I haven’t gulped a Mickey’s malt liquor since my over-21 college days, but my thirst recalls those wider bottlenecks, through which the beer-like beverage flowed oh, so freely. While the “Big Mouth” bottle metaphor may seem strange in a print finishing context, it is apropos, nonetheless.
“A ‘bottleneck’ is a phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system is limited by a single or limited number of components or resources,” so says Wikipedia. In a bindery, that translates to something like this: It doesn’t matter how fast presses can print if postpress cannot keep up on the back end. Slow binding lines mean printed work sits idle in rolls or on pallets, waiting to be completed.
With production inkjet web presses, as with all printing, putting ink on paper is only the beginning. The increasing personalization of bound products presents publishers with new opportunities. (See separate article, “Custom ‘Printfomercials’ Are in the Mail,” on page 8.)
As digital color printing on coated paper becomes increasingly attractive, keeping up is what leading postpress solutions manufacturers such as Magnum Digital Solutions, Muller Martini Corp., and Standard Finishing Systems are trying to do. Their automated finishing solutions already can match the high, feet-per-minute (fpm) speeds of black-and-white inkjet output such as books, billing statements, and newspapers. And these systems are accelerating toward record paces for color output too, including applications such as direct mail and magalogs.
“Our finishing partners, such as Magnum and Muller Martini, are on a trajectory to hit the [necessary] speeds,” says Doug Sexton, manager of global publishing market development at HP’s Inkjet High-speed Production Solutions (IHPS) division. “They’re already there with 800 fpm in mono[chrome on uncoated stock], and color is coming.”
Today, “a single press [can] feed multiple near-line finishing solutions,” Sexton notes, “as roll-to-roll output is taken to a secondary finishing device at 400 fpm to 500 fpm.”
Andy Fetherman, division manager of digital solutions at Muller Martini, concurs: “The trend is there,” Fetherman acknowledges, citing an increase in coated inkjet paper supply as evidence. (See separate article, “Coated Paper Chase,” on page 15.)
“Color will migrate quickly, like [monochrome] book work has over the past three to four years,” he predicts. “We hit speed milestones every year in the book space.”
Fetherman adds that with the capability of high-speed, inline processing via its Sigmaline perfect binders, Muller Martini can get up to 800 fpm. “Color won’t run that fast at first,” he cautions, because the slicker coated stocks require an optimization process. “These aren’t workbooks,” Fetherman notes. “There may be more static issues, and the [paper] transfer process needs to be evaluated.”
Open House, Open Minds
Canadian finishing manufacturer Magnum was present at an open house that digital print innovator Strategic Content Imaging (SCI) hosted in New Jersey last winter, just before a major storm hit there. Steve Fyfe, director of digital development and owner of Magnum Digital Solutions, reports that a large part of the event’s focus was inkjet for commercial and retail applications. SCI, a subsidiary of Command Web Offset of Secaucus, NJ, employs several digital presses, including models from Kodak (Digimaster), Xeikon, and HP—Indigo as well as T300 and now T350 inkjet web presses.
In addition to one-off products for its more traditional healthcare and financial customers, Fyfe explains, “SCI is producing customized, four-color [inkjet] print on coated stocks for retail inserts and onserts for Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, and Christian Dior.” The firm has output 680,000 copies at full speed on its 30-inch HP T300 Color Inkjet Web Press, he adds.