Cut-sheet vs. Continuous Feed Roll Fed Printers

Cut-sheet vs. Continuous Feed Roll Fed Printers

When printing for professional applications, it is important to choose the appropriate printer and paper feeding method that suits your most common print jobs.

What is Cut-sheet vs. Continuous Feed Paper?

To clarify what is a continuous feed printer, you must first learn what the difference is between the types of paper used in cut-sheet vs. continuous feed applications.

Cut-sheet Paper – This type of media is a precut “free sheet” bundled into a ream of 500 sheets and often sold by ream or case in varying weights, coatings and colors. The common sizes are 8.5×11, 8.5×14 and 11×17 but other sizes are available to assist with full bleed print applications. Cut-sheet paper works in laser and inkjet printers that are built with paper tray drawers or feeding trays that accept the varying sizes of cut-sheet paper.

Continuous Feed Paper – Also known as continuous form paper may come in an accordion-like stack, with each sheet connected to the other by a perforated edge. Continuous feed paper also comes with side margins lined with ⅛” holes, which can also be torn away via a perforated edge. It is often used today in roll fed inkjet production printers that are used most often for high monthly volumes of 1.5M-25M pages of variable data applications, color books, personalized catalogs, trans-promo and direct mail applications.

Cut-sheet Presses

Production digital color print has been growing since the first toner-based color products entered the market in the 1990s. Much of this has been driven by cut-sheet designs, including the Xerox’s DocuColor and iGen product lines. InfoTrends has forecasted that production color digital print volume will continue to grow for toner-based products. Digital print is well-suited for on demand or the just-in-time production of promotional and publication applications. Part of this is due to varying run lengths, volume levels, and the range of required substrates make it difficult to address these workflows with roll-fed devices. Cut-sheet inkjet devices bring another level of application flexibility to on-demand workflows including those that require a higher color gamut at cost levels lower than digital. The flexibility between cut-sheet and roll-fed inkjet results from the fact that more than one stock is easily available from the multiple drawers that are typical of cut-sheet designs. One job can have a different stock from the previous one. Cover sheets or dividers can be inserted. A finished job can be pulled immediately from the output unit.

Roll-Fed Inkjet

The arrival of high-speed, color roll-fed inkjet devices in 2008 has since resulted in large amounts of print volume for applications like transactional documents, direct mail, and books. These roll-fed systems are designed for many millions of page impressions per month and, as a result, a relatively small installed base has generated significant volumes. The cost of roll-fed technology is high but the cost per page is lower than digital, so it makes sense for very high-volume shops and shops with multiples offset presses.
As a matter of fact, inkjet has per-page costs approaching offset. Pressure for increased competitiveness and lower margins has driven tighter lead times. One inkjet device can often replace multiple Xerographic presses, streamlining workflows to produce more jobs in less space and time while reducing overhead costs. Inkjet also bypasses the time-consuming processes required for offset press setup, unlocking more productive shift time for commercial print operations.

Choosing the Right Printing Method

Before purchasing any new or refurbished xerox printers, X-Digital can help you evaluate which printer type can most benefit your business. While both cut-sheet and continuous feed printers have their benefits, choosing the wrong category for your business can cost you financially and affect production speed and quality
To choose the right printing method, we must take four main factors into consideration in regards to the comparison of printer types:

  • Volume of Print Job
  • Printing Speed
  • Print Quality Requirements
  • Printing Application including

Volume of Print Job

Volume is one of the most important considerations for choosing between a cut-sheet or continuous feed printer because it can determine the financial implications of each printer type. Because continuous feed devices are generally more expensive, they only become cost-effective at higher volumes. Your business will benefit from a continuous feed printer if you are looking at printing around 2 million or more monthly impressions. These powerful printers can easily handle up to 40 million monthly impressions to meet your business demands.
Continuous feed printers are ideal for printing at extremely high volumes in a short time span, compared to cut-sheet printers that would take about three times as long to do the same job.

Printing Speed
Before discussing print speed, you must first decode two common terms used in discussing speed and quality of a print:

    • Pages per Minute (ppm) – The higher a printer’s ppm, the faster it can print. Production cut-sheet printers generally range between 80-340 ppm.
    • Feet per Minute (fpm) and Meters per Minute i.e., Production roll fed printers generally range between 210-656 feet per minute which equates to approximately 3-25M pages per month. To compare ppm with fpm, consider a letter size simplex/one sided example: 157 feet per minute (48 meters per minute) equals page throughput of approximately 342 ppm.While cut-sheet printers have seen significant development in speed and production in the past half-decade, continuous feed printers still show significantly faster throughput speeds. Continuous feed printing boasts a speed of up to 1716 PPM while maintaining a print quality of 1200 dpi, compared to cut-sheet printing, which has a speed of around 130 PPM with a print quality of 4800 dpi.

The reason for this disparity is that feeding cut-sheet paper through a printer past its upper limit of PPM can result in paper jams, unpredictable paper control, and handling difficulties. Registration on continuous feed devices is tight 0.3 mm, registration on cut-sheet is 0.65 mm. Continuous feed printers can handle stocks in a wide range of widths while maintaining their impressive speed.


Cut-sheet printers often boast a higher print quality, which is reflected in print density and clarity.

Dots per inch (dpi) – Density/resolution

  • Cut-sheet digital- Color 2400 x 2400 dpi with 10-bit RIP delivering four times more pixels than other presses utilizing Xerox® EA Toner and VCSEL ROS for sharpness, detailed shadows and bright highlights. Mono devices offering quality at 4800 x 600 dpi/156 lpi, on a wide range of coated, uncoated and specialty stocks.
  • Cut-sheet inkjet- Ultra HD Resolution: The combination of 1200 x 1200 dpi x 10-bit RIP rendering and 2400 x 2400 dpi x 1-bit print imaging yields Ultra High Definition (HD) that grabs serious attention.
  • Roll-fed inkjet- 360×600, 600×600 up to 1200×600 depending on five drop volumes of liquid: 3, 6, 9, 11, 13 picoliters and generally the higher the speed, the lower the dpi.

Printing Application

When choosing a printer type, use this handy rule-of-thumb to guide your decision:

  • Applications of Cut-sheet Printers – Because cut-sheet printers usually come with multiple sheet trays, they are well-suited for jobs that demand a variety of paper stocks all in one document. If you want to print using standard and colored papers, covers, and tabs all at once, cut-sheet printing is right for you.
  • Applications of Continuous Feed Printers – Unlike their cut-sheet colleague, continuous feed printers are made to handle high-volume, fast prints all from a single type of stock. Not only can these printers deal with a lot of paper, but they are also great for printing at a wider range of paper weights, from as light as 10# bond to as heavy as 54# bond.

Final Thoughts

Is your decision getting a bit clearer? If you need more help, X-Digital has a wide array of new and refurbished printers for you to choose from. Think of your business’s quality, speed, and volume and use this helpful guide to start the conversation with X-Digital to pick the right printer for you. Either way, X-Digital has many impressive options to help you enhance your business and reach your goals.
Happy printing!

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