never been easier to digitise, save, and share documents and other information, thanks to the latest scanners. Brother has a wide range of expertly engineered scanners to suit all needs from home office to business use, including compact, professional, desktop, and portable scanners. Transform your documents into high-quality digital files at the touch of a button with a Brother scanner.


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