By Courtney Saba
Digital print drives innovative finishing equipment. Book manufacturers—depending on volume—choose from inline, offline, or near-line book finishing systems to complement demand.
“Technology continues to play a major role to enable improvement in workflow, making it more automated and efficient, which in turn minimizes costs and boosts profit,” says Anthony Gandara, product manager, graphic arts, Duplo.
Automated finishing technology is a major factor, and equipment manufacturers offer features designed to maximize profit in hybrid and digital book printing environments. This trend responds to the shift from the traditional publishing model to one that incorporates digital in a way that is mutually beneficial to the consumer and publisher.
This article discusses the role of automated book finishing equipment, the opportunity for growth in the future of publishing, and highlights some of the latest finishing equipment dedicated to the publishing space.
Automated Book Finishing
Automated book finishing equipment is a key component in the digital publishing model, which demands shorter, more frequent jobs in comparison to the traditional long runs produced with offset.
Book finishing equipment must mirror what is occurring on the print side. Nick Gerovac, director of international sales and marketing, VITS International, believes this leads to quicker set up, faster turnaround, less waste, more reliability, fewer breakdowns, less maintenance, and ease of operation.
Gandara suggests that the most successful printing businesses in the U.S. utilize automation to improve workflows to provide faster turnarounds, minimize costs, and increase profits.
“Automation comes in all shapes and sizes and is capable of improving quality, efficiency, and profitability of short-run publishing needs, be it a book of one or 5,000,” explains Neal Swanson, director of marketing communications, Standard Finishing Systems. “Today’s automated solutions are capable of accommodating offset, toner-based, or inkjet print output from both cutsheet and continuous, roll-feed systems with minimal to zero makeready, and minimum operator touch points.”
These solutions are becoming more affordable, lowering barriers for adoption. “Automated finishing equipment for digital printing is becoming faster and therefore, cheaper. 1.5 million pages per hour are no longer any challenge. The abundance of information storage capacity opens the way to different machine control strategies where virtually all plausible production process scenarios are digitally modeled and uploaded to the machines. This facilitates the management of more work orders as print runs shrink,” suggests Jon Walker, VP, Digital Solutions, Kolbus GmbH & Co.
Automation is available in varying degrees from a number of finishing equipment manufacturers. Solutions are often modular and scalable to fit both continuous and sheet-fed print requirements.
“There are systems that can be run directly inline with the print engine or near-line depending on a number of factors including workflow, available footprint, and the need to service one or more print engines,” notes Swanson.
With the help of these solutions, book manufacturers eliminate touch points from the production workflow, integrating various processes into one seamless operation. Gandara believes this takes the combined efforts and partnerships of printer and finishing manufacturers to create an interface that connects the printer to the finishing device or process.
When finishing is considered at job creation, printers and publishers can take full advantage of the technology. “Proper job scheduling, layout, and pagination work are hand in hand with automation to drive productivity and quality upward,” says Swanson.
Automated folding, cutting, binding, and trimming processes combined with intelligent workflow allow print providers to reduce production costs, minimize and manage inventory, eliminate obsolescence, bring new titles to market faster, and extend the life of a book title.
Opportunity for Growth
Publishers and book manufacturers transition from an offset print environment to a hybrid process that might include offset, cutsheet digital, and high-speed inkjet printing systems. Finishing systems that complement these technologies must compare in terms of speed and volume and the solutions are flexible to enable cost-effective production to runs in the high thousands to as little as one.
James Tressler, VP of sales, C.P. Bourg Inc., explains that as transfer volume from traditional offset continues to migrate to high-speed inkjet systems, it will be one of the most exciting growth segments of the market. “The trajectory for this activity is off the chart,” he says.
Walker believes the greatest growth opportunity for digital—from a technical point of view—is for one-color, web-fed printing. “The most lucrative market segments are trade back lists, educational, and anything with multiple language versions published simultaneously. Surprisingly, it is becoming apparent that volume does not matter, however, it is the efficiency of the finishing operation which will make or break digital printers desiring to service the publishing industry,” he suggests.
Personalization is another growth area that includes the use of variable data as well as customization strategies to create unique and value-added products. “All facets of digital print markets can be enhanced by taking advantage of this. It is something that offset cannot provide in a cost-effective manner or support with a linear manufacturing process,” says Jody C. Harrison, division manager, book technology, Muller Martini North America.
Along with the ability to produce shorter runs, continuous production inkjet solutions allow for higher digital volumes and finishing solutions support this model.
Gerovac suggests that longer runs and more standardized sizes and page counts will lean towards web-fed solutions to leverage economies of scale and shorter runs with a wide range of page counts will stay with cutsheet.
Tressler believes the role of high-speed production print has significantly altered the traditional publishing model by eliminating obsolescence, escalating value into publishing’s product lifecycle. He says the flexibility of automated finishing systems complement these digital technologies, allowing the expansion of the consumer’s title list to include self-published titles and vanity print that possibly would have never made it to press without digital production.
Harrison notes that finishing systems provide a sustainable inventory management model for publishers to remain competitive and profitable in a digitally enhanced economy and offer a cost-effective option for the publishing industry.
The following vendors offer digital finishing equipment specifically targeted toward publishing applications.
