Customer Stories

How do you digitize a library?

Linearführungen von Franke in voll- und teilautomatischen Buchscannern für 4DigitalBooks

Scanners are commonplace technology these days. However, when it comes to scanning entire books, commercially available devices quickly reach their limits. The Swiss company 4DigitalBooks - ASSY SA manufactures scanning robots that efficiently and gently digitize entire libraries. In its market-leading fully or semi-automatic book scanners, 4DigitalBooks has been using linear guides from Franke for 20 years.

Ivo Iossiger, head and founder of 4DigitalBooks, came across the purpose of his future company while studying engineering at EPFL in Lausanne. Researching the books in the university library seemed unnecessarily tedious to him. If the books were available not only on paper but also digitally, one could simply let the computer search for text passages. By 2000, he had founded his own engineering office, and his business idea became more concrete during a visit to the Frankfurt Book Fair: "I saw the masses of books, all that paper. I asked myself: how can we transfer this valuable knowledge of mankind into the digital age?". His idea: a robot that can automatically scan entire books. With the founding of 4DigitalBooks, a life project was born. Because Ivo Iossiger had studied mechanics, electronics, computer science and robotics during his studies, he was confident that he could solve this task with his engineering colleagues.

We have never had any difficulties with Franke products. They have proven to be very reliable. And that is a very important aspect for us.Ivo Iossiger, Managing Director and Founder of 4DigitalBooks

20 years of cooperation

4DigitalBooks opted for linear guides from Franke right from the start and has stuck with them for 20 years. On site, 4DigitalBooks is supported by Franke consultant Christoph Gschwind from the Swiss representative Emil Vögelin AG. The business relationship between Christoph Gschwind and Ivo Iossiger has also existed since the founding days of 4DigitalBooks. Linear guides from Franke were already used in the first fully automatic book scanner. "Since then, we have never had any difficulties with Franke products. They have proven to be very reliable. And that is a very important aspect for us. The deliveries have also always been on time," says Ivo Iossiger.

Profile of the Franke linear guides

  • Franke roller guides type FDA25R, FDA25K

  • Advantages used: mechanical robustness, smooth, low-resistance and quiet running behavior, high precision, 
    long service life, maintenance-free roller bearings lubricated for life

Franke-Berater Christoph Gschwind (l.) und Geschäftsführer Ivo Iossiger testen einen halbautomatischen Buchscanner von 4DigitalBooks
Image: Franke consultant Christoph Gschwind (l.) and managing director Ivo Iossiger test a semi-automatic book scanner from 4DigitalBooks

Renowned customers in 32 countries 

Today, 4DigitalBooks is the leader in the world market. There are only two major manufacturers of automatic book scanners in the world, and 4DigitalBooks is one of them. 15 employees manufacture fully and semi-automatic book scanners at the company's headquarters in Ecublens on Lake Geneva in Switzerland and also use their scanning robots as scanning service providers themselves. Book scanners from 4DigitalBooks are used in 32 countries. Notable customers include Stanford University in California, 4DigitalBooks' very first customer, and the U.S. Library of Congress – a very recent customer. National libraries, universities and cultural institutions around the world rely on 4DigitalBooks technology to digitize their valuable books.

Image: The careful handling of valuable old books distinguishes 4DigitalBooks

It's the exceptions that count

In addition to the speed of scanning and the quality of the scans, the gentle handling of the books is one of the particular strengths of 4DigitalBooks: "We developed our technology with one goal in mind above all: Reliability - from the first page to the last," says Ivo Iossiger. "If there is an exception in one place, the robot has to solve this particularity automatically. This capability is unique and we are very proud of it." The maximum speed of 4DigitalBooks' scanners is 1500 pages per hour. For an average book, that equates to about 5 books per hour at 400 dpi resolution.

Linearführungen von Franke dienen als Lager für wesentliche Bewegungsabläufe in den Buchscannern von 4DigitalBooks
Image: Linear guides from Franke serve as bearings for essential motion sequences in the book scanners from 4DigitalBooks
Um höchstmögliche Zuverlässigkeit zu gewährleisten, achtet Ivo Iossiger auf jedes Detail
Image: To ensure the highest possible reliability, Ivo Iossiger pays attention to every detail
The very long service life without maintenance requirements are decisive aspects that we greatly appreciate. This means that our customers have machines at their side that can do their job for a very long time without any problems.Ivo Iossiger, Managing Director and Founder of 4DigitalBooks

Franke linear guides for critical movements

Franke linear guides are used in both the fully automatic and semi-automatic scanners from 4DigitalBooks. Installed vertically, they are used to press the opened book against a glass plate to fix the pages for scanning. In the fully automatic scanners, Franke linear guides are also used in a horizontal orientation to move the carriage unit back and forth across the book for page turning. "Franke linear systems guide the critical movements in our scanners," says Ivo Iossiger. Each double page that is scanned corresponds to one movement of a pair of linear guides.

It follows from this: The linear guides must reliably perform a great many movements over a long period of time. "Franke linear guides are extremely robust with high resistance to tilting moments and high precision. They also have low wear," says Ivo Iossiger, praising the quality of Franke products. "The very long service life without maintenance requirements are decisive aspects that we greatly appreciate. This means that our customers have machines at their disposal that do their job for a very long time without any problems," continues Iossiger. A particular advantage for him is also the encapsulated lifetime lubrication of the needle bearings used. In contrast to open lubrication, this results in better tolerance of the fine paper dust that is always present during book scanning.

4Digital Books - ASSY SA

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Image: Christoph Gschwind (l.) and Ivo Iossiger have maintained business contacts for over 20 years

About 4DigitalBooks - ASSY SA

4DigitalBooks has been a leading global manufacturer of fully and semi-automated book scanners for 20 years. Major libraries such as the Stanford University Library or the Library of the United States Congress are among 4DigitalBooks' worldwide customers. The company's particular strengths include the gentle handling of the scanned books, the reliability in the scanning result and the long service life of its book scanners. 4DigitalBooks also offers book scanning as a service. 15 employees work at the headquarters in Ecublens, Switzerland.