Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Buying a Letter Paper Folder / Paper Folding Machine

Letter Paper Folding Machine
Everyone know it's a pain to fold brochures, letterhead, sales letters, marketing material, invoices, statements, newsletters and church bulletins by hand. It's time consuming and tedious, not to mention the painful paper cuts you can endure while doing it.

Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to making folding paper easier? The use of an automatic paper folder can increase the number of sheets you can fold dramatically, without all the back breaking labor involved in manual paper folding.

An automatic paper folder will:
  • Increase the number of sheets you can fold per hour
  • Save you a considerable amount of time
  • Reduce physical stress and mental fatigue
  • Increase the types of folds you can create for your projects
  • Save you money by increasing output and decreasing manpower
Unless you are mailing out small quantities, or have a need for more automated folding only occasionally, an automatic paper folder can definitely boost your productivity and be a welcome addition to any office or organization.

So if you have determined that you want to buy a paper folder, before considering the purchase of one there are several things you should keep in mind:

How often you will be using the folder.

Some paper folders are meant to be used continuously, usually in a commercial bindery operation, mailing house or print shop, while others are only meant to be used occasionally, such as in every day office use. Some paper folders are built to withstand mass mailings. Others are built to fold an occasional sheet of paper. Some folders can fold "sets" of paper, others are what is known as a single sheet folder, meaning, while they only fold one sheet at a time, they do so at a high volume, saving you back breaking work and lots of time. Be sure to get the folder that works with the volume you intend to fold on a regular basis.

What type of paper folding machine your projects will require.

Paper folders can start as small as a letter desktop manual folder and go up to more expensive commercial air-fed paper folding machines. A manual letter paper folder may be your best option if you are looking to fold "sets" of paper, for example a several page document that will be placed into an envelope for mailing, and only intend to use it for light general office folding.

Keep in mind, as the name implies, it is a manual process, meaning you fold your paper one set, or one sheet, at a time. These paper folders tend to be very small, easily fitting on a desk or into a small workspace, and relatively inexpensive. Keep in mind with a manual folder you may only have the option to do a fixed fold, such as a letter fold. They often do not allow you to change your type of fold.

Some popular manual desktop folders include two models made by Martin Yale, the P6200 3-Sheet Letter Folder and the P6400 Letter Folder. The P6200 allows you to fold one to three sheets of paper in a standard letter fold, while the P6400 can handle two folds, standard letter and half fold.

Another popular type of letter folding machine is known as a friction fed paper folder. These are also called single sheet paper folders. A friction fed folding machine has rollers which pull the paper into the paper folder, one sheet at a time, but at a high rate of speed. This type of paper folding machine relieves the problem many offices face with handling bulk folding projects in an efficient manner. They are know to be great time savers on staff. They generally feature easy manual setup options that revolve around making settings on the removable paper guides, to match the type of folds you want to create, and the size of paper you will be folding.

These machine are used a lot businesses that require a lot of folding of statements, invoices, brochures, sales letters, customer letters, and many churches use them for folding church bulletins for services. They have also become popular with schools and universities, to handle their diverse paper folding needs.

One caveat of this type of high volume machine to consider is that they do, from time to time, jam or misfeed. It's just the nature of the technology. It will happen at some point. It's not a matter of "if," but "when." So, if your job requires matching names with envelopes or keeping consecutive numbers in sequence, this may be an issue for you. For jobs like this, you may need to consider manual feeding, whether through a friction fed folder that offers that manual bypass feature, or by using a small manual fed folder, as mentioned above. It will be slower going, but the frustration factor of numbers getting out of sequence may offset that for you.

Some friction fed folders can also do "sets" of paper, like a manual folder, making them a multi-use machine in a business operation, however it will always be through a "manual bypass" tray, making the process less automated. This means some friction fed folders can also function as a manual letter folder, when needed. Not every friction fed paper folding machine will offer this manual option, however, so please read it's specs closely before purchasing, if this is a feature you require.

