Paper Folder Buyer’s Guide – Everything You Need to Know

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6 minutes

Office employee reading through the paper folder buyer's guide in front of a paper folding machine.

Browsing for a paper folding machine can feel daunting when you discover the vast collections available. From air fed to friction, custom folds to standard, and stapled or unstapled sets… the features of these efficient office machines can make finding the right one a challenge. In this paper folder buyer’s guide, we will cover these machines comprehensively so you can understand more than just their ability to elevate the efficiency of your office or mailroom; you will learn the ins and outs, the ups and downs, and the key considerations before making the investment.

Paper Folder Operation Types

There are three basic types of paper folder operations; those with manual, semi-automatic, or fully-automatic setup. 

  1. Manual Setup – The most budget-friendly option, manual setup paper folders are ideally suited for lower volume users 
  2. Semi-Automatic – A great middle ground, semi-automatic paper folders have various automatic features to compliment the more affordable manual aspects. They are a good choice for businesses who fold larger batches, more often.
  3. Automatic – The perfect partner for large corporations, print shops, and others with high-volume folding requirements, automatic paper folders remove the manual setup and processing almost completely, drastically increasing productivity.

When to Use Air vs Friction-Feed

While it may seem like the fold types would take the cake, the most important feature of a paper folder is the feed type; that is, how the paper is drawn into the machine.

Why is this so important? Because it determines the type of paper stock you will be able to use for the life of the machine, essentially determining what kinds of documents you will and will not be able to use it for. 

There are two types of paper folder feed types: air-fed and friction-fed. Exactly as they sound, one uses suctioned air while the other uses rollers to pull paper into the machines. When should you choose air-fed over friction-fed, or vice versa? 

Air-feed paper folding machines work with all paper stock types, including both coated and uncoated stock. Friction-feed folders, however, are only designed to work with uncoated stock. This is key to note before buying a paper folder. 

You would want to choose a friction-fed if the most important aspect of a paper folder was the cost, as they are more affordable while still dramatically improving the efficiency of your office.

Benefits of Air-Fed Paper Folding Machines

Using suction to separate and feed each individual sheet into the folding machine is the top-of-the-line option. It drastically reduces the risk of paper jams and reduces static electricity, which is crucial when finishing glossy and coated stocks. They are ideal for facilities that use varying paper types and have high-volume needs, such as mail rooms and print shops.

  • Handles various paper stocks, including coated
  • Ideal for high-volume jobs
  • Minimized risk of paper jams
  • Reduces static electricity on sheets
  • No risk of marking on pages (no intake rollers)

Who Uses Air-Fed Folders?

  • Large Print Shops: For handling high-volume, diverse printing and folding jobs.
  • Commercial Printers: To efficiently fold a range of printed materials, including glossy stock.
  • Direct Mail Companies: For large-scale mail campaigns requiring quick and varied folding.
  • Publishing Houses: To fold various types of paper used in publishing.
  • Corporations with High-volume Mailing Needs: For internal and external communication materials.

Popular Air-Feed Paper Folder Brands

Who makes air-fed folders? Here are some of the most popular brand names you will find on the market, known for their quality and reliability. 

CountBaumFormaxStandard Horizon

Benefits of Friction-Fed Paper Folding Machines

Using a friction-feed paper folder is the more economical price, making the barrier to entry much easier to achieve, even for smaller businesses. They are great for standard folding jobs, such as those found in general office environments. They use rollers to grab the top sheet from a pile and pull it into the machine to process. While not ideal for thicker papers, they can typically meet the needs of most standard folding jobs.

  • Most common type of paper folder
  • Cost-effective
  • Great for general office folding
  • Generally more compact & easier to maintain

Who Uses Friction-Fed Folders?

  • Small to Mid-sized Offices: For routine mailing tasks like invoices, newsletters, or marketing materials.
  • Schools and Universities: For folding letters, notices, and educational materials.
  • Churches and Non-Profits: For bulletins, fundraising letters, and event flyers.
  • Print Shops: For smaller print jobs requiring standard folding.
  • Real Estate Agencies: To prepare property listings and promotional materials.

Popular Friction-Feed Paper Folder Brands

What companies make friction paper folders? Here are some of the most popular brand names you will find on the market, known for their quality and reliability. 

CoverbindMBMMartin YaleFormax
Standard HorizonCount

Key Features of Paper Folding Machines & Their Benefits

When selecting a paper folder, there are some key features to understand and look for to compare. While this is just the tip of the features out there, it covers the essential functions that will impact the day-to-day efficiency and operation.

