S M A – Three Letters Change an Industry

SMA Electronic Document GmbH is a pioneer in analogue and digital large format document management. A groundbreaking concept by the founder Josef Schaut was the start of SMA (formerly known as SMA Schaut GmbH) in the mid of the 1960s.

For the first time it was possible to microfilm large format documents such as engineering drawings on microfilm aperture cards and to develop them immediately after the exposure inside the camera head without any further intervention. The SMA processor camera was borne! With this revolutionary invention SMA quickly worked its way to the top and became the world’s leading company in this segment. This development was crowned by an OEM agreement with the US American company 3M. Within 10 years nearly 5,000 A0 cameras were manufactured and installed around the globe. In addition, SMA developed, manufactured and sold also 16 and 35 mm microfilm cameras as well as reader printers and large format plotters which also became an international success.

At the end of the 1980s Josef Schaut surprised the industry again and presented the first book scanner at the CeBIT. Again Mr. Schaut went his own way. He did not simply replace the microfilm head of the camera by a scan unit. He rather looked into the disadvantages of microfilm camera systems. Those were basically the fact that the capturing process is very sensitivity to ambient light and that a significant amount of light is needed for microfilming originals. This light has always had a very negative impact on the operator’s eyes. SMA not only introduced the first book scanner to the world but also designed its own scanning concept. This new design made scanning possible independent from ambient light – and even more important – it grants eye protective and fatigue-proof operation for the operator. Mr. Schaut had this concept patented and to date SMA is still the only company in the world that manufactures scanner with such features.

Josef Schaut passed away in July 2003. At this time Ralph Fuchs took over the management and in 2007 he and Peggy Zilian acquired SMA. In spite of their young age both of them had already a huge experience within the industry and since then have constantly grown the business. Today SMA is represented in more than 100 countries and is the leading player in the large format scanning sector. SMA is the only manufacturer that maintains a product range covering book scanners and flatbed scanner from DIN A3 up to double A0.

Also under the new leadership there have been groundbreaking innovations. In 2010 SMA introduced the worldwide first A0 flatbed scanner. In the following year the XXL version with a scanning range of double A0 was introduced. At CeBIT 2014 SMA created a sensation by presenting the world’s first large format robotic book scanner. The invention of the ROBO SCAN 1 – the world’s first robotic book scanner for originals up to DIN A1 – offers completely new possibilities in book digitalization projects.

Microfilm still plays a very important role at SMA. They are the only company in the industry that offers a full line of archive writers covering all available film formats such as 16 mm, 35 mm and microfiche. The SMA 51 archive writer is with hundreds of installations by far the most sold product of its kind and is a household name in most archives and libraries around the world.

In order to meet the needs of the market better SMA has entered into strategic alliances in the recent years. This includes the nationwide exclusive distribution of the world’s leading on-demand microfilm scanner ScanPro and the marketing of the unrivaled high-end scanners from METIS.

Within the software sector SMA has also made an important partnership. In collaboration with intranda GmbH it is now possible to offer next to the hardware also software solutions for complex digitization projects.