Monday, April 27, 2020

DIY Large Format Scanning with Canon LiDE 210 flatbed scanner hack


I've been scanning images for many years now and always felt limited by the size of commercially available flatbed scanners, which are designed to scan nothing more than a sheet of page.

Sure, there are large-format scanners available, such as tabloid/A3 scanners, or even bigger, but they are cost-prohibitive for the common folk.

Ever since I started scanning video game box art, I've wanted to share something significant in size that has not been scanned before. Thanks to this old post I found, dating back to 2013 written by Matthew Petroff, I'm finally able to do so.

I followed his tutorial and successfully hacked my Canon LiDE 210 flatbed scanner, effectively turning it into a Large Format Scanning device. Notice I'm not calling it a Large Format Scanner, because it isn't. We're still using your typical scanner to scan images to stitch them later into a bigger one. 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ FIRST! This basic tutorial is designed with manually-skilled people in mind. Be careful. Take your time. Thre is nothing more uncommon than common sense. Use it! I will not be held responsible for your damaged scanner or any injuries resulting from improper handling of tools or the device.

What you will need and how I did it:
  • Canon LiDE Scanner (I happen to had a 210, but similar should work) about an hour of your time to comfortably accomplish the task (I'm not sure if other brands would work, seems LiDE to be the choice)
  • clean hands & clean working area (dust & debris is a concern)
  • glass cleaner and streak-free cloth
  • vacuum cleaner to prevent unwanted plastic debris from getting inside the unit
  • long-nose pliers to remove hinge pins and plastic parts
  • Exacto knife to cut the plastic
  • wide black tape (duct tape or equivalent)

Removing the lid:


Using long-nose pliers, grab the metal pin, and firmly pull it away from the hinge. Repeat on the opposite side. You should be able to detach the lid with ease. And don't throw it away, as it will still be useful for regular scanning.

Removing the hinge:

Looking at the scanner so that the hinge is on the top, grab it with both hands, and using your thumbs firmly apply upward pressure to arch it away from its position. The hinge should easily pop put from its location, separating it from the scanner itself. I find it to be the best option, but as you can see, I've bent it single-handed from the opposite side.

Leveling the scanner chassis flush with the glass:

PLEASE NOTE: There are multiple ways of approaching this, but my goal was NOT to remove the glass to limit the possibility of getting the bottom of it dirty. Glas can be removed completely, which, in theory, should make everything much more accessible.

You should have a vacuum cleaner ready by now and area as clean as possible to prevent the dust and debris from getting under the glass.
Gently drive a sharp knife between the glass and the plastic rails holding it in place and, in a twisting motion, pry it open. Rails are glued to the glass by a double-sided tape, which isn't very hard to remove. Continue along the rail's length, and you should be done in no time. Remove any remaining pieces of the tape. Vacuum the area and clean the glass.


Once both rails are removed, you will notice that the body of the scanner is still not flush with the glass's surface. That's because the scanner's side walls have tiny plastic strips, about 1/16" tall that need to be removed. This can be done by firmly scoring it with an Exacto knife or any other sharp utility knife.

Once the rail is out of the way, apply the tape to the glass covering the same area as the previously removed rail. Fold overhanging part of the tape and apply it tho the chassis. Repeat the process on the opposite side.

Now it's time to move onto the top part of the scanner (where the hinge was mounted). Sadly, I forgot to take crucial pictures for this tutorial, so I'm substituting them with OEMs with the red outline showing where the cut needs to be made. It's worth noting that this was the most challenging part of the modification because the plastic walls are the thickest here. I've spent a significant portion of time scoring the lines and vacuuming plastic shavings to prevent them from getting inside.

The above image depicts removed top left corner of the scanner's chassis. Again, this took more time to remove due to plastic's thickness. I was slowly scoring it with a sharp nail and later broke it away using pliers.
Removal of the top right corner is done similarly. It's important to note that there is a glass support stud that holds the glass in place and must not be removed. Proceed with caution, please take your time and be patient. After removing the top part, clean, vacuum and seal with tape.
Now let's remove the front face of the scanner where the function keys are located. This shouldn't be too difficult as the face snaps to the body of the scanner. After the faceplate is gone, all that's left is the black strip of plastic mounted to the bottom portion of the platen.
WARNING! Be extremely careful when removing the black plastic strip as there is a white calibration strip immediately underneath, which must not be damaged and must remain in place.
All said and done, you should be left with something like this.

I decided to take my new-old scanner for a test drive by scanning the front and the back of my Super Nintendo box. The images were then stitched using Photoshop CS6 Phtomerge function, but you can easily use free solutions such as Microsoft ICE or Hugin. I believe this to be the first time anyone has ever scanned the SNES (NA version) box and made it available online.

Download the original 600dpi scans at https://imageevent.com/gamescans/consolehardware


Afterthoughts:

This is the second DIY tutorial I've ever written. That being said, let me know if you've had any difficulties following it, I'll happily update it. If I were to do it again, I'd probably take more pictures, paid more attention to make the cuts cleaner.

Please bear in mind that these scanners were not designed to be used upside-down. As some users have pointed out in Matthews's comments section, they will eventually break down. After how much of (ab)use? I don't know. However, because LiDE scanners are pretty affordable, they might be worth sacrificing for whatever that is you're trying to preserve.
One ingenious user has taken it a step further by engineering a table where a scanner sits recessed flush with the surface so that it is still used in the upright position. Instead of moving the scanner, the scanned object is being moved. Awesome!

In terms of stitching images, I'm running an older machine, with i7 2600K and 32GB of DDR3 RAM, which makes processing large images reasonably easy. Those with slower machines might experience long processing times.

If you were able to follow my tutorial and it has helped you with your archiving project, do let me know in the comments! Happy scanning!

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