  • Compatible Paper Stock: Check the types of paper stock the machine can handle as well as the minimum and maximum thicknesses.
  • Pre-Set Fold Types: While most paper folders are capable of creating any kind of fold by customizing the folding plate location, having pre-set fold types is more convenient as they can be adjusted with simple setup or even just the push of a button.
  • Speed Adjustments: Look for more than just the output speed. Having adjustable speed features lets you tweak that number to fit your unique job requirements. More delicate papers can be catered to while robust stocks can achieve the full speeds. This also makes processing different size jobs more manageable.
  • Paper Size Accommodation: Most paper folders list the maximum paper size they can handle. You may want to look deeper to ensure your unique size can also be used, even if it doesn’t fit the standard paper size guides.
  • Ease of Setup and Operation: Nothing is worse than a machine that is a hassle to set up. Make sure your chosen machine has a user-friendly interface and straightforward setup procedure to save time and reduce errors and waste. This plays into the down time between jobs, training of new hires, and the day-to-day efficiency of your staff.
  • Counter and Batch Processing: When you fold different jobs that need to be tracked, make sure your machine has a counter and batch processing. This feature is invaluable for keeping track of large jobs and organizing them into manageable smaller batches.
  • Noise Level: If the folder will be placed in a busy office environment, then you should also look at the noise level. While folders will always be on the louder side (the sound you hear is when the paper butts up against the folding bar/knife), some advanced models are designed to operate more quietly, minimizing the disruption.
  • Feed Tray Capacity: If you need the ability to drop in large jobs and walk away without needing to refill often, then you should consider the feed tray capacity.
  • Exit Tray: Some machines offer a conveyor while others simply drop the folded sheets into a bin. Depending on your volume, you may want to choose the exit option that offers more organized finishing.
  • Additional Capabilities: Some machines offer additional capabilities, such as inserting, scoring, slitting, and perforating. Consider assessing your current operation for bottlenecks to determine if your ideal solution is one of these multi-functional machines.
  • Future Prospects: Consider things that may affect your workplace in the coming years and how they may impact your decision. Choose a machine that meets, not just today’s needs, but tomorrow’s needs too, allowing for growth opportunities.

Pre-Programmed Folds & Customizable Folds

The huge majority of paper folding machines will allow for customized folds by removing the cover and adjusting the fold plates. The benefit of pre-programmed folds, however, means you don’t have to figure out where those fold plates need to be to get the perfect fold. Just press the preset button on an automatic folder or move the plates to the designated markings on a manual folder, and you are assured a clean fold. 

Popular paper folds found on machines: 

  • Letter fold
  • Tri-fold
  • Z-fold
  • Half fold
  • Gate fold
  • Zig zag
  • Double fold
  • Fold out
  • Cross fold
  • Double parallel
  • Engineering fold
  • Church fold
  • Right angle fold
  • Baronial fold
  • Accordion fold
  • Short fold
  • Single fold
  • Double fold

The more pre-programmed fold options your chosen machine has, the more opportunity for growth and expansion, so be sure you are thinking about the future needs for this machine, not just the needs of today. For example, you may only currently want to use the church fold for your Sunday school, but what else could you do by investing in a machine? Tri-fold could be helpful for brochures and letter fold for mailers. 

Difference Between Standard and Knife Folders

Most desktop paper folding machines will fall into the “standard” category, using rollers and folding plates to accomplish the job. Larger production machines and floor models, however, can sometimes be “knife folders,” a more unique folding mechanism that uses a blade to create ultra-precise and sharp folds. They work great for high volume runs of even difficult to fold stock, like cardstock, making them perfect for specialized print shops and plants where they need to meet a variety of customer demands.

Folding Single Sheets or Stapled Sets

Before you buy a paper folder online, you will also want to know whether you plan to only fold individual pages or if you also need to fold stapled sets. Are you just going to fold brochures or will you also fold a short manual? Do your multi-page letters need to be stapled? Many desktop machines have the capability to also handle stapled sets through a manual bypass feature where you manually feed each set through a different feed. Jamming will be a frequent occurrence if you choose a machine that is not designed to handle this kind of set. 

Common Paper Folder Issues and Solutions

What are the most common issues with paper folders? Probably the most frequent complaint we’ve heard relates to double feeding. This is when the machine mistakenly pulls two sheets of paper together, instead of one. This can sometimes jam the machine. When using an air-fed paper folder, the fix is fairly simple. Just be sure you have the machine set to allow for adequate air separation by checking the pump filter and pile height settings. Other than that, the best way to prevent double feeding in paper folders of all kinds is to be sure your paper is jogged properly before feeding. A paper jogger not only aligns your stack perfectly, but also eliminates static that can cause the feeding issue.

