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Tractor Feed vs Roller-to-Roller
Jul 27, 2017
     There are many reasons for choosing to print on continuous paper instead of sheet paper. For example, when printing very important documents which should be kept in serial order, continuous paper has less risk of mistakes than sheet paper. Moreover, when the print-out needs to be sent out for subsequent processing, there are more options in the market for continuous paper than for sheet paper. So, how does one choose between tractor feed and roller-to-roller printers?
Tractor Feed Printers (for Fanfold Media with Sprocket Holes):
     Tractor feed is also referred to as pin feed. Tractor feeders of printers allow accurate printing on every page and every job, which is a desirable feature for printing on pre-printed forms. Implementing a stacker makes the system more comprehensive as the user does not need to reload the media for every job. The tractor feeder would load the media by itself, and the stacker ensures the output is properly organized. It is an ideal solution for printing scenarios with a mixture of short jobs and long jobs without requiring operator involvement. Besides labels, conventional billing printers are also tractor-feed, so such printers can be used for printing both labels and billing data. 
Roller-to-Roller Printers (for Paper Rolls)
     Roll media is usually used for line production. After printing, the whole output roll may undergo more steps in a finishing process, such as lamination, die-cutting, slitting, etc. Short-run users might simply use die-cut media in order to skip all the finishing process. However, the media needs to be marked to ensure accurate printing, and this process might increase the media cost.

    The following graphs show the differences between operation of pin feed and roll-to-roll printers. With pin feed printers, the operator does not need to reload the paper for a new job, whereas with roller-to-roller printers, the operator has to reload the printer once the paper is cut. Unless the working environment allows for waiting to collect "enough jobs" and printing them at once, pin feed printers usually saves much more manpower for short jobs than roller-to-roller ones!

     Printing labels in-house seem to be a trend. Time is money. For all operations and businesses, fast reaction is desirable in daily work and in the market. Also, printing in-house better ensures the security of the information. Therefore, pre-die-cut labels are quite popular lately. Below is a comparison between pre-die-cut fanfold media (tractor-feed/pin-feed) and pre-die-cut paper roll media:

FanfoldPaper Rolls
Pretreatment for the MediaNoneGap/black marks required
Minimal Operator Involvement
Average Job Length
Less Than 100 m (~340 A4 Pages)
Random Short Jobs
Billing / Statistic Data