What Is A Paper Folding Machine?

What Is A Paper Folding Machine?

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

You must have asked yourself what a paper folder is used for. Knowing what a paper folder is used for, will help increase the worth you place on paper folders. Read through as we show you what a paper folder is used for.

What Is A Paper Folding Machine?

A folding machine is a machine used primarily for the folding of paper. Folding is the sharp-edged bending of paper webs or sheets under pressure at a prepared or unprepared bending point along a straight line according to specified dimensions and folding layouts. Paper can be folded with either a buckle or a knife; thus, there are generally three types of folding machines: buckle folders, knife folders, or a combination of these two types.

Whilst buckle folding is the more popular of the two methods, knife folding is sometimes preferable. Folding machine models vary in sophistication, with high-end machines capable of processing more complex folding jobs and unusual paper forms (in terms of density and size).

Organizations required to undertake mass mail-out campaigns often employ folding machines to improve efficiency. However, it is a very commonly used finishing process across the printing industry.

Before jumping to the paper folding machine mechanisms let’s first clarify the types of paper stocks that are used in today’s print industry.

  • Text Weight

These sheets are thin, flexible sheets similar to your desktop office printer paper, or paper used for flyers, theses text-weight papers are available in both coated and uncoated finishes.

  • Card stock

Card stock or also known as cover stock sheets are thicker, and have more body to them, giving them much greater rigidity. This stock is used in applications like business cards, greeting cards, or covers for perfect bound books. This stock much like the text weight is available in both coated and uncoated.

Determining Your Needs

Before purchasing a paper-folding machine, think about what you need it to do. The three primary considerations are the amount of folding your business requires (heavier volume requires heavier-duty machines), the frequency of jobs (how many times per week or month you will use the machine), and the types of folds needed (basic machines handle basic folds, while more complex machines can adjust to different paper types and thicknesses).

Paper Folding Machine Mechanisms

  • Buckle Plate Folders

Buckle folders are the more common type of folder found in print shops. To fold paper they use a set of guides and plates with a backstop which is set to a dimension and the paper will buckle when it strikes it and they move in and out of the plate to create the fold.

The folding type in a buckle folder is set by adjusting folding plates. Most paper folders allow for a wide range of fold types. Right angle folds require the paper to rotate 90 degrees also known as an 8-page or a right angle. More folds can be accomplished by the use of a 16-page and 32-page unit.

When looking at buckle plate folders that have been designed for the digital printer, the options are available in a wide range of automation and offered one of two types of feeding systems: Friction feed or Air / Suction feed.

Entry-level designs are tabletop and offer Friction feeding, like the MBM 208J, up to the more automated Duplo DF 990A, Formax 382X, or MBM 408A the feeding system is the most important feature to discuss and understand how it works and to understand its limitations.

  1. Friction feed Paper Folders

The friction feed folder has a feeding mechanism that has one to three rollers across a bar, with a tab below the center roller. These rollers spin and the sheet of paper is to be pulled into the unit. The tab on the bottom is to hold back the second sheet of paper from entering the folder at the same time as the first, preventing double sheet feeding. Once the sheet of paper enters the folder the fold rollers take over moving the paper through the process of being folded.

Limitations of friction feed folders:

  • Coated Gloss Stocks

Much like a car tire on ice, friction feed folders struggle with feeding coated papers with any consistency. At times you may be able to have the folder on a consistent run with coated paper but, certainly, there are an equal amount of times when the unit will struggle to feed even a single page of coated paper

  • Static

Digitally printed work is printed with heat and static fusing process. After printing is complete the pile of paper still maintains its static charge and separating sheets can be difficult using a friction feed process. Air feeding better separates the sheets before feeding them into the folding unit.

Folding machines exclusively used for folding paper are commonly referred to as paper folders. These machines are typically used for creating letter folds (C Folds) and accordion folds (Z Folds). Other commonly used folds include a half fold, fold-out, double parallel fold, gate (brochure) fold, and right-angle fold.

Entry-level paper folders require that the folding plates be adjusted manually, with fold settings specified on the folding plates. Higher-end paper folders will electronically adjust the folding plates for added precision and convenience. Both usually have fine-tuning knobs for precise adjustments.

