By Liz Quirk
Binding is an essential component of many print environments. Among the options, two popular methods include perfect binding and saddlestitching. Perfect binding offers a high-quality appearance, but comes at a cost. Here we focus on perfect binding, including a comparison to saddlestitching, common characteristics and applications, and challenges.
Perfect Binding Vs. Saddlestitched
Several factors determine whether a print provider should rely on saddlestitching or perfect binding for a booklet, especially if it nears the ideal page count maximum for saddlestitched books.
These considerations include the intended use of the publication, lifecycle, run length, appearance, cost, and equipment on hand, suggests Will Frank, marketing specialist, Standard Finishing Systems. He explains that page count is often a determining factor, since most saddlestitched publications are 120 pages or less, due to reduced quality at higher page counts, rounding of the spine, tearing at the corners with head and foot trim, and print gutter alignment.
Anthony Gandara, product manager, Duplo USA Corporation, agrees, but notes that new technologies can saddlestitch up to 220 page bookelets and apply a square spine finish to give it a perfect bound appearance. “For some, saddlestitching with a square spine is acceptable, but there are still those who prefer the appearance of a perfect bound booklet.”
There are advantages to both methods. Frank notes that perfect binding presents a higher quality appearance, particularly for higher page counts. Perfect bound books are generally more durable and will maintain appearance for a longer period of time and in higher use applications. “Additionally, the ability to print on the spine of a perfect bound book makes it more easily referenced or identifiable when stacked on a table or filed on a shelf.”
Although the process of perfect binding is fairly simple, many factors need to be taken into account, including paper type—coated or uncoated, paper weight, thickness, and size of the booklet, printer used, type of glue, and spine preparation. “With saddlestitching, many of these are not so critical,” offers Gandara.
Today, perfect binding offers largely the same capabilities as saddlestitching, that is, being able to merge digitally and conventionally produced content. Kaeli agrees with Dalzell here when he says, “the big advantage is the ability to bind thicker products.”
Perfect binders are available in many configurations depending upon volume requirements, glue type, and budget.
While ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA)-based glues can work for non-coated offset printed book stock, polyurethane reactive (PUR) binding ensures a stronger, more flexible spine with coated and digitally printed pages. These are popular gluing systems for perfect binders and can be applied either with a roller pot or nozzle.
Most perfect binders also apply side glue, which allows the book to open and close correctly and without any damage.
Both types of glue have their own advantages. According to Jim Kaeli, manager, Muller Martini Solutions, Book Technology and Hardcover, EVA is less expensive and can be reheated at any time, whereas PUR is more expensive but is the best choice for digitally produced toner output.
The key is selecting the most efficient and effective adhesive, spine, and side glue configuration for your particular application.
“Cover pressing is one final characteristic,” adds Kaeli. “This feature ensures the spine is square and the cover is securely adhered to the book block. Press stations have become a new feature that offer longer dwell times.”
If you have a particularly challenging cover that needs to be nipped, is heavy, or is coated and doesn’t adhere well, cover pressing stations hold it for a longer period of time in order to get the desired result.
While digital printing was originally used somewhat sparingly and under very specific circumstances, it is now seen as appropriate and beneficial for a multitude of applications.
Gandara argues the top common applications created with perfect binders in digital print environments include, reading books and novels, school/textbooks, insurance related books, financial/investment booklets, and photobooks.
In this environment, however, there’s an opportunity to differentiate products on a book-to-book basis. You can bind books that are truly one-off, like photobooks, or you can have specialty one-off publications for ultra-short run manufacturing. No longer are most printers producing 100,000 books in one day. Today, not only are they running fewer quantities, but each book can be different.
“Although it varies from plant to plant, photobook applications usually fall into the ‘Expressions and Greetings’ market segment including 4×6-inch photo flipbooks. Short runs are usually categorized by pleasure read/vanity press, 5.5×8.5 and 6×9 inches, including personalized books and product-specific manuals. Yearbooks, financial reports, education books and textbooks are 8.5×11 inches and landscape books, 7×10 inches, primarily fall into ‘Marketing Materials,’” explains James L. Tressler, VP of Sales, C.P. Bourg.
Advantages of Perfect Binding
Perfect binding allows printers to offer their customers a significant upgrade from mechanical binding, like spiral or saddlestitching. It provides a high-quality finish at a reasonable price for a range of applications, including publishing, programs, directories, and banking.
Jordan states the most significant advancement in recent years is automating the entire digital publishing process from start to finish, which minimizes operator interaction with equipment.
Another benefit of perfect binding in a digital print environment is the ability to bind a high page count from two to 500 sheets or more, faster and easier. With the new addition of higher strength glues such as PUR and PUR-specific short-run perfect binders, a wider range of substrates can now be bound in any print shop. Those that were previously available only bound in the largest professional binderies, states Kent Dalzell, business development manager, Fastbind USA.
The ability to produce small runs, where even a single book run is clean and professional in appearance and durable is another advantage. Perfect binding in a digital print environment can also easily adjust for changing production needs, so actual available production time on the binder can be maximized.
