In the digital print arena, efficient finishing solutions are often the difference between a job being profitable or not. There is so much labor cost that goes into the finishing area, all the economy achieved with printing digitally could easily be lost, along with most, if not all, of your profit...
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In the digital print arena, efficient finishing solutions are often the difference between a job being profitable or not. There is so much labor cost that goes into the finishing area, all the economy achieved with printing digitally could easily be lost, along with most, if not all, of your profit.
While the printing may be digital, there really is no such animal as digital finishing, asserts David Spiel, co-owner of Spiel Associates, Inc. "Binding a book is a mechanical process—there's nothing digital about it," says Spiel. "Digital in binding refers to set-up time, how quickly can I set up a job—can I hit a button and leave it alone."
Quick set-up is key, the result of shorter runs and lightening fast, often on-demand, turnaround requirements.
Spiel points to its Sterling Digipunch, that offers automatic set up and automatic changeover. "You can punch in the number via a digital touchscreen, and walk away," notes Spiel.
21st Century Finishing
Mark Hunt, Director of Marketing, Standard Finishing Systems, says "You can't afford to have a digital print set up with a conventional finishing approach. If you're only producing 500 units, you can't afford to burn 50 of those to get the machine set up properly; you need first book off capability, whether it's saddle-stitched or perfect bound."
Hunt states that Standard Finishing Systems, is "looking to strip labor costs out of the finishing equation." In fact, Standard is looking to shift the entire business model, from a cost-per-page equation to a cost-per finished document approach, bringing value to what is often a commodity sell.
Tenacious pursuit of efficiency is just one of the requirements for finishing in a digital environment. With digital devices offering much improved output quality over earlier models, finishing technology has had to respond in kind, reports Dan Mauer, Heidelberg USA's Vice President, Digital Print & Postpress, Product Management. Customer expectations of quality in the finishing area have coincided with image quality expectations. What good is high image quality if the trim quality isn't good or the stitching isn't perfect?
"Finishing is becoming a big part of the marketing tool—it's an inroad to capture the audiences' attention," says Mauer.
Heidelberg's customers are using digital printing devices, both sheetfed and web, for more extensive and sophisticated applications, instead of relying on speed to drive new business. "Print providers aren't commanding a high margin for simple digital projects, so they are marketing and employing enhanced finishing techniques—variable-data, tipping on cards, timed perforation, and specialty effects, such as coatings, spot UV coating, and embossing," explains Mauer.
The increased use of variable-data in digital printing has led to an increased use in data verification. "We are outfitting more and more systems with camera systems, such as our VIVA inspection system," says Hunt. "Customers need to be able to track their product through every step of the workflow; their customers are asking for an audit trail—they need to verify at sheet or page level the integrity of a document."
Flexibility plays a critical role when outfitting a digital printing environment. An ongoing discussion is whether or not to go inline, near-line or off-line. In some instances going inline is justified, but you lose the flexibility you'd get with a near- line solution that can support multiple print engines or even conventional offset..
"Everyone loves he the idea of pressing a button at one end and having a completely bound job coming out the other," says Spiel. "But if you have a color machine with click charges, you don't want to have to pay those charges when binding. Also, with an in-line solution, if the digital printer is down, not only can you not print, then you can't bind either."
"There's not one turnkey solution," says Maurer. "You need an integrator to pull the pieces together for the customer's workflow so they are able to do it in most efficient way. You have to build flexibility into your equipment."