Tape Dispensers

Manual Vs. Electric Tape Dispenser: Which Is Better?

By: Better Packages on July 23rd, 2019

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Manual vs Electric WAT Dispensers

We are frequently asked which water-activated tape dispenser is better - electric or manual. And there’s really only one answer - it depends.  

“Better” can mean a lot of different things to different businesses - better price point, better efficiency in application, better for traveling around the warehouse with...the list goes on. 

In this post, we attempt to cover the key details and considerations that may make either a manual or electric dispenser the better choice for your business. 

You’ve likely already decided that gummed paper tape (also known as water-activated tape) is the right fit for your business needs

Now it’s time to get familiar with the features that are available on various dispensers so that you can choose the one that works best for your application.


Manual Tape Dispensers 

A manual water-activated tape (WAT) dispenser is a non-electric machine that assists the packer’s manual process of wetting the tape and cutting the desired length. 

There are several varieties of manual dispensers from which to choose.


The most basic model requires the packer to pull the tape over a wet brush and then manually tear the tape by pulling it against the blade housed within the machine.

Other manual gummed paper tape dispensers, such as the one pictured here, called the Better Pack 333 Plus, go a bit further with assisting the packer.

These more advanced machines have an adjustable numbered scale (available in inches and centimeters) and a lever that the packer pulls to have the tape wet and cut to length by the machine. With this, the user simply sets the desired length of tape and pulls the lever to get the indicated measurements quickly and nearly effortlessly. Dispensers are available with or without electricity, depending upon operational needs. 


  • Lower cost than electric WAT dispensers
  • Do not require electricity to function 
  • Great for packing stations without electricity
  • Great for packing stations that require mobility for the machine
  • Increase efficiency for the packing and shipping process
  • Great for low to mid volume packaging stations
  • Require little to no operator training


  • Does require minimal manual effort by the packer in order to operate

To learn more about the benefits of manual water-activated tape dispensers, check out this blog post


Electric Tape Dispensers

An electric water-activated tape dispenser is a powered machine that wets and cuts the tape to a desired length, removing manual effort for the packer. 

Electric tape dispensers come in a variety of configurations and different features and benefits.


They are easy to use and have keypads that indicate that length of tape for packers to choose from. To dispense the tape, the packer simply presses a button and the tape dispenses immediately.

The best machines are durable, safe and perform efficiently in demanding or harsh working environments, such as the Better Pack 555 shown above. Differentiating features among machines depend on whether it is certified or built to the specifications of a certification company like Underwriters’ Laboratory, the tape’s speed of being dispensed, the length and the width of the tape that the machine can accommodate and the number of length buttons on the keypad.


  • Extremely efficient for packing and shipping stations
  • Great for high-volume, fast-paced packaging environments
  • Durable
  • Customizable
  • Require very little operator training
  • Reduces employee risk


  • More expensive than manual WAT dispensers
  • Requires electricity in order to operate

To learn more about the benefits of electric water-activated tape dispenser, check out our highlight of the Better Pack 755e or this blog post.


Factors To Help You Decide 

Variables to consider when making a decision between purchasing a manual versus electric water-activated tape dispenser include:

  • The number of cartons you are sealing per day. A rule of thumb is if you are packing more than 50 to 75 cartons per day (or if you see your business growing past that packing level in the near term), you will want the ease and productivity that an electric WAT dispenser offers.

  • Do you have electricity near the pack station? If you don’t, a manual is the right choice.

All in all, if you have a high volume carton shipping department with access to electricity, an electric tape dispenser is the way to go. The extra expense will be well worth it with the efficiency and safety improvements you will see in your packing and shipping station. 

To help you decide which dispenser is right for you, click below and we’ll provide you with dispenser recommendations based upon your situation.