By Melissa Donovan
Pre- and post-press needs, specifically feeding, folding, and inserting for digitally printed mailing applications—both transactional and direct mail—are evolving. As digital production devices improve in speed and quality, finishing solutions complement these speeds and provide a great opportunity for mailing applications.
Features found in feeders, folders, and inserters have advanced considerably over the past few years. Improvements in both the tools found on the machines to where they are located in the print process—inline versus near line—are two influential components currently changing the mail finishing landscape.
Today’s mail is more than just a tri-fold piece of paper. Postcards of various sizes and shapes to unique configurations on new paper types are found in every mailbox. Specific features on feeders, folders, and inserters are included in response to these evolving mediums such as special cutting tools and media handling capabilities. To keep up with variable printing, devices also include monitoring features to minimize error.
Laden with Opportunity
As with many segments of digital print, mailing applications present a great opportunity. Despite a prominent use of Web-based communications, print mail’s presence continues to grow. According to Grant Miller, VP, global strategic product management, Pitney Bowes Document Messaging Technologies, businesses mailed nearly 24 billion statements to customers last year and those documents were opened 97 percent of the time.
“When we consider how many unsolicited emails we receive daily as compared to a hard copy, colorful, personalized direct mail piece, the direct mail piece is showing to get better results,” recommends Mark Pellman, new business development manager, Baumfolder Corporation.
Inkjet’s advanced capabilities play a large role. “As in other digital print markets, the opportunity is moving toward digital color inkjet print. Color inkjet printers allow the production of high-impact, high-value color output from white paper input, without pre-printed color shells,” says Scott Peterson, product marketing manager, Tecnau.
William Longua, senior director, digital print group, Neopost USA, agrees, citing a large opportunity in full-color, on demand envelope printing. “Two forces have driven this opportunity—technology developments and automation mail requirements. In the last few years, advancements in both inkjet and toner-based printing have made it possible to print short to medium job runs in color faster and at a reasonable cost.”
“Variable data printing (VDP) is probably the greatest area of growth. The ability to customize mail pieces with personal, geographical, and financial information for targeted mailings is key. One example is high-volume finishing of direct mail postcards. Static and VDP postcard marketing has greatly increased over the past few years. Most homeowners receive a minimum of three advertising postcards daily,” explains Susan Corwin, marketing manager, Rollem International.
Paper handling expands opportunity and allows for different types of collateral to engage recipients. Inkjet opens up the door for new substrates to be printed to and coincidentally, finishing devices must accept these materials and finish them well. “This can include the ability to process glossy and other heavier stocks, different shapes—including die cuts and perforations, and special coatings to enhance the look and feel of the mail piece,” suggests Johan Laurent, business manager, Hunkeler, Standard Finishing Systems.
High-volume mailing equipment meets demand by matching the speeds and feeds of its print counterparts. In the last five years, devices such as feeders, folders, and inserters have evolved in their multi-material handling skills thanks to new tools. In addition, their position within the print process, whether inline, near line, or offline, is a large consideration.
Device capabilities are changing. For example, the tooling order on a machine is adapting to new toner configurations. “Creasing the piece prior to folding and insertion ensures that toner cracking is virtually eliminated, ensuring a professional finish,” say Larry Stewart, director of sales, print partners & Canadian dealers, and Shack Fisher, director of sales, Western region, Graphic Whizard.
“The biggest change has been the development of high-speed letter-processing equipment with the additional capability to also process flats. Previously, you could only get a high-speed letters-only inserter or a separate flats inserter, but now you can get both in one machine,” shares Peter M. Jones, director, business development, Bell and Howell.
Changes in vacuum belts and the introduction of special transport rollers also affect the finishing landscape. With new substrates printed on daily, this enables them to be efficiently processed on the finishing side. “This allows for printed material to be picked up and transported to avoid image scuffing, which leads to a better quality finished product,” explains Laurent.
Greater automation means that more processes are performed inline, with fewer manual touch points, he continues. This aligns with the need to operate an inline or near line workflow.
“We have seen an increased interest in being able to produce the mailers, content, and envelope, all inline from the same web. Essentially, delivering a stuffed, addressed, and finished envelope—all directly from the pre-printed roll. With the introduction of multiple webs, the amount of content can be expanded,” shares Nick Gerovac, director of sales and marketing, VITS International, Inc.
Ralph Mezzoni, director, mailroom solutions, Neopost, says inline and “single stations” are attractive. “Customers are looking for convenience. Vendors and service providers must adapt to match their customers’ evolution by offering solutions that meet those customers’ individual requirements,” he adds.
The above advancements help print organizations reduce cost and increase return. “Innovations in high-volume production print and mail equipment have reduced the cost and improved the quality of digitally printed mail pieces, whether they are customer bills and statements or direct mail pieces. These innovations enable businesses to produce more colorful and personalized communications with fewer errors,” expounds Miller.
Ideal for High Volume
Digital production devices print on a range of paper products, so finishing systems must also be compatible. Features that are ideal for high-volume mailing today include special substrate feeders and registration systems, cutting/gluing tools, and monitoring capabilities.
Peter Beal, director, product marketing, document systems, Neopost, shares that electronic job changeover is an ideal feature for high-volume mail. “Historically, one of the most challenging aspects of a production folding and inserting system was the number of mechanical settings requiring adjustment when a new or different project was ready for processing.” He says that changing jobs on modern equipment is a one-button process and admits that it may take longer to load new substrates in the system than it does to adjust the inserter.