Popular friction fed folding machines include the Techko LF283B Paper Folder, the Martin Yale Premier P7200 Paper Folder, and the MBM 93M Paper Folder. The prices on these type of machines varies based on brand name, the types of folds it can do, the type of paper it can handle, etc.

Friction feed paper folders are generally pretty maintenance free, however they do have a few low cost wearable items. Typically, the front rollers on your paper folder wear out the most. It is very common to have to replace these on a regular basis if your paper folder is folding to its maximum duty cycle.

Low Cost Paper Folder - Cheap Paper Folding Machine - Church Paper Folder - School Paper Folder - Office Paper Folder

A third type of paper folding machine is an air fed paper folder. An air fed paper folder uses air to suck the paper into the paper folding machine, a sheet at a time, to be folded. The puff of air lifts each sheet of paper up from the next, before it is caught by the rollers and pulled into the machine, separating your sheets and reducing the static build up on each sheet of paper. This is especially important in use with glossy paper stocks.

If you are looking to fold "glossy" paper stocks, you may want to consider an air fed paper folder instead. The friction that builds up in the folding process on the friction fed folder will cause your paper to start to stick together, which will result in jams and misfeeds. On a matte (standard) finish paper this problem is minimal, but on a glossy paper it can easily turn into a nightmare for the user when doing large amounts of paper.

If you tend to do a lot of glossy paper, this may be the way to go. However, be aware that this type of folding machine is quite a bit more expensive than a standard friction fed office folder. In some cases it may be upwards of 10 times the cost of a standard machine, so it is generally purchased mostly by commercial companies that are in the business of doing a lot of mass mailing work for their customers, such as bindery houses, print shops and mailing services. The entry price point on an air fed machine tends to be much higher than what most businesses are looking to pay for an office folding machine.

What type of paper you will be folding.

Paper comes in various thicknesses and finishes. Different types of paper require different machines. Make sure the paper folder you purchase can fold the paper you need it to fold now, as well as grow with you in the future.

Most paper folders are going to handle your standard office type papers equally well. These would include basic copy paper, 20# bond paper, 24# bond paper, 50# offset paper, and 60# offset paper. Beyond standard papers, it gets a bit trickier. Most generally don't like an extremely thin paper, anything lower than about a 16# paper weight and most don't work all that well with glossy paper or very heavy weight papers.

As I mentioned above, glossy paper stock is a consideration. Most machines simply do not handle glossy stock as well as an air fed paper folder will. I have personally, on occasion, used a friction fed folder on smaller jobs printed on glossy paper stock. However, I knew going into these jobs that I would have to "babysit" the machine, due to frequent misfeeds and jams. And, sometimes they happened, and other times they didn't, depending on a lot of variables, including the weight of the paper, how much static build up was in the room at the time of the folding job (which tends to be more prevalent if the folder is kept in a room with other electronics such as computers and printers), and other conditions and factors.

Just something to keep in mind if you think you may have an occasional need to fold glossy stock, but don't want to pay for a much more expensive air fed machine. Just don't say you weren't warned that it will be a bit more challenging!

If you are looking to fold card stock, I simply would not recommend a standard paper folder for this job. You will not get a clean fold and the paper will most certainly jam most paper folding machines. If you have a job that is printed on card stock, my recommendation would be to have the paper "scored." The scoring process involves creating a crease in your paper, where you want the fold to be, making it easier for you to fold the sheet in half.

This process can be done by hand, or for larger projects I would recommend taking your paper to a bindery shop or print shop, either after the job is printed or prior to printing it, to have the paper scored. The scoring process creates a "crack" in the paper, making in effect a "spine," which will give you a guide for folding your finished product by hand, as well as make it a clean fold.

Some rotary paper trimmers now offer a variety of different types of removable and interchangeable blades, including a "scoring blade," which does not cut all the way through the paper, but rather creates a score, making it easier to score small quantities of paper yourself.

What size paper you will be folding.

Before you make your purchase of a paper folder it is a good idea to consider what size sheets of paper you will be folding on a regular basis, as well as the types of folds you will need to make. Some folders only do preset folds, while others can be set for custom folds with removable, adjustable guide plates.

