Investigation 8

As with Investigation 7, I will be discussing my final project in this investigation as well. In this investigation, I’ll be exploring how a scanner’s stepper motor works. A stepper motor is used to move the scan head, which is the main part of any scanner.

In the top left corner (the white gears) is the stepper motor assembly. The black and white rectangle near the bottom of the photo is the scan head. With the metal bar on the left side and the stepper motor, the scanning head moves. (Here is a close-up photo of the stepper motor.)

Here is a video that shows how the scanning head moves with the help of the stepper motor:

The scanning head moves back and forth with the help of the stepper motor. Is there a way to miniaturize this key part of the scanner?

In addition to the stepper motor, there is also a belt that is attached to the scanning head, as seen in this photo.

The belt attached to the scanning head allows the scanning head to move back and forth as well. Here, the belt is white, and is attached to the scanning head on one side and to the interior of the scanner on the other side.

Can the motor system and the belt be miniaturized for a portable flatbed scanner? If not, can handheld scanning technology be used to provide high-quality scans? I have read in previous sources that handheld scanners produce low-quality scans. However, if parts of the stepping motor such as the gears as well as the belt can be used in a small scanner, perhaps the movement of the scanning head can be controlled. The motor of a scanner is what controls the movement of the scanning head so that the resulting image quality is high. It’s imperative that the scanning head moves slowly and consistently; if it is jerked by sudden hand movements, the resulting scan quality will be low.

Here are some possibilities:

  • A cord that can be pulled from the outside of the scanner. This cord would be attached to the scanning head; all the user would have to do is slowly pull it towards them to move the scanning head.
  • The scanner could retain a miniaturized stepper motor setup, and utilize solar energy or other light energy to allow the scanning head to function automatically (as in a regular flatbed scanner, which uses electricity to function).
  • Could the scanner run on batteries? If so, electrical energy from the batteries could be harnessed by the stepper motor to move the scanning head.
  • The scanning head could be set up on wheels along the frame of the ArtScan device. The frame itself has depth so that the scanning head could fit comfortably inside it, and so that the cover of the scanner could be closed shut.

With that being said, can moving the scanning head by hand using the stepper motor setup preserve scan quality? If not, what other methods can be used?

I did some additional research and found a USB hand-powered scanner called the Copycat scanner.

The Copycat scanner has some amazing features, some of which are really useful for a portable scanner. These features include being powered by batteries, having a built-in miniature screen, and scanning at relatively high resolutions (600 dpi). The scanner is also used with a USB cable or a micro SD card to transfer files to a computer. In addition, the maximum scanning size is 8.27 inches by 50 inches (21 cm by 127 cm). These dimensions are more than sufficient for even large sketchbooks, such as the Large Moleskine sketchbook. A3 and A4 sizes, however, are  not supported.

I believe an important next step would be to determine if this Copycat scanner truly scans at high resolutions, and test its capabilities with a variety of mediums. What different kinds of papers can be scanned? Can painted canvases be scanned as well? Also, with the maximum scanning dimensions being 21 cm by 127 cm, this would have to be the basis for the frame in which the scanning head would sit. By having a cover over the frame, the scanner could also serve as a carrying case for not only the scanning head, but also for artworks.


Cody, M.A. “UMAX 2100U Flatbed Scanner Dissection.” Robotics. 2 January 2007. Web. 1 March 2013.

“Stripping a Scanner for Parts in 10 Minutes.” 4Volt. 20 May 2009. Web. 1 March 2013.

Copycat Personal Scanner. Red5 Gadget Shop. Web. 1 March 2013.


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