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What's Your End Game?

Digital finishing requires automated processes to help offset labor costs, streamline operations and allow print service providers to handle multiple finishing tasks simultaneously. It often enables efficient ways to produce high quality finished documents with variable and personalized information on either pre-collated cut-sheet or roll-fed output. Digital finishing can also bring specialized techniques, such as spot UV—that can be profit drivers.

“As digital print continues to make strides, print finishing technology is doing a good job of keeping up by offering more fully integrated and automated solutions, from feeding to printing to finished product, with fewer manual touchpoints and greater provisions for quality control, tracking, and inspection throughout the entire process, says Standard Finishing Systems’ Director of Business Development, Bob Flinn.

Integrated Roll-to-Inline

Standard Finishing’s suppliers, Horizon International of Japan and Hunkeler AG of Switzerland, have partnered to create tightly integrated roll-to-inline finishing solutions to respond to the needs of the digital print operation.

The Horizon/Hunkeler Roll-to-Booklet saddlestitching solution, featuring the StitchLiner 6000 Digital, is one example. Designed to run in-line with continuous print engines, process booklets from a printed roll or finish pre-collated cut sheet output at speeds up to 6,000 booklets per hour, the system is also capable of full variability including page count. When equipped with Standard’s VIVA inspection software, both fixed and variable page count can be processed with full integrity including sheet-level, book-level, and text/cover matching verification.

In-line with a digital print engine, the solution also supports full-width web inspection for print quality through the WI6 Web Inspection System to ensure a fully automated quality control system with end-to-end communication.

The “flexibility” of these new systems should not be confused with increased “complexity, ” says Flinn. “The good news is that these advancements are accompanied by increased automation and other features designed to make operation seamless and intuitive. Things like job format selection and memory, accurate automated set-up and a simple touchscreen interface will allow an operator unfamiliar with finishing to be proficient at producing books, and a seasoned bindery person even more efficient as more and more print shifts from offset to digital.”

The ability to efficiently produce high-quality books on demand, be it a run of a single book or thousands, is the biggest factor in binding today, notes Elizabeth Jordan, Sr. Program Manager, Nordson Corporation. “Production of a high-quality, digitally-printed book often necessitates use of polyurethane (PUR) adhesives as the oils, inks and sometimes papers used in digital printing can interfere with the binding properties of traditional ethylene vinyl acetates (EVA),” she says.

Production efficiency, adds Jordan, “is dependent on quick, easy start-up and shutdown of the binder, as well as quick changeovers; having all components of the binder integrated is most ideal.”

Nordson’s answer to these requirements is its recently introduced EP48 BoD (book on demand) applicator. This extension of Nordson’s long-established EP48 PUR adhesive applicator family is designed to fully-integrate into the binder, allowing for automatic set-up and adjustment for spine widths from 0 mm to 60 mm. Varying width books can be run one after another without having to change programs or adjust pressure settings.

As part of a closed adhesive application system, the EP48 BoD protects PUR adhesive from exposure to air that can cause premature curing and diminish bonding properties, explains Jordan. And the slot nozzle technology uses positive pressure and clean cutoff for consistent, reproducible coating thickness across a single book spine or a larger production run. The EP48 BoD applicator can also incorporate side gluing if desired.

Digital…Or Not?

“Many have tried to wrap their head around digital bindery, but the term can be misleading,” asserts David Spiel, co-owner, Spiel Associates. “While ‘digital’ is incorporated into many pieces of finishing equipment under the prefix, Digi, bookbinding is forever a mechanical process. Yes, digital setup can aid the on demand shop, but the bindery process is hardly a digital one. This is why most pieces of bindery equipment can last you for decades, long after your prepress software has gone the way of the Dodo (bird).”

If you are binding over 20,000 books per year, you may want to automate your process by utilizing a more innovative machine, says Spiel. Today’s automatic plastic coil binding machines are capable of binding up to 700 books per hour up to 50mm (2”) in diameter. The Sterling Coilmaster III plastic coil binding system can even form the coil prior to insertion.

