Automatic Document Feeders Explained

When you have one- or two-page documents to copy or scan, handling the task manually is simple and quick. However, if you have longer documents with 10, 50 or even hundreds of pages, standing at the copy machine or scanner and manually inserting each page one by one is quite time-consuming. To streamline the process, the best copiers, scanners and multifunction printers include automatic document feeders that do the work for you.

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Automatic Document Feeders Explained

An automatic document feeder (ADF) is a mechanism found on devices like printers, fax machines, scanners and photocopiers. ADFs are handy when you have multiple sheets of paper to deal with and can be a crucial element of document management. 

An ADF is a standard feature on most multifunction or all-in-one printers; it takes the burden off employees who otherwise would have to monitor a printing job and ensure every page is handled correctly. 

When it comes to scanning, ADFs are a significant upgrade to the old flatbed scanners that could only read a single document at a time ― a process that could take up to 30 seconds per sheet. With an ultrafast ADF that can scan up to 200 pages per minute, you’ll be liberated from the tedious, time-consuming task of scanning documents.

Mechanically, an ADF operates by guiding a sheet of paper through a series of rollers and into an exit tray. For example, on a scanner, rollers guide a sheet over the scanner flatbed or platen to capture the image and send it to your PC. On a printer, an ADF guides paper to the printing heads to produce a physical document.

However, some ADFs are more advanced. They can scan both sides of a document or process more documents in a fraction of the time. For example, a reversing automatic document feeder (RADF) feeds a document through a scanner’s platen, flips it and feeds it through the scanner again to get a copy of both sides of any sheet of paper.

A dual-scan document feeder (DSDF) is another, more expensive type of ADF. It costs more because it has multiple scanning surfaces to capture both sides of a document in one pass. Since there’s less movement for the original document, it can complete a scan in about 70 percent less time than a RADF.

If you frequently scan large amounts of double-sided documents, a dual-scan document feeder allows you to complete any workload in a fraction of the time. Of course, when you use higher resolutions to scan, the longer things take.

The benefits of an ADF are far more extensive than you would initially believe. Aside from allowing for faster scanning and printing, the advantages you get from an ADF can trickle into software testing, know-your-customer (KYC) background checks, financial compliance and the digitization of a company’s records.

Here are a few examples of an ADF’s benefits in various industries:

If your business digitizes documents using a scanner, you can more easily share documents, store information safely and meet compliance regulations.

Individuals and professionals in any sector can benefit from a business copier, printer, scanner or fax machine equipped with an ADF. The cost of having an ADF vs. a single-page, manual feeder is so negligible that it’s almost always worth the upgrade.  

Anyone from a healthcare provider to a banker can benefit from the fast scanning, faxing, copying and printing an ADF delivers. As automation, OCR and artificial intelligence technologies advance, an ADF-equipped device could be the key that unlocks a new level of business insights by allowing you to quickly digitize any organization’s records.

An ADF-equipped scanner can help you transition your business into a paperless office and conduct operations more securely.

You may pay anywhere from $100 to tens of thousands for various new devices with ADFs. However, most companies should generally expect to pay between $500 and $1,500 for a robust ADF-equipped device.

ADF device costs vary according to numerous factors, including the following: 

Many reputable and well-established electronics equipment manufacturers make ADF devices. A handful of the best-value and most-capable scanners with automatic document feeders include the following:

Fujitsu fi-8170 document scanner (around $1,000)

Fujitsu fi-8270 document and image scanner (around $1,650)

Fujitsu ScanSnap overhead simplex scanner SV600 (around $650)

Canon DR-M160II document scanner (around $1,000)

Epson DS-6500 document scanner (around $1,100)

Avision AD240U simplex scanner (around $495)

Mark Fairlie contributed to this article.

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Automatic Document Feeders Explained

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