Most paper folders push the paper into the machine by use of a friction wheel; this grabs paper using friction. Friction-feed paper folders do not work well with glossy paper as the friction wheel slips on the paper’s surface. Pneumatic paper folders are preferable for folding glossy paper.

  1. Air/Suction feed Paper Folders

With an understanding of the friction feed systems limitations, printers that find themselves running a lot of coated stock that has been digitally printed with an abundance of static from the fusing process the Air Fed systems available on models such as the tabletop MBM 1800S, or the Duplo DF 1300 A, or the Morgana Major offer a perfect solution for a large production facility or a storefront digital print shop.

There are two concepts to be aware of when considering adding an air feed folder to your shop– Top fed system and Bottom fed systems.

  • Top Fed Paper Folder System

Top feed systems give the operator a push the green button solution and enable you to load your job (generally up to 4-5” of stock) into the feeder tray and walk away. No need to have an operator stand and feed a machine. While the operating speed on top-fed systems may be slower the fact that an operator can run this along with other machines in your facility makes it a good boost to productivity.

Regarding how the top-fed system process works we use the following three stages when feeding paper on a model like the Duplo DF 1300 A or MBM 1800S top feed system.

Apply air with a fan to separate the top pages from on another sheet of paper is sucked to a series of tractor belts with a suction fan, and these belts transport the sheet into the fold rollers

The caliper system is similar, however, the operator can increase or decrease a gap so that only one sheet of paper can travel into the unit at one time.

  • Bottom Fed Paper Folder System

Bottom fed design which can be found on the popular Morgana Major, or another popular choice that is Morgana Docufold Pro offers a very quick operating speed and the ability to continuously load onto the pile allows for non-stop production. A great saving of time especially in busy commercial shops, or shops running longer runs of work feeding on the bottom of the stack allows loading on the run for non-stop production.

  1. Knife-Folding Machines

A knife-folding machine uses a blunt-edged blade to create the folds necessary for the letter. Rollers inside the machine roll paper through continuously, but the paper is fed one sheet at a time and the blade makes the folds as the sheet goes through. One advantage of this type of machine is that the blades can also be used to slit large sheets of paper into smaller sheets for folding if desired. Many printers use this to divide large sections of publications into smaller sections for printing.

What should you expect from a commercial paper folding machine today?

  • Ease of use and highly compatible with multiple finishing options
  • Increased productivity that removes inefficient and duplicate efforts
  • A reduction in costs through labor, fewer shutdowns, and repairs
  • Improved output with less waste, more sheets per hour, and higher quality
  • Increased profit opportunity through expanded job capabilities
  • Efficient, operator-friendly controls and set up


The benefits of owning a machine may be of interest to you and your business:

  • Speed: A folding inserting machine can get through many more mail items per hour than even than someone doing it manually. Even the fastest most experienced mail packers only get up to a couple of hundred per hour whereas inexpensive, entry-level machines start at speeds of 1,300 per hour.
  • Cost: A folding inserting machine has the potential to greatly reduce the man-hours required to pack your mail. Think about it, mailings that traditionally may have required a team of hand packers to manually fold and insert the items could be automatically completed in a fraction of the time.
  • Consistency: If you’ve ever spent time folding and inserting mail into envelopes, you’ll know it’s hard to be consistent. The chances of folding and inserting every item, in the same way, are pretty slim. Missing items, crooked folds, addresses not aligned correctly in the window, envelopes not properly sealed; these are just a few of the issues you’ll see with manually packed mailings. A folding and inserting machine eliminates these issues.
  • Accuracy: Another common issue with manually packed mailings is accuracy. When people are packing a lot of mail items they get tired. Fatigue sets in. Mistakes happen. Suddenly letters are getting mixed up. Some customers might get two letters while others get none. Most modern folding inserting machines are fitted with advanced security features, such as double-document detection and barcode matching, which help you greatly reduce the chances of these issues occurring.


Now that you know what a paper folder is, and what they are used for, nothing should hold you back from getting them. They are packed with a lot of benefits you can also benefit from.