Why would you need a fin­ish­er for wide for­mat tech­ni­cal docs?

Folded wide format documents

If you pro­duce wide for­mat tech­ni­cal doc­u­ments, you can use fin­ish­ers for a num­ber of rea­sons:

  • Dis­tri­b­u­tion – neat­ly fold­ed pack­ets are sim­ple to man­age, file, and dis­trib­ute. If you need to send out doc­u­ment sets, like bid sets, in stan­dard-sized envelopes or ship­ping box­es you would want all doc­u­ments in the set, which may be of mixed sizes, to fit the enve­lope or box. You could hand fold them – but, if you need to do that fre­quent­ly, it’ll be eas­i­er to have it done auto­mat­i­cal­ly.
  • Doc­u­ment stor­age – if you store doc­u­ments in ring binders, you should fold the doc­u­ments so they can be viewed with­out remov­ing them from the binders. The fin­ish­er for this appli­ca­tion must be able to punch pre­cise holes in the doc­u­ments. You can also fold doc­u­ments so that they can be stored in hang­ers.
  • Stream­lin­ing doc­u­ment pro­duc­tion – to auto­mate your dis­tri­b­u­tion process and reduce labor costs, errors, and turn­around time. If your engi­neers and archi­tects are hand-fold­ing their own doc­u­ments, you’re wast­ing a lot of mon­ey!

When you buy a fin­ish­er you should be sure that it will work with a spe­cif­ic print­er. Fin­ish­ers are most often pur­chased at the time the print­er is pur­chased – as an inte­grat­ed solu­tion. Some wide for­mat print­er man­u­fac­tur­ers offer their own fin­ish­ing equip­ment and there are many 3rd par­ty fin­ish­ing equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers who cer­ti­fy their solu­tions to work with a vari­ety of wide for­mat print­ers. See the end of this arti­cle for a list of fin­ish­ing solu­tion providers.

Fin­ish­ing for wide for­mat tech­ni­cal doc­u­ments

Fin­ish­ing for wide for­mat tech­ni­cal doc­u­ments dif­fers con­sid­er­ably than fin­ish­ing for wide for­mat graph­ic arts doc­u­ments. Graph­ic arts doc­u­ments often get lam­i­nat­ed, stitched, or mount­ed – depend­ing on their final appli­ca­tion. For wide for­mat tech­ni­cal doc­u­ments, fin­ish­ing usu­al­ly includes oper­a­tions for fold­ing, stack­ing, and fil­ing or bind­ing.

It is com­mon to refer to a fin­ish­er in the wide for­mat tech­ni­cal doc­u­ment mar­ket as a “fold­er” since fold­ing is its pri­ma­ry pur­pose. But it may also include oth­er oper­a­tions such as hole punch­ing for mount­ing the prints in binders or on hang­ers. They come in two basic con­fig­u­ra­tions:

  • Off-line – where an oper­a­tor pro­grams the fin­ish­er for a spe­cif­ic fold­ing style and then man­u­al­ly feeds print into it.
  • On-line – where the prints trav­el direct­ly from the print­er into the fin­ish­er. This is some­times called “in-line”. These can be set up as a sim­ple mechan­i­cal path from the print­er into a pre-pro­gramed fin­ish­er. Or, they can include bi-direc­tion­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions between the print­er and the fin­ish­er where the fold­ing style gets set by a user when send­ing the prints to the print­er. With­out bi-direc­tion­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion you run the risk of jam­ming the print­er if the fin­ish­ing device jams. With bi-direc­tion­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion, jams in the fin­ish­er should stop the print­er before a jam could occur there.

Fin­ish­ing Oper­a­tions


On the left is a stan­dard tech­ni­cal doc­u­ment laid out in land­scape form with the title block in the low­er right cor­ner.

On the right is that same doc­u­ment after it has been “fin­ished”. It has been fold­ed down to an eas­i­ly-han­dled pack­et. The num­bered lines on the flat draw­ing match the num­bered folds on the pack­et — they don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly indi­cate the sequence of folds.

You may want or need oth­er fin­ish­ing oper­a­tions besides sim­ple fold­ing. When you put fold­ed doc­u­ments in a binder – you’ll need to add a mar­gin and punch binder holes in that mar­gin. That affects how you fold the doc­u­ment. You may also want to place a rein­forc­ing strip or bind­ing tabs in that mar­gin area as well as punch the holes. Some man­u­fac­tur­ers offer tear-resis­tant, rein­forced bind­ing tabs that are pre-punched. Punch­ing and bind­ing oper­a­tions, all part of fin­ish­ing, require equip­ment in addi­tion to the basic fold­er. Con­sult the list of ven­dors at the end of this arti­cle for details about their punch­ing and bind­ing capa­bil­i­ties.

Thank­ful­ly, all the ven­dors who com­mon­ly sup­ply fin­ish­ing prod­ucts for the wide for­mat tech­ni­cal doc­u­ment mar­ket are experts with these needs and have equip­ment that can per­form all these oper­a­tions to suit your needs.

Fin­ish­ing Stan­dards

In the world­wide tech­ni­cal doc­u­ment mar­ket you’ll find two gen­er­al types of fin­ish­ing stan­dards: those based on wide for­mat print sizes and those based on pack­et sizes.

Print sizes

  • ISO – for the inter­na­tion­al, met­ric sizes:
    • A0 – 841mm x 1189mm
    • A1 – 594mm x 841mm
    • A2 – 420mm x 594mm
    • A3 – 297mm x 420mm
    • A4 – 210mm x 297mm (these don’t get fold­ed)

Fold­ed ISO pack­et sizes are approx­i­mate­ly A4 size (210mm x 297mm).