According to Elizabeth Jordan, senior program manager, Nordson, perfect binding is flexible to support a range of paper finishes, sizes, and weights. Digital publishing deals with cut sheets being bound so a single double-sided page can be added rather than the four-up needed for traditional offset printing.
Today, digital publishing systems are available to completely automate the entire process from printing to finished book. Lastly, perfect binding, specific to digital print environments, eliminate the need to produce and store excess inventory along with a fast turnaround and relatively inexpensive finished book.
One major limitation of using PUR glue for digitally printed materials is the drying time needed before the book can be trimmed and packaged. Smaller binders need to be handled gently, stacked in piles, cured, and then trimmed and packaged.
Steve Strauss, president/CEO, OMM-Marchetti America, argues that on the larger binding lines, bigger and longer conveyors are usually needed to give the books enough drying time prior to trimming and packing the finished products.
According to Dalzell, some estimate over 80 percent of perfect binding machines are all using variations of EVA-based glues, the limitation here is the binding strength. As more paper substrates are introduced to the market specifically to increase print quality with coatings and/or different compounds, the ability to successfully bind them using traditional EVA-based glue has dropped.
“This is one of the main reasons why short- and medium-run PUR perfect binders are now available and are a great alternative for those looking to add perfect binding to their operations,” adds Dalzell.
Jordan discusses a different approach to another limitation to perfect binding for digital printing environments, which is a basic lack of understanding regarding perfect binding for smaller scale production. Handling some of the adhesives—such as PUR—can be somewhat confusing without some basic knowledge or understanding.
Gandara argues that maintenance can sometimes be a limitation to perfect binding in digital print environments only because perfect binding can be labor intensive, especially when working with PUR glue. In most cases, PUR glue is required and spine preparation is critical, but beware of gloss papers, as they are more difficult to perfect bind.
Targeting Digital Print
A variety of binders target digital print environments today.
“The C.P. Bourg BB3002 EVA or PURc with its wide variety of optional accessories is the most universal customizable solution on the market today,” states Tressler. “This unique binder fits into workflow strategies that enable customers to maximize profitability and minimize labor.”
Muller Martini designs a number of perfect binding solutions for digital print environments, from entry-level binders to the higher end capabilities provided by the company’s Alegro, Bolero, and Corona perfect binding lines.
“Our Alegro perfect binder processes up to 7,000 books per hour. This binding line can be quickly changed over among softcover, hardcover, and digital production, with fine adjustments being made on the fly without operator intervention,” explains Kaeli. “It’s versatile machine that offers a lot of upward mobility in terms of automation, touchless workflow, and scalability features.”
Gandara highlights the latest perfect binders on the market today targeting digital print environments are inline perfect binding and entry production EVA/PUR.
The Sterling Digibinder binds books up to 2.25-inches thick at speeds of up to 360 books per hour. Additionally, the new Sterling Digibinder Pur Plus is a fully automated perfect binder with a cover feed and stacker. It binds books up to two-inches thick at speeds of up to 500 books per hour.
Suited for Digital Environments
Several perfect binding solutions on the market target digital print environments. Here we highlight select options.
The Bourg Binder is designed to create perfect bound books while being user friendly. This unique binder enables you to produce from the largest to the smallest range of book sizes and is ideal for on-demand customized applications, producing single books from two to 600 sheets in record time.
“The BB3002 EVA adapts all features automatically to the thickness of each job. Therefore, no manual setup is required. This reduces loss of productivity and allows maximum throughput,” adds Tressler.
Inline perfect binding, mentioned earlier by Gandara, eliminates touch points and doesn’t require an operator to manually load booklets. Instead, paper is collected and automatically loaded into the perfect binder. This type of perfect binder supports high-volume inkjet applications, which makes them particularly suited for digital print environments.
“Entry production EVA/PUR perfect binders are a low-cost investment, and are ideal for office-type environments or where the space is limited. Because of this, entry production EVA/PUR is ideal for short runs, low- to medium-volume with simple operations,” explains Gandara.
According to Frank, Horizon recently introduced the new BQ-480 Perfect Binder, which is a next generation version of the highly successful BQ-470 Four-Clamp Perfect Binder.
“The BQ-480 offers the highest productivity for book-of-one production available today. Depending upon the range of variability, the BQ-480 is capable of more than doubling the productivity of the BA-470 for book-of one applications,” adds Frank.
In regards to this segment, a manufacturer needs a varied portfolio because there are no magic solutions. Kaeli explains that they need to fully understand the particular requirements of the products and workflow in order to work with you to design, engineer, and configure a perfect binding system that not only meets the specific requirements—but is scalable for future needs.
Perfect binding is a used soft cover book binding method, and allows printers to offer their customers a significant upgrade from mechanical binding. They provide a high-quality finish at a reasonable price for a range of applications. The advantages of perfect binders suited for digital print environments outweigh the limitations and are being adopted in order to succeed in market and company growth.
September2017, DPS Magazine