Special Report: Binding

As printers try to squeeze every ounce of efficiency out of their shops, especially in this tough economic environment, one spot on their radar continues to be the bindery. It is usually when the job is ready to go out the door and too many hands are needed to complete the post-press finishing, resulting in a bottleneck.

Bindery manufacturers are quite attune to these problems, and are continually introducing new products to provide more efficiency, more flexibility, and more high-value jobs to help printers differentiate themselves from their competitors.

While the rest of the printshop has been integrated using JDF workflow technology, the bindery has, for the most part, been left behind. But that’s no longer the case. Launching in June, Heidelberg will introduce its Prinect Postpress Manager, the first system that allows full-service print shops to integrate finishing machines fully into their workflow. Working in harmony with the Prinect modules, it ensures a uniquely efficient overall workflow. Postpress processes can be transparently displayed to all parties involved, allocated to particular machines and effectively speeded up. Central acquisition of machine and job data also enables precise actual costing.

“Prinect Postpress Manager will link an entire printer’s systems into one seamless workflow,” said Dan Maurer, vice president of postpress marketing for Heidelberg. “Prinect will collect the information from a job ticket or management information system (MIS), integrate it electronically and pre-schedule the job into the bindery workflow. This will help printers optimize their production planning, and group their jobs together while sending all of this data to their MIS for better job costing, reducing set-up time and job ticket errors and faster turnaround.” Heidelberg will demonstrate the new module at Print 09 this fall.

Reading Up on Changes

The book manufacturing industry has been going through changes as well. Digital printing is starting to create a paradigm shift in how books are produced, said Andy Fetherman, manager of on-demand solutions for Muller Martini. “It started with the need to produce old books from a back list,” he noted, “but now digital printing has moved into mainstream book production. We’re seeing a shift from offset printing book production to digital because of the increased speed and quality of digital printing systems.”

Responding to this growth, Muller Martini put its research and development teams to the task of providing high-quality inline bindery solutions to digital print systems, in which the book could be finished without anyone touching it. The outcome? Muller Martini’s SigmaLine digital book-making production. “We launched SigmaLine conservatively, and have 30 systems around the world,” said Fetherman. “We’ll be launching it in the U.S. at Print 09 later this year.”

SigmaLine is a modular system that produces high-quality, digitally printed books, and offers short lead times—from short to medium runs, or books-on-demand. It networks digital printing and finishing in one complete system, allowing fully automated production in one operation, from the roll to the completed book. This consistent integration of all component processes enables short runs to be produced extremely quickly and economically.

Digital book production remains a particularly fast-growing segment served by Standard Finishing Systems as well. “Standard anticipates continued migration of analog book production to digital, as cost-per-image drops and image quality improves further,” said Mark Hunt, Standard’s director of marketing. “The run-length tipping point line between analog and digital shifts in favor of digital every year and perfectly acceptable color has arrived for critical application categories such as textbooks. We see continued strong growth and demand in digital book production, and believe our intelligently automated perfect binding lines are well positioned to help printers make this transition profitably.”

At the On Demand Expo this month, Standard introduced the Horizon BQ-270C perfect binder, featuring a color touchscreen that prompts the operator for key parameters, and an integrated digital caliper that measures and transfers thickness data—the most frequently changing book variable—to the binder. The fully-automated 270C can begin setting up for the next book while it completes binding the previous one, ensuring minimal time-loss due to set-up for short or even single-edition runs.

Standard also introduced new accessories for its Horizon BQ-470 four-clamp binder, which features interchangeable EVA/PUR adhesive tanks. Operators can use the SI-470 digital caliper to measure book thickness and automatically transfer this data to the binder for automated set-up. And the PM-470 Pre-melt tank provides longer runs between adhesive replenishment.

Demonstrating the Systems

Short-run perfect-bound books were produced on the On Demand Expo show floor at the C.P. Bourg booth. The Bourg BB3002 perfect binders in EVA and PUR configurations for economical production of short-run perfect-bound books were on display.

The Bourg BST10-d+ suction tower collator was connected to a new stitch/fold/trim bookletmaker capable of handling 14.5 x 23.5-inch output—the largest sheet size currently produced by digital printers. A new and highly automated sheet feeder was connected to a Bourg BDF document finisher and a Baum K20 knife folder, demonstrating high-efficiency finishing to reduce mailing costs. C.P. Bourg also featured Baum AutoSet and tabletop folders, and a Baum 26.5-inch cutter in its booth.

“Productivity is a key requirement in production finishing today,” said Richard Trapilo, executive vice president and general manager at C.P. Bourg. “All the products we [showed] at On Demand 2009 are high-quality, innovative and efficient tools designed to help users in traditional, digital and mixed production environments to turn print on paper into quality finished products faster and better.”

