As printers continue to migrate to the digital playing field, they need to pick their partners wisely in order to remain competitive not only today, but in a future that is certain to deliver more new opportunities for growth.
Consider this: Just a few short years ago, inkjet presses peaked at speeds of 400 feet per minute and widths of 30 inches. Today, those numbers have more than doubled: speeds of 800-plus with widths up to 60 inches. And although there are numerous finishing players who can achieve the former benchmarks, those who can meet today’s needs as well as anticipate the industry’s future by engineering flexible and scalable solutions are considerably smaller.
Muller Martini is one of the very few print finishing manufacturers who has adapted its innovative and groundbreaking technology to satisfy the trends of today—and tomorrow.
Case in Point. Webcrafters.
Webcrafters, Inc., is a full-service book, magazine and catalog manufacturer located in Madison, Wisconsin. They’ve been a familiar name to educational book publishers for well over 100 years—years in which they’ve witnessed countless generations of print technology. That’s why when Webcrafters entered the evolving digital print market, they were most interested in partners capable of manufacturing solutions that could accommodate an ever-changing technological landscape.
With the onset of higher-speed digital inkjet presses, Webcrafters installed their first Kodak Prosper 5000XL Press in 2010 which needed to be paired with a supportive finishing solution that made their workflow and downstream processes more efficient, while handling the challenges inherent in processing specifically lightweight, large-format teachers' edition products.
Webcrafters already had an established relationship with Muller Martini, having previously purchased multiple perfect binding and saddle stitching systems, including a Primera E140 saddle stitcher in 2008. With that history in mind, Webcrafters reached out to Muller to provide a finishing solution for their inkjet initiative. They needed to support their Kodak press with workflow intelligence to help manage the increasing number of files resulting from shorter run lengths and the higher volume potential of the new line. That’s one of the main reasons why they purchased their first SigmaLine digital book manufacturing system. SigmaLine interconnects prepress, digital printing and finishing in a unique touchless workflow system that delivers fully automated production from a PDF to a finished book in a single operation.
What’s more, it provided Webcrafters with a very unique collating solution for processing its lightweight paper stock. It began with the re-engineering of the collator to process the larger format requirements of their work. Also, SigmaLine applies glue in the trim area of the individual book blocks, which provides a strong bond to maintain the book block integrity for more efficient handling during downstream processes for both perfect binding and spiral-bound book production.
But perhaps SigmaLine’s greatest value? It was a scalable solution built to grow as the technology evolved. And as Webcrafters received increasing digital demands from its customers, they realized the importance of this scalability.
Fast Forward to 2014
Webcrafters' digital workflow continued to expand with inkjet becoming an even more integral part of their operation. Thus, in 2014 they invested in a second Kodak Prosper 5000XLi Press. Now, what was most critical was a finishing solution that could keep up with the demand for higher production speeds from their inkjet presses, while continuing to efficiently process lightweight, coated stocks. What’s more, Webcrafters needed a more robust digital book manufacturing system that could meet the demands of different types of workflow, different product formats, as well as variable data printing (VDP) capability, a key advantage of digital manufacturing that some of their customers began to request.
SigmaLine’s modular design delivered. Muller Martini engineered an all-new SigmaFolder II platform which allowed greater speed, greater widths (up to 60”), and greater workflow flexibility for both perfect bound and saddle stitched products. This new SigmaLine technology delivers individual book blocks at a cycle time of less than one second, or an unprecedented 4,000 copies per hour. By enabling the one-of-a-kind prestacking function in the system’s collator, one can deliver stacks of individually preglued book blocks at speeds well exceeding 10,000 cph. That means it can accommodate the speed of any print engine in today’s market.
Webcrafters is bullish on the capabilities of its second Muller Martini SigmaLine, particularly since it’s able to keep up with the full operating speeds of the Kodak Prosper Press. In addition, uptime production percentage continues to improve dramatically with the addition of the SigmaFolder II platform, which features a straight horizontal paper path that provides excellent control of lightweight stocks.
John Filsinger, Webcrafter’s Executive Vice President and COO, remarked, “I’ve always viewed Muller Martini as an engineering company. They’ve been a great partner who brings tremendous engineering solutions to the binding and press finishing lines. What’s more, Muller makes us think about opportunities that we might not have even realized were possible. Their scalable finishing solutions give us the required flexibility to meet not just our current customer demands, but those that lay ahead.”
What’s Next on the Digital Landscape?
Whether it's higher speeds, wider formats, an increasing use of Variable Data Printing and personalization, or true one-off book production, the possibilities for digital print manufacturing are as endless as the technological advances still to come.
Which is why, no matter if you’re a local printer, or one of the world’s largest print manufacturers, to truly reap the benefits of your digital future you need forward-thinking solutions that:
- Provide scalability so you can add components and new features.
- Deliver a high degree of workflow to accommodate the very latest trends and products.
- Keep up with presses that will continue to get faster—and widths that will grow wider.
Bottom line? Your success in the digital future requires a commitment to change—and to solutions that can grow and keep you competitive today and tomorrow. Not only does scalable engineering enable expandability as your production needs increase, it also protects your investment from the start. So secure your digital future by choosing a partner you can grow with.