Multiple web/ribbon registration systems for inline or near line finishing systems allow for the production of self-mailers inline, points out Gerovac.
While it may be easier to change jobs on the fly, there are still nuances to address. “There are feeding applications with particular die cutting, ink jetting, and other digital imaging applications that require precise timing of the sheet being fed with the device accepting the sheet,” admits Pellman.
On the tools front, rotary cutters allow for finishing thicker paper, thus expanding the range of stocks that can be digitally finished, according to Gerovac.
Corwin describes features for a specific application, the self-remittance mail piece. Inline trimming, folding, perforating, and gluing are all features ideal in its creation. “A single sheet of paper is converted and glued closed to expose the mailing address panel; the perforated edge is torn off and the content is unfolded. The sheet contains a tear-off remittance slip, which is inserted into the return envelope and sealed close,” she continues.
With the number of pieces now able to fly through a device, monitoring requires more than a pair—or two—of human eyes. A monitoring feature is required for a number of reasons.
“Quality monitoring systems perform multiple quality tests per page, from simple print quality tests like streak and void detection, to data integrity tests such as account number matches to ensure that each page of a customer statement is heading to the right customer, or a check summation test to compare printed check amounts to the intended total value of a check run,” shares Peterson.
Monitoring also includes ensuring regulatory compliance is met, especially when it comes to medical and financial service industries where parties are held to stringent privacy standards. “Modern operating systems use a series of sensors to track each mail piece through each step of the folding/inserting process. When combined with the appropriately powerful and technologically advanced software application, this integrated integrity provides the ability to track each mail piece in the mailing, aggregate the data for the entire mailing, and confirm that every piece was successfully completed,” explains Beal.
New Products for Mail
The newest products available for high-volume finishing of both direct and transactional mail range from traditional feeders, folders, and inserters to out-of-the-box innovations like a paper wrapping system.
Among Baumfolder’s most recent products are the BAUM 20 VFM Versatile Finishing Modules. These units perforate, microperforate, score/crease, and slit at high speeds using BAUM 20 pile and continuous feeders for offline versions. The BAUM 20 VFM second and third station units can be placed inline. In addition to the aforementioned features, the BAUM 20 VFM can perform perforating for reply cards, coupons, and other special promotions.
Bell and Howell offers its Inveloper paper wrapping system and the new Producer inserter series. The Inveloper creates up to 30,000 pieces per hour. The Producer offers more traditional envelope inserting and the flexibility to perform flats insertion. It can achieve throughput speeds of up to 25,000 folded pieces per hour, with the additional capability of creating flats up to 12,000 pieces per hour.
Graphic Whizard offers the PT370 IKF+, which utilizes two folding knives to perform a variety of folds on sheets up to 350 gsm. The PT370 IKF+ can be hand fed or placed inline with many creasing machines—such as the CreaseMaster or PT series—to process on demand work efficiently. Integrated automatic sheet length measurement further simplifies job setup. It handles sheet sizes of up to 14.5×33 inches and is fully programmable from the touch screen interface.
Neopost’s newest folder inserter technology is the DS-160. Its modular design supports a range of mailing applications—from direct mail campaigns to highly sensitive mailings such as medical billing, payroll, and financial statements. The document assembly system uses Neopost’s proprietary and robust IMOS operating system and as a result has the features and technology to meet the demands of business with ease. Processing speeds are as fast as 4,500 documents per hour. Document handling includes 5.5×5.5 to 9×16 inches and envelopes 3.5×6 to 6.48×10.37 inches.
Pitney Bowes’ Epic Inserting System is based on its Mailstream Productivity Series. The solution is designed to help high-volume transactional print and mail service providers in financial, insurance, healthcare, and telecommunications move from job to job from letters to flats in a single work cell. The Mailstream Direct High Speed Inserter debuts at Graph Expo. Similar to Pitney Bowes’ other inserters, it is specifically designed to provide speed and flexibility to process complex, high-volume direct mail jobs.
Rollem offers the Mailstream II, which includes nine processes on one machine—trim, slit, score, perforate, pattern perforation, glue, fold, top on, and glue closure. The Jetstream is another popular product in the portfolio. Ideal for financial statements, invoices, and transpromotional documents, this device accepts sheets from digital or inkjet presses and applies either static, dynamic, or smart perforations on the specific page of the document. It scores, creases, and stacks all in one, delivering high-volume slitting and trimming of postcard products.
Standard Finishing offers the Hunkeler DP8 Dynamic Punching and Perforating Module, which dynamically perforates and punches payment forms, tear-off coupons, mailings, and security applications. The DP8 can be equipped with up to three cross perforation cylinders and up to eight longitudinal perforations, as well as form and file hole punching tools. The system features customizable, independent processing of two web lanes in two-up production for highly variable jobs.
Tecnau’s TC 1550 family not only allows users to add perforations and hole punches, but it also features the ability to dynamically perforate or only punch the pages within a print run that require those features.
VITS’ newest product is the Closed End Mailer System. It allows the production of finished envelopes with letters inside from one or two webs at speeds up to 1,000 feet per minute. The expectation for this device is to run 24/7 for years, provided regularly scheduled maintenance is performed.
Movement in the Finish
Feeders, folders, and inserters for high-volume transactional and direct mail applications are advancing to meet the speeds of their printer counterparts, as well as changing the way they handle materials so they can work with the many substrates that digital printers can now print to. These advancements provide new opportunities across the board. dps
Sep2015, DPS Magazine