C.P. Bourg’s Perfect Binder family offers features designed to allow customers to focus on specific markets such as book of one, book of few, or book of many order quantities. Each model in the family is available in either EVA or PUR adhesives. One unique attraction of the Bourg Binder is the ability to operate inline or offline. For flexibility and labor savings the products can operate in dual mode.
Duplo constantly works with partners to develop more automated finishing systems. The company plans to introduce new products in the near future for inline bookletmaking.
According to Walker, Kolbus has managed to overcome one of the major challenges facing publishers who want to benefit from digital printing capabilities. This is the insertion, just in time, and just in sequence of print material from different processes into digitally printed bodies of work. For example, he says the lions’ share of a book’s pages are one-color text, printed on an inkjet machine, and the publisher has to integrate two four-color plates at precise page numbers. He explains that as of now, the default solution for this problem is to have this done through manual labor downstream of a digital press at prohibitive costs with towering defect rates. Kolbus has devised a system that handles this automatically by running the main body of print through the Kolbus WF 100 digital web-folder and then feeding through an array of Kolbus SF 842 sequential signature feeders. This Kolbus system handles the same work at the speed of the fastest digital print engines and with zero defects.
MBO features the M80 Flexible Folding System, which is a highly adaptable machine that grows with the shifting needs and pace of each unique printing operation. According to Lance Martin, director of sales, MBO America, the M80 doesn’t change the way a printer folds paper; the technology changes the way that printers are investing in folding equipment. He explains that in the traditional finishing purchasing process, printers were required to construct a fixed, customized finishing solution with the capabilities and features for the work that was coming in at that moment in time. They could only hope that these finishing configurations would fulfill their customers’ needs in the future, as well. The M80 takes the guesswork out and makes any future possible.
While the M80 folds paper the way most other folders do, Martin says that this is where the similarities end. A traditional folding machine is customized at the point of sale, with construction fixed after the initial purchase. Being locked in, customers cannot go back to the manufacturer and request new features as the machines were built to specification and incapable of modification.
Built on a modular platform, the M80 Flexible Folding System by MBO provides printers with a base model so they can build the folding unit to suit their needs now with the ability to upgrade as they expand into new markets.
Muller Martini’s product suite supports every finishing prerequisite. It begins with the workflow solution Connex. Developed and supported by Muller Martini it allows for a digital workflow to exist in environments where one does not previously exist.
While the Muller Martini Sigma Folder & Collator drives the print/folding and collating process for inkjet web environments, it also ties together a digital saddle stitch process with the Presto II or Primera Digital Saddle Stitcher. Each enables a touchless workflow environment that provides real-time, on demand manufacturing management of the critical areas of the process.
Standard Finishing Systems’ two primary manufacturing partners Horizon International and Hunkeler, AG make it possible for the company to offer several automated finishing systems uniquely positioned to handle the changing needs of publishers and book printers.
The Standard Horizon BQ Series of binders are capable of producing soft cover books or preparing book blocks for case binding with either PUR or EVA adhesives. Format changes can either be JDF driven or selected from a touch screen. Book block thickness varies by means of direct data or digital caliper. Combined with Standard’s VIVA Vision Systems cover and book block matching, book block spines can be imprinted with an identifying barcode to match the book block to the hardcover at the casing-in process.
Hunkeler Unwinders and Cutters can be combined with Horizon Automated AF Series Folders—with or without stacking and gluing options—to create complete book blocks either inline with the printer or near-line for processing of pre-printed rolls. The Hunkeler Dyna-Cut technology along with Horizon’s Variable Fold capabilities allows for changing of the signature page count on the fly to minimize or eliminate blank sheets within a book. In this configuration, various book formats can produce form signatures ranging from four to 24 pages.
Standard Finishing Systems offers a hybrid binding system in the form of Smart Binding Systems. This versatile binding system is capable of creating signature book blocks from cutsheet or printed rolls and automatically processing them in variable page count and size format through the trimmer. The same system is also capable of accepting loose leaf book blocks from cutsheet printers and gathering folded signatures provided from the offset bindery process. Depending upon the system configuration and book requirement, the SB-09V perfect binder is capable of producing up to 4,000 books per hour with either PUR or EVA binding.
VITS offers two solutions targeted towards publishing. The first is the VITS Sprint Book Line. This line is designed for perfect bound books and incorporates unique features like automatic feeding into the perfect binder to reduce operator handling and increase production speed. Multi-web capability allows an increase in page count per cut and increases throughput, as well as variable page count from book to book during the same run allowing for page counts that meet the needs of the publisher.
The second solution is the VITS Sprint Saddle Line Booster. This system addresses the historically slow nature of producing saddle stitched books by automating the feeding of signatures to the saddle stitcher. It is designed to be used with any saddle stitcher. The line can also mingle an offset printed web with a digitally printed web, allowing for a personalized cover with a standard book core. With features such as variable page count, cover feeder, single or multi-web capability, and increased line speed, the VITS Saddle Line Booster offers publishers who produce saddle-stitched books more flexibility.
Book manufacturers continue to look for innovative ways to improve the production process. The transition from offset printing to a more integrated print environment—as well as the available option of automated finishing systems—offers streamlined operations that lead to reduced labor and waste.
Consumers today believe in instant gratification. The industry takes this into consideration with the shift to digital, allowing more responsive and reactive delivery to customers.
The shift in production print continues to affect the future of publishing. As digital evolves within the market, automated finishing systems are a critical element in the process. dps
May2016, DPS Magazine