  • ANSI – for the US 11-inch series sizes:
    • E – 34” x 44”
    • D – 22” x 34”
    • C – 17” x 22”
    • B – 11” x 17”
    • A – 8.5” x 11” (these don’t get fold­ed)

Fold­ed ANSI pack­et sizes are approx­i­mate­ly 8 ½” x 11”.

  • ARCH – for the US “archi­tec­tur­al” sizes:
    • E – 36” x 48”
    • D – 24” x 36”
    • C – 18” x 24”
    • B – 12” x 18”
    • A – 9” x 12” (these don’t get fold­ed”

Fold­ed ARCH pack­et sizes are approx­i­mate­ly 9” x 12”.

Pack­et sizes

You’ll also find stan­dards defin­ing the over­all sizes of the fin­ished pack­ets. These are the com­mon stan­dards:

  • DIN 824 – a Ger­man nation­al stan­dard, but wide­ly used through­out the world for ISO-sized wide for­mat doc­u­ments. It includes:
    • DIN 824A – pro­duces a 210mm x 297mm pack­et with a 20mm mar­gin. You’ll find this stan­dard use­ful where you need a mar­gin for binder holes or labels. You can insert the fin­ished pack­et into a loose-leaf binder or a hang­ing fil­ing sys­tem along with A4-size doc­u­ments.
    • DIN 824B – pro­duces a 190 mm x 297 mm pack­et with no mar­gin. Func­tion­al­ly the same as the DIN 824A pack­et, but the full sheet size is avail­able for the doc­u­ment. You’ll find this one use­ful when you want to insert fold­ed doc­u­ments into A4-size file fold­ers or pock­ets.
    • DIN 824C – pro­duces a 210 mm x 297 mm pack­et with no mar­gin. Use this stan­dard pack­ets that are not bound.
  • ARCH (archi­tec­tur­al) folds – an infor­mal stan­dard (US, North Amer­i­ca) for archi­tec­tur­al print sizes to pro­duce 8½” x 11” or 9” x 12” pack­ets with no mar­gins.
  • ANSI folds – anoth­er infor­mal stan­dard for ANSI print sizes to pro­duce these pack­et sizes:
    • ANSI A – pack­et width of 7.5” with a one-inch mar­gin
    • ANSI B – pack­et width of 7.5” with­out a mar­gin
    • ANSI C – pack­et width of 8.5” with­out a mar­gin

Fold­ing Styles

You may also come across require­ments to fold prints in styles which are com­mon­ly used in var­i­ous coun­tries. Some of these are based on pub­lished stan­dards but most oth­ers are infor­mal, no mat­ter how com­mon­ly used.

Gener­ic fold­ing styles

  • 2-fold – sim­ply means “fold­ed in half”. With just a sin­gle fold, it’s the sim­plest fold and it’s used only for small print sizes, usu­al­ly B- or A3-sized.
  • 4-fold – fan-fold­ed in half and then cross-fold­ed in half again. This is a sim­ple fold which may be used when the fin­ished pack­ets are filed in fold­ers or pock­ets.
  • Book Fold – fold­ing a print so it can be placed in a loose-leaf binder for view­ing with­out remov­ing it from the binder. The Title Block must be face up on top and the bind­ing edge must also be face up on the bot­tom.
  • Flat Fold – used to reduce the num­ber of cross folds by mak­ing the cross-fold pan­els the same size. This may pro­duce a non-stan­dard size pack­et, but it may be eas­i­er to han­dle and file.
  • C-Fold – when the cross-folds are formed in the same direc­tion. This style tucks the last fold inside the pack­et and forms a neater pack­et.
  • Z-fold – where the cross-folds are in oppo­site direc­tions (accor­dion-like). With this style, the pack­et can have a bind­ing mar­gin par­al­lel to the cross fold which may be use­ful in hang­ing fil­ing sys­tems.
  • Land­scape fold – pro­duces a pack­et with a land­scape ori­en­ta­tion.

Named fold­ing styles

Named fold­ing styles gen­er­al­ly ref­er­ence coun­try-spe­cif­ic require­ments.

  • AFNOR style folds (includes French AFNOR style, True AFNOR, AFNOR-Like) – for fold­ing ISO-stan­dard sheet sizes (A0 to A3) to A4 size pack­ets (210 mm x 297 mm). The AFNOR style folds accom­mo­date draw­ings with the Title Block in the upper right cor­ner – com­mon­ly found in France.
  • French fold – used to fold 1188 x 900 mm prints to an A4 pack­et size (297 mm x 210 mm) or approx­i­mate A4 size (300 mm x 210 mm).
  • Eric­s­son fold – this fold accom­mo­dates draw­ings with the Title Block in the upper left cor­ner. Title blocks posi­tioned in the upper left cor­ner of the print are com­mon­ly found in the Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries.
  • Israel Fold – for the Israel mar­ket for fold­ing 914 mm-wide prints to a 305 mm + 305 mm + 304 mm pack­et.
  • 914 to A4 fold – this adds a third cross-fold for fold­ing 36” (914 mm)-wide prints to DIN stan­dard pack­ets.

Wide for­mat fin­ish­er ven­dors

Most wide for­mat print­er ven­dors offer their own fin­ish­ing equip­ment as well as print­ers. Fol­low­ing is a list of 3rd par­ty fin­ish­ing equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers. I high­ly rec­om­mend that you check all of these sites out — they’re the experts, and they offer equip­ment to meet all your wide fin­ish­ing needs: fold­ing, bind­ing, punch­ing, etc.


  1. John great work as ever..

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