A Valuable Additional Investment: Combination Folding, Creasing, Perforating, Scoring Machines

Something else to consider before investing in a paper folder for your office is whether you want it to be a multi-functional machine that can also crease, perforate, and/or score your pages. Or even if you want a folder/inserter machine for mailing. These kinds of machines are ideal for larger businesses that need to expand their offerings or streamline their processes from multiple systems into one, convenient machine. These integrated features are invaluable to some businesses that produce frequent marketing materials, brochures, mailers, and other paper that requires additional finishing touches. 

Additional Considerations

In addition to the capabilities and features discussed above, there are a few other considerations to think about before you buy. 

  1. Brand Quality — Like many finishing machines, paper folders have dozens of brands available to choose from. Some of these brands are designed for quality while others are designed for budget and simplicity. Choosing a quality brand like Coverbind paper folders will ensure years of trouble-free use.
  2. Ease of Maintenance — Choosing a paper folder that makes preventative and repair maintenance easy will make any stressful days easier. Accessible components and parts with reliable customer support and a long manufacturer’s warranty will help protect your investment.
  3. Printing Compatibility — We talked a bit about types of paper that air-fed versus friction-fed folders can do above, but we didn’t talk about printing processes. Businesses that use specific methods such as digital and offset printing will want to check the models of interest to ensure smooth processing.

Paper Folders Provide a Fast ROI

Calculating the ROI for any equipment investment is an important step in the buying process. When it comes to paper folders, the analysis nearly always comes back with significant gains, quickly… even so fast as paying for itself after just one larger job. 

To calculate the ROI for your machine of choice, consider the storage costs, supplies and consumables, and the biggest ROI for paper folders, the labor costs.


What is the difference between air feed and friction-feed paper folders?

  • Air feed folders use air to separate and feed sheets, ideal for varied paper types and high-volume jobs. Friction-feed folders use rubber rollers and are better for standard paper types in smaller volumes.

Can paper folders handle different paper sizes and weights?

  • Yes, most paper folders can handle a variety of paper sizes and weights, from simple copy paper to thicker cardstocks. Check the specifications of each model for its capacity.

Are paper folders easy to operate?

  • Most modern paper folders often come with user-friendly interfaces and pre-programmed settings, making them relatively easy to operate for anyone in the office.

What types of folds can a paper folder create?

  • Paper folders can create multiple fold types such as letter, Z-fold, half-fold, and many more. Many models even offer customizable folds.

Can I use a paper folder for stapled sets?

  • Some paper folders are capable of folding stapled sets via a manual bypass, but it’s important to check the specific capabilities of the model.

Do paper folders require a lot of maintenance?

  • Maintenance requirements vary by model and usage. It is always a good idea to perform regular cleaning. There are also occasional wearable part replacements needed.

Are there paper folders that also score, perforate, or slit?

  • Some paper folders can score, perforate, slit, insert, and crease. Combination machines like this offer more versatility and require a bigger initial investment.

How do I choose the right paper folder for my needs?

  • This comprehensive buyer’s guide should give you all the information you need to know to choose the best paper folder for your needs. The simple considerations: your volume of work, the types of paper you use, desired fold types, and any additional features you might need.

Can paper folders handle glossy or coated paper?

  • Air feed folders are generally better suited for glossy or coated papers. Friction-fed folders do not generally work for coated stocks.

Is it possible to test a paper folder before purchase?

  • It might be! Let us know which models you are interested in and we will check our demo room and the demo room of the manufacturer to find out if it is something we can support you with. 

Final Thoughts: Choosing the Right Paper Folder for Your Needs

Whether you run a print shop or manage folding tasks within a corporation, work at a school or church, or simply any office that regularly folds or mails, a paper folder is a smart investment. Upgrading due to increased volume or simply finally taking the step to relieve your manual folding labor and streamline your operations, paper folders take a tedious task and automate it for ease of use and accuracy. 

Choosing the best paper folder machine for your unique needs requires evaluating those needs. The key considerations include the type of paper you use and the fold types you need. This guide covers these plus everything else you need to know about paper folders before buying one. Need help choosing the right investment for your business? Our expert team is here to help. Contact us today or browse paper folder machines below.

About Ryan Sexton

Inspired by his years as a market researcher and teacher, Ryan Sexton leverages his experience to create content that simplifies the complex. His goal is to help every customer find the perfect solution to their individual needs—regardless of the size of their business. His contributions range from in-depth articles onindustrial grade, high-tech binding machines to easy-to-implement recommendations for picking the perfect accessories, materials, and methods.