Digital Is the Name of the Game

Another bindery manufacturer integrating its equipment with digital presses is Rollem International. The firm recently premiered its Jetstream finishing inline with an HP Indigo 7000 digital press. Jetstream accepts a postcard sheet directly from the coating unit of the press. Its new auto-scan applies registration and accuracy to the printed image, followed by the auto-collation feature that gathers the finished cards into sets. The 10-up postcard sheet can be printed, coated, trimmed, cut, collated, and delivered in packs—all in one uninterrupted process.

The Jetstream can be configured to run in-line, off-line and near-line by rolling each section into the configuration the application requires. It is ideally suited for high-volume production, and has several back-end options including folding, plough folding, gluing, collating, die cutting and various types of packaging machines.

Bringing Binding In-House

In today’s competitive market, print shops are seeking any advantage they can find to be more efficient and keep revenue streams within their own firms. The bindery is typically one of the least efficient areas, and postpress manufacturers are responding.

“Printers are finding that if they install a piece of new equipment, like a die cutter, they can gain higher margin jobs,” said Heidelberg’s Maurer. “We like to call it the ‘wow’ factor in a marketing piece where a printer produces a stitched book in the shape of an apple. Something special that attracts attention.”

In response, Heidelberg introduced two new die-cutting and embossing machines. At drupa 2008, the Dymatrix 106 Pro was introduced. It features a link-up to Heidelberg Logistics, and delivers high-quality die-cutting with accurate register, operator-friendliness, and a stripping station that removes even the smallest pieces. And the new Varimatrix 105 is designed as an entry-level model to provide quality, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness with high productivity and minimum makeready times. It provides consistent precise sheet infeed and direct switch-over of side lays from pull to push mode.

To help printers with high volumes and frequent job changes, MBO America introduced the T535 EA (21-inch) buckle folder at last fall’s Graph Expo. The T 535 is ideal for processing short runs and multiple changeovers that demand frequent machine resetting. The folder is also equipped with a 15-inch color touchscreen with Vario-Control to simplify set-up with a clear visual operator guide.

MBO’s Rapidset provides automation for buckle plates, fold rollers, and slitter shafts. It is available with a pile feeder or continuous feeder, and can be equipped with six buckle plates, gatefold plate, double stream device, noise hoods, and various trimming devices.

Other Postpress Advances

In February, MBM Corp. introduced programmable creasers and folders. The Creasematic 150 and Auto 50 creasers, and the Creasefold on-line folder, add capability and versatility to any bindery operation. Documents printed on heavy or coated stock can now be creased prior to folding, creating a crisper, more accurate fold, and digitally printed jobs with heavy coverage can be folded without cracking.

The Creasematic 150 is a manual feed, entry-level machine that can accommodate sheet sizes up to 39 inches and operates at speeds up to 2,000 sheets per hour. The Creasematic Auto 50 uses an automatic, bottom feed suction system designed for continuous high volume operation. It has 99 memory settings and can crease up to 5,500 sheets per hour. Both come with two creasing tools that allow the setting of four widths and an in-line perforating system.

Rollem introduced Advantage, a new suction-feeding scoring, slitting, trimming and perforating system. Ideal for both short to mid-run digital and offset work, Advantage allows a printer to perform multiple processes with a single operator, greatly reducing labor expenses and increasing profits. It offers the ability to run inline with eight-page folders, inkjets, and gluing systems.

Heidelberg is launching in the United States its Polar Autojog XT, a jogging system the company says will provide a significantly higher efficiency for cutting reams. The Autojog can be combined with a Transomat unloading unit to form an off-line jogging station that prepares cutting material in stacks or it can be used inline in a Polar P.A.C.E. cutting system.

At Graphics of the Americas in February, Duplo USA Corp. introduced a number of new bindery products. The company added a knife folding option to the DC-645 Slitter/Cutter/Creaser, extending the on-line capability of the production color finisher. By incorporating folding into the single system operation, printers can now fully finish different applications such as greeting cards, folded ‘tent’ business cards, brochures and more. The knife folder incorporates two folds, making it ideal for parallel fold applications such as letter folds. With a speed of up to 50 sheets per minute, the folder fully matches the capabilities of the DC-645, and can be by-passed for no-fold applications from the DC-645.

The mid-range System 3500 bookletmaking system from Duplo incorporates up to two DC-10/60 collators with the DBM-350/T bookletmaker and trimmer. The fully-automatic DBM-350 fits between Duplo’s established low-end DBM-120/T and its high-end counterpart the DBM-500/T. It offers stitching heads, speeds of up to 3,000 books an hour and fully automated set-up.

The flexible bookletmaker accommodates a range from on-demand applications such as CD and DVD covers, through to 5.5x8.5-inch to 8.5x11-inch finished booklets of up to 80 pages.

The ability of the DBM-350/T to handle set-by-set and sheet-by-sheet output means it can be connected to Duplo’s collating systems or sheet feeders, making it ideal for printers making the transition from offset to digital, allowing them to incorporate color content and variable data into their finishing solutions.

Debora Toth is a freelance writer who has been writing about the graphic arts industry for more than 25 years. She also is a public relations specialist and operates Coastline Public Relations. She can be reached at coastlinepr@aol.com.