Flatbed vs. Sheetfed Scanner – Differences and Similarities

When was the last time you tried to invest in the scanner? You probably struggled with understanding the functions and features of different models out there, right? Well, this guide solves part of your problem by giving a quick rundown on the popular flatbed vs. sheetfed scanner argument.

While both machines are scanners, they both have different functions, benefits, and drawbacks. You have to be aware of all these features before making any informed investment.

Luckily, this guide should help, so let us get started.

What Does Flatbed Scanner Mean?

A flatbed scanner refers to a scanner that comes with an optical mechanism for processing documents. Usually, the scanner can capture all elements on a document, and users don’t have to adjust its position.

Flatbed scanners are also ideal for processing delicate documents, including photographs, papers, and various other fragile documents. A flatbed scanner guarantees ease of use because it requires no intervention from the users.

Most high-end printers feature adjustable lids, which users can customize so the printer can scan dense documents. It might also feature a transparent media adapter, which only exists in flatbed scanners.

Such functions mean that flatbed scanners can scan resources such as film and glass negatives. Some flatbed scanners also come with additional features such as wireless functions and automatic document feeders.

The flatbed scanners are also famous for providing high-quality scans. That is because they can scan significantly dense objects, thus making them more versatile than other alternatives. There is also a reduced risk of document damage when using flatbed scanners because there is no movement in the process.

When compared to a sheet scanner which only functions well with paper documents, flatbed scanners are dynamic. These printers can accept different content types, including books, magazines, and various other thick materials.

What is A Sheetfed Scanner

A sheetfed scanner, which also goes by the name ADF scanner, is a digital data processing system that you can scan different types of documents. It’s widespread among organizations and businesses that have large amounts of documents to process.

Usually, people use different features to compare the functions of the traditional sheetfed scanners. Some standard features to consider include speed, duty cycle rating, and the duplex functions of the scanner.

Physically, sheetfed scanners tend to have the same appearance as an inkjet or compact laser printer. The main reason for this is because these machines have almost the same document processing mechanisms.

Regardless of their dynamism and speed, sheetfed scanners have various drawbacks. Usually, they can’t process large-sized or fragile documents. Plus, they also cant scan content such as magazines or books because they don’t feature robust image sensors.

Types of Sheetfed Scanners

You have to realize the sheetfeed scaneners are available in different types. The one that suits your needs depend on various factors such as document processing functions. Usually, sheetfed scanners feature an “Automatic Document Feeder” mechanism, and can be in the form of:

A.   Reverse Automatic Document Feeders (RADF)

RDF scanners are almost the same as simplex scanners and can scan a single section of a document. For the other section of a document, users may have to adjust the positioning of the document to complete the process.

B.   Single Pass Automatic Document Feeder (SADF)

The SADF types will transmit a page or sheet through a feed using a single process. The machine can also capture each side of the document, and this process can occur simultaneously.  Many scanner brands prefer single-pass types due to the convenience and ease of use.

What are the Similarities and Differences Between Flatbed and Sheetfed Scanners?

Both of the scanners share various similarities and differences. Let us start with the similarities:


1.    Can Process Large Amounts of Documents

Both scanners work well for processing large amounts of documents. The sheet feed scanners achieve this because they only have the specialization for processing basic documents fast. The flatbed scanners achieve this because users don’t have to adjust the position of each document. That means both printer brands can support duplex functionality.

2.    Ease of Use

Both printers will process documents automatically, without any intervention required from the user. Therefore, both printers are convenient, making them ideal for settings that need fast document processing.


There are differences that flatbed vs. sheet scanners share, including:

1.    Space

Flatbed scanners tend to be compact, and this means they will likely take minimal space than the sheetfed types. The sheetfed scanner types require additional room to accommodate components such as the feeder and the tray. However, a flatbed scanner is much better because it does not have room for these components.

2.    Media

Sheetfed scanners are not able to scan content such as books or documents. The only content sheetfed scanners can support include unattached pieces of paper. The flatbed scanners can scan any document that you can place on the glass platform. These can include documents such as paintings, drawings, graph reports, and various other types.

3.    Speed

Sheetfed scanners are ideal when you want to process a large number of papers or documents. The flatbeds require intervention from users, which has to occur manually instead of through automatic procedures. Thus, this increases the amount of time needed for these printers to function for document scanning applications.

4.    Cost

Both flatbed and sheetfed scanners tend to fall in the same price category. However, expect the former scanner versions to be more expensive than their counterparts. The main reason for this is their better document processing qualities and various helpful additional features.


Overall, the flatbed vs. sheetfed scanner argument ends with your unique preferences in document processing. The sheetfed types are ideal for processing large amounts of simple documents, making them perfect for businesses. The flatbed types are also suitable for large quantities of documents but tend to be relatively slower than the sheetfed types. However, expect better quality from the flatbed types and a slightly higher cost.