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What Is an Automatic Document Feeder?

Eduardo Vasconcellos
Eduardo Vasconcellos

Printers, copiers or fax machines equipped with an automatic document feeder optimize your paperwork and bookkeeping processes.

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

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What is an automatic document feeder?

An automatic document feeder (ADF) is a mechanism found on devices like printers, fax machines, photocopiers, and scanners that feeds multiple sheets of paper into a scanner or copier to copy, print, or fax multipage documents in a single operation. An ADF is a common feature on most multifunction or all-in-one printers to help relieve people from waiting for a printing job to complete.

There are a few different types of ADF functionality, providing a substantial 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 ultra-fast ADF that can scan up to 200 pages per minute, you’ll be liberated from the time it takes to complete the tedious task of scanning documents.

Did You Know?

An ADF also helps maintain accuracy when scanning documents by ensuring that each sheet is fed into the device straight, resulting in an aligned document.

How does an ADF work?

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. For a printer, on the other hand, an ADF guides paper to the printing heads to produce a physical document.

However, some ADFs are more advanced. They scan both sides of a document, or process more documents in a fraction of the time. A reversing automatic document feeder (RADF), for example, 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% 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.

What are the benefits of an ADF?

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.

For a developer building new software featuring optical character recognition (OCR) technologies, an ADF is an endlessly useful tool to input data quickly and conduct stress tests on the application. With the minor miscalculations found in the scans, developers can then make the adjustments they need to update their software to capture the right information with minimal errors.

When you have a high-quality scanner equipped with a high-capacity ADF, a financial institution can quickly collect the customer information it needs to conduct KYC processes and confirm compliance to every customer it serves. A bank could perform the same checks manually, but that method is more a relic from before the 1990s, when you would wait hours for confirmations to come through. More importantly, those lengthy wait times often result in a negative customer experience or waste a company’s valuable time and resources.

For a business upgrading its overall infrastructure, digitizing old documents is a common way to create an accurate record of past company activities. However, because of the time limitations involved, it’s nearly impossible to do if you only have access to a single-sheet document feeder. In these instances, a high-volume, high-speed scanner is needed to quickly create digital copies of physical documents. Some of the more expensive machines have an ADF capacity for as much as 500 sheets, so you can come back later and reload your scanner.

Bottom Line

In addition to saving time and resources, ADFs help companies efficiently digitize old documents, software developers test new software, and financial institutions conduct know-your-customer background checks for verification purposes.

Who can benefit from an ADF?

Pretty much anyone can benefit from a printer, scanner, copier or a fax machine equipped with an ADF. The cost of having an ADF versus a single-page, manual feeder is so negligible that it’s almost always worth the upgrade. You can get a device with an ADF for as little as $50 from your local office supply store, or depending on your need, you can get a top-of-the-line scanner with all the bells and whistles for a considerably higher cost. [Find out whether buying or leasing an office copier is best for you.]

Anyone from a healthcare provider to a banker can benefit from the fast scanning, faxing, copying and printing that an ADF can perform. And as automation, OCR, and AI technologies advance, an ADF-equipped device could be the key that unlocks a new level of business insights by allowing you to quickly digitize all of the records for any organization.

Image Credit: shironosov / Getty Images
Eduardo Vasconcellos
Eduardo Vasconcellos
Contributing Writer
Eduardo Vasconcellos is a veteran copywriter, creative content producer and marketing communications specialist with over two decades experience, able to take complex concepts and turn them into something simple and memorable. By focusing on customer psychology and product benefits, his specialty is crafting full marketing campaigns that follow industry best practices while authentically speaking to a customer’s need.