Lower priced folders may only handle up to letter size paper (8.5" x 11"), while a mid-range model can do both letter size and legal size paper (8.5" x 14").

If you have a need to fold tabloid size items (11" x 17"), you will need to look at larger format machine. However, much like an air fed folder, tabloid size paper folders will be much more expensive than it's little sister, the friction fed paper folding machine. Larger format friction fed folders would include models such as the Martin Yale 1217A Medium Duty Paper Folder.

What type of folds you will need to do.

Different paper folding machines can do different folds. Standard folds include double parallel, half fold, letter fold (tri-fold or brochure fold), and z-folds. Additional folds include accordion folds, gate folds, double gate folds, roll folds, vertical half folds, french folds, baronial folds and right angle folds. As you move into these more complicated folds, the cost of a machine that can handle them goes up quite a bit. Because of this, many companies opt for a machine that can handle the standard business folds such as letter and half fold, on both letter size and legal size paper.

Types of Paper Folds Chart

Be sure to read the description of the paper folder you want to buy carefully to determine its capabilities. Generally, only machines that have adjustable guide plates will allow you do multiple folds. Fixed fold machines, such as lower cost small desktop models, may only be able to do a standard letter fold.

How many documents you will need to fold in an hour.

An important feature to consider is how many sheets of paper you will need to fold in each batch. Some office folders are made to fold up to 12,000 sheets per hour, while commercial or heavy-duty folders handle up to 18,000 sheets per hour. Keep in mind these are estimates and what you will actually be able to fold depends on a variety of factors, including how many sheets you can put in the hopper tray at a time. Most folders "max out" on the number of sheets that can be held by the tray, which means it will need to be refilled as it runs out.

It is important when folding a job not to set it up and walk away from the machine. Not only can jams and misfeeds happen, which must be cleared immediately, so as not to burn up the motor in your folding machine, but paper trays will need to be refilled, to keep the job moving along. Yes, a paper folding machine will make your life easier, in that it can fold paper faster than you can by hand, but that does not mean you can "set it and forget it" and walk away from the job.

How much space you have to store a paper folder.

Another consideration would be how much room you have for another piece of office equipment. Some paper folders have a small footprint, allowing them to be placed on a desk or table top, while others are larger and heavier and may need their own dedicated area in your operation.

Some paper folders sit at the side of your desk, providing mobility and ease of use. Larger, more heavy-duty folders require a table or counter top to rest on. For heavier paper folders, use a work station with wheels for mobility and ease of use.

If you are in need of a basic desktop friction-fed paper folder, the most popular type of machine in many offices for every day office use, we recommend the:

Techko LF283 Letter Folding Machine: The Perfect Entry Level Paper Folder for Offices, Churches and Schools

For a small to medium sized office, or a church or school, who has a desire for a good entry level paper folding machine that can handle normal office paper folding needs, we recommend the Techko LF283B Letter Folding Machine.

Offered at a great introductory level price, for a small friction fed paper folder, it fits perfectly into any business environment, and can fold up to 4,000 sheets of 60 lb. bond paper per hour.

Techko LF283 Letter Paper Folding Machine

This paper folder is versatile and allows you to do four popular letter folding styles: standard letter fold, z fold, double parallel fold and half fold, on either letter size (8.5" x 11") or legal size (8.5" x 14") paper.

The paper tray can hold up to 80 sheets of paper at a time, based on 20 lb. paper stock, and uses standard household electricity. With dimensions that don't tie up a lot of desktop space, this handy paper folding machine is a great addition to any office.

The Techko LF283 Letter Folder comes with the following:
  • LF283B Letter Paper Folding Machine
  • Metal Paper Catch Tray
  • Metal Desk Stand
  • Warranty, Instructions and Paper Folding Guide
This model of desktop paper folder is great for those in need of a machine that can handle folding church bulletins, monthly statements, invoices, brochures, reports, fliers, newsletter and more.

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