Worldcolor (now part of Quad/Graphics), which manufactures nearly one billion books per year, chose the SigmaLine in-line digital book manufacturing solution for its Dubuque, IA facility. Muller Martini has partnered with Kodak on the advanced finishing system for the Prosper 5000XL inkjet web press. SigmaLine technology interconnects prepress, digital printing and finishing in a total system that permits fully automated production from a PDF to a finished book in a single operation, says Muller Martini. Worldcolor has dubbed the system “FastBook Digital.” Supported by as few as two operators, it offers a shorter-run, quicker-turn production option for publishers seeking to decrease book obsolescence waste, reduce forecasting risks and better manage book inventories, says the mega printer.
Worldcolor/Quad’s mid-2010 installation of SigmaLine components included a fully format variable signature folder, collator for book block creation, and a perfect binding line with SigmaBinder, SigmaTower and SigmaTrimmer. The firm’s SigmaBuffer intelligently decouples the print, fold, and collating operations from binding and trimming while simultaneously connecting them in-line. The total digital solution is managed by Muller Martini’s end-to-end Connex workflow system.
One of the key features of the digital solution is its scalable capabilities, which allow printers to seamlessly expand their SigmaLine configurations to address both today’s and tomorrow’s printing requirements. For example, before adding the SigmaLine signature folding/collating technology and the Prosper 5000XL press featuring Kodak’s Stream inkjet technology, Worldcolor had implemented the perfect binding line within its existing digital operation. “We recognize that the productivity demanded by inkjet digital technology warrants the highly unique capabilities of the in-line SigmaLine solution,” says Gary Durand, operations EVP of Quad/Worldcolor. The system produces up to 1,000 books an hour in color and black-and-white with quality levels and a price point superior to many conventional short-run book manufacturing applications, say its developers. Run lengths up to 3,500 copies are expected to show customer benefits when compared to traditional alternatives.
As previously reported in Printing News (Dec. 2010), book printer Offset Paperback Manufacturers (OPM), Dallas, PA, a $350 million Bertelsmann unit, has invested some $5 million in its inkjet web digital production platform, which includes two Kodak Prosper models (a monochrome 1000 and a color 5000XL) as well a $ 2 million in-line bindery set-up from Muller Martini.
In Toronto, Webcom’s Mike Collinge turned the digital finishing speed challenge into his $50-million book printing firm’s new strategy. The CEO recalls seeing the new inkjet web presses at Drupa 08. “We realized [then] what we needed was a full manufacturing solution, through to bound product,” Collinge says. The Webcom management team conducted research and did due diligence for 18 months before opting for the HP and Magnum Flex Book combination to comprise its Book FWD program – part of a $12 million overall investment in their 180,000-square-foot operation. The T300 inkjet web was installed in late 2009, making Webcom only the eighth printer worldwide to use the new HP technology for book manufacturing production. One year later, Webcom added a Flex Book line from Magnum Digital Solutions. Flex Book provides an efficient method for the production of fused, easy-to-handle book blocks. Using cut-sheet technology, it produces a high-quality book block sans the common shingling and bottling problems found in folding technologies employing signature solutions.
“Low/no makeready is key,” Collinge told Graphic Monthly (Canada) recently. Simotion software enables Book Flex to offer automated, zero-makeready changeovers for same-size, same-paper formats. Webcom marks only the second installation of the revolutionary book-block system worldwide. (CPI Quantum installed the first, in France, earlier in 2010, and at least three other machines have since been sold.) Book blocks are made durable utilizing Flex Book’s digitally controlled sinusoidal (sine wave) fusing technology that ensures smooth repetitive oscillation. Blocks can be fed in-line to a binding system or off-line. Plus, cut sheets minimize standard trim waste requirements.
The Flex Book system is engineered for 24/7 use and was designed with the future of digital printing in mind, says Magnum. It is capable of a web width up to 43 inches (up to 8-ribbon processing) and speeds up to 800 feet per minute and features flexibility in product sizes ranging from 4 inches to 10.5 inches wide and 6 inches to 12 inches long. Timson, in the U.K., is developing a similar technology, which it calls the T-Book finishing system.