By Lisa Guerriero
High-speed finishing solutions offer customization and automation to streamline high-volume digital print operations served by inkjet. Saddle stitching systems are designed to handle these volumes, enabling applications including financial and healthcare documents, direct mail, and brochures, as well as testing booklets and other educational materials.
“Inkjet print providers need a saddle stitching solution that can take a pile of cutsheet product or a pre-printed roll from the press and automatically process it into a sellable, finished product with much less labor requirements and at much higher throughput rates,” says Andy Fetherman, director of digital solutions, Muller Martini Corp.
Inline and nearline stitching solutions produce between 4,500 and 14,000 booklets per hour. Robust construction and automation enable this productivity, even in 24/7 pressrooms.
Saddle stitching solutions expedite finishing for variable data workflows, providing controls like tracking and validation. Additionally, these systems are available for a variety of print operations, including hybrid environments comprised of digital and offset capabilities.
Accountability and Accuracy
Many saddle stitching systems incorporate validation and integrity solutions well suited to the variable nature of inkjet production. Barcodes, cameras, and other tracking functions provide accuracy.
“Many print providers are looking to produce products on inkjet with as few as four pages, or up to 200 pages or more—with or without a cover from a separate print stream. Tracking every page and every book is a feature that is requested due to personalization,” notes Neal Swanson, director, marketing communications, Standard Finishing Systems.
Tracking and validation capabilities allow print providers to ensure customized data is stored correctly and assigned to the right book. They enable books with varying page counts, check that pages are in the right sequence, and provide automated rejection or ejection of incomplete books.
“When dealing with variable data or jobs that require ultra-high integrity, a printer should be sure that the saddle stitcher can track book progress and accuracy,” suggests Ryan Manieri, marketing coordinator, MBO America.
For many booklet and small-book applications, the accountability of saddle stitchers is essential to delivering information securely. It’s not only a question of best practices, but of meeting legal requirements.
“Healthcare and examination booklets must only contain data specific to the recipient. In healthcare, there are severe penalties for mixing one person’s medical information with another in a booklet,” explain Don Piontek, digital finishing specialist, and John Cracknell, managing director, IBIS Bindery Systems, Ltd.
Saddle stitching is a cost-effective method of book binding, offering fast output for materials with a relatively short shelf life. However, these stitching systems must also be capable of applications where longevity and quality are important.
Flat, light books are in demand—whether a travel catalogue personalized for one individual or a periodical with a run size of several thousand.
“The advantage of saddle stitching is the method used to fold and stitch booklets. By scoring and plough folding, a saddle stitcher can produce much flatter booklets,” notes Anthony Gandara, product manager, Duplo USA.
Saddle stitchers’ narrow focus allows them to produce small books effectively, but limits print providers to one binding method for most devices. This precludes the square-bound books and booklets that some customers want.
Although saddle stitchers are capable of higher page counts than in the past—up to 200 pages—this method is still restricted to smaller books. The layflat quality sought by buyers is lost if the page count is too high or the paper stock too thin.
“If you can imagine a Bible or textbook being held together by staples along the spine, you’ll understand why saddle stitching really doesn’t make sense for a book of that size,” observes Manieri.
Thinner substrates are ideal for many small book applications. Companies looking to minimize mailing costs use lighter media, which is usually better suited to saddle stitching systems.
The drying systems often used in inkjet printing tend to leave paper susceptible to cracking and flaking, especially with heavier stock. Digital saddle stitching systems feature specialized scoring and creasing processes designed to limit cracking. Lighter media can also help mitigate the risk of cracking during finishing. Drying also causes static, which some stitchers address by including an anti-static component.
Solutions are available to suit a variety of inkjet printing environments.
Duplo’s iSaddle system produces up to 4,500 booklets per hour and 400,000 per month. By adding two options—the DKT-200 Two Knife Trimmer and the Gutter Cut Module—productivity increases up to 9,000 booklets per hour for some two-up applications. It produces books up to 120 pages and features a loading capacity of 2.56 inches. The suction-based collating system features four towers that can be connected to maximize productivity.
The device and its folding and stitching method target high-speed inkjet production environments. “The iSaddle System neatly and accurately jogs each set prior to scoring and plough folding to ensure consistent and accurate folding,” says Gandara.
The system’s PC Controller software saves an unlimited number of jobs, which can be recalled to perform job changeovers in seconds with little or no operator intervention. The software controls air flow and vacuum for each bin to ensure consistent, reliable feeding. It also comes standard with the Intelligent Multi Bin Feed feature. It allows the operator to select which bins to feed from, set or change how many sheets feed from each bin, and in what sequence. The feature enables custom feeding, including pre-collated digitally printed documents.
The IBIS Smart-binder, models SB-2 and SB-3, create up to 7,000 books per hour, or 14,000 in two-up mode. Monthly volume is about one million. The system creates books of up to 200 pages on 70 gsm stock.
The solution folds each sheet individually for better layflat characteristics, rather than as a set, and varies the number of pages in each book automatically. It uses barcode or Datamatrix codes printed on each sheet for sheet and booklet tracking. “The IBIS Smart-binder includes a sophisticated embedded data tracking and logging system on the sheet level, which ensures 100 percent booklet integrity. If a booklet is rejected, data is provided upstream to allow it to be reprinted,” note Piontek and Cracknell.
The Smart-binder offers a built-in alternative, the ISG cold-gluing system. It replaces stitching wire with micro-dots of cold glue, giving end customers a staple-free option. It offers the same productivity as the stitching process on uncoated stock. Optional features for the Smart-binder include a sheet buffer module for inline use with IJ printers, offline sheet feeding, insert feeding, cover feeding, sheet perforation, and booklet stacking.
MBO’s offerings include Muller Martini’s Presto II Digital—which it recommends for commercial, digital, and hybrid workflows—and IBIS’ Smart-binder, for digital, variable data, and highly sensitive data. Both integrate with MBO’s digital finishing modules.
The company also advises using an upstream camera inspection system for jobs with sensitive information. “Systems like the Xcam from Baumer HHS can be integrated with nearly all MBO finishing solutions and can detect blank sheets, match patterns