Can I find a printer with many paper trays?
April 12, 2007 10:30 PM   Subscribe

Printing documents using about 25 different pre-printed forms, mixing a4 and letter formats. Where can I find a printing system with about that many paper trays?

They count how many pages of each type they're going to need on the screen, collect and sort them manually and put them in the input tray. The required paper types (3-4 + white paper) change. Printing a single document, if no paper error has been made, takes 10 minutes total. Printing volume is about 2000 pages/month. I want to at least partially automatise the process.

The cheapest option would be to get a lot of printers with many paper trays. For example, the HP 4700n would cost $3300 with 6 trays, the HP 4250 $650 for 5 trays. This means I would need 4 or 5 printers, which isn't very practical.

I found an 8.5-tray module for HP printers, but they only handle one type of paper per printer. Linux is supported with minor hackery. The next step seems to be huge, high volume, expensive printers that have a maximum of only 12 paper trays.

Can I find a printer, or a machine that will sort the papers in printing order, with that many trays?

If not, is there software that can turn a cluster of three of those tower tray printers into a virtual printer, distributing letter and a4 forms between the 'real' printers? CUPS classes seems to only support 'mirrored' printers for redundancy.

Linux compatibility vastly preferred. Open source software a definite advantage.
posted by stereo to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Best answer: into a virtual printer, distributing letter and a4 forms between the 'real' printers?

Honestly, I think you'll find that choosing a printer is easier in the Print Setup dialog than choosing a paper type. And over the network, "choosing a printer" is "choosing a print queue".

So figure out based on cost what the most effective way to get 25 bins total is (25 one-bin refurb printers? Five 5-tray printers?) and then set up a print server with one queue for each printer/tray combination. Then when people need to print on form 48B-3n, they print to \\printserver\48B-3n and away they go.
posted by mendel at 6:33 AM on April 13, 2007

(or to ipp://printserver/48B-3n, to quell the inevitable "HE SAID LINUX!!!" complaints.)
posted by mendel at 6:34 AM on April 13, 2007

I have no hardware solution, but can I ask a couple things?

Why not maintain the 25+ pre-printed forms as digital images and print them as you need them, then drop those newly minted forms into the manual-feed source tray and print onto them right after. That should reduce the need to physically maintain and fetch from an organized archive of various pre-printed forms. Many printer/copiers support a Document Server function that will allow you to store a copy of a document on the machine itself for push-button printing, but barring that you can print from scanned copies at your workstation.

Is there anything unusual about these forms that would make it difficult to print them off as needed like this?

(The other Yeah But question: does anything prevent you from using something like Adobe Acrobat etc to create an electronic form that can be filled out prior to printing? Are you the/an end-user of the forms, or are you just printing blanks?)
posted by cortex at 6:36 AM on April 13, 2007

Going to have to agree with cortex, the plan you've laid out sounds remarkably inefficient by even 1990 standards. Assuming, however, there's no way you can fix the "system", I doubt you're going to find a single printer that fits your need. I honestly find it amusing that you'd find the system practical, yet having multiple printers to do the job is impractical. :)
posted by Spoonman at 11:58 AM on April 13, 2007

Many somewhat higher-end office laser printers have internal hard drives that you can store forms on. You select the form in the paper drop-down and the printer merges the form with whatever you're printing.
posted by scottnic at 3:37 PM on April 13, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you for your answers. I was simplifying the question - some papers are forms which I will indeed print, some are pre-signed papers, some are special impact-printed, thick paper for shares. Technically I could print those, legally I can't.
posted by stereo at 2:32 AM on April 14, 2007

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