Punching for mechanical binding has become more and more necessary in-house, notes Spiel. With the popularity of plastic coil and wire binding, almost every printer now has some sort of punching machine.

Many printers, however, opt for an in-line punch with their digital copier. There are some pros and cons to this choice. “If you only have one digital engine, it may pay to use an in-line punch,” explains Spiel. “ If you have multiple machines, a good off line punch should be able to handle the work from all of them. Furthermore, if you are depending on an in-line system and your printer goes down, you cannot punch. And if your punch goes down, you cannot print. An offline machine like The Sterling Digipunch, with automatic touchscreen set up, gives you some juggling room, which will avoid that domino effect.

Duplo sees PC-based programming and unique applications as top trends in digital finishing, both of which have been incorporated into it latest solutions, notes Anthony Gandara, Product Manager, Graphic Arts Division, Duplo USA.

The company’s recently released DBMi Saddle System, the DSF-2200 Sheet Feeder, and the high production DC-745 Slitter/Cutter/Creaser can all be operated from a PC via its own PC Controller software, enabling operators to program and manage the settings of the entire system.

“The software allows operators to save a larger number of jobs using the hard drive memory for quick and easy changeovers to drastically reduce set up times and increase turnaround times,” says Gandara. “Additionally, our PC Controller can be accessed directly from a tablet or smartphone, such as an iPad or iPhone, using any of the remote desktop apps already available. “

To meet the need for creative and unique applications, Duplo’s DBMi Saddle System and the DSF-2200 Sheet Feeder deliver letter landscape booklets, which is becoming increasingly popular. “With our digital color finishers, extra modules can be installed to increase versatility,” says Gandara.

The DC-745 Slitter/Cutter/Creaser is one that can be extended through optional scoring and perforating modules enabling operators to produce a wider range of applications such as slit-score greeting cards, direct mail pieces with “T” or “L” perforated reply cards, and micro-perforated coupons—all in a single pass.

Automated Laminating

Answering the call to greater efficiency, Spiral / James Burn recently became the master distributor in North America for the Foliant line of automated laminators, specifically for the on-demand digital print arena, says Matt Roth, VP, Spiral/James Burn.

“Until now single-side lamination systems have been prohibitively expensive for small commercial print shops and book printers,” says Roth. “The new affordable Foliant Series laminators provide the perfect solution for high quality single side lamination of book covers, brochures, magazine covers, and postcards.”

Foliant laminators work with a variety of thin gauge films; the laminated finish ensured by a chrome-coated working rollers regulated by exact thermal control, while decurling devices ensures flat lamination.

The laminators come with a loading conveyor belt for manual feeding; an optional automatic feeder is also available, as is the ability to connect to an automatic separator for automatic separation of laminated sheets. The separated, laminated sheets are immediately ready for bulk stacking and cutting.

Finishing as a Value-Add

Spot UV coating has traditionally been reserved for primarily long runs produced via offset or screen press, and typically cost-prohibitive to utilize for shorter runs or jobs produced digitally, says Giselle L. de la Moriniere, marketing and communications manager, MGI USA.

“But digital prints are a perfect medium for special finishing effects, building on the increased ROI of personalization and making printed pieces even more eye-catching to the intended audience,” says de la Moriniere.

MGI’s JETvarnish 3D inkjet spot UV coater, presented at drupa and debuting in fall 2012, allows users to enhance even the shortest of runs with eye-catching spot UV highlights or stunning 3D effects, reports de la Moriniere.

The JETvarnish 3D builds on the success of the JETvarnish, inkjet device for flat spot UV coating, which was introduced at drupa 2008 and has over 100 units installed worldwide. Its new raised effects create a tactile and memorable experience. Prints can now go directly from a digital press to the JETvarnish 3D, with no additional coating or lamination required.

Increased production speed for traditional flat spot UV coating (up to 3,500 B2 20x29” sheets per hour) increases productivity and profit-potential. Both the JETvarnish and JETvarnish 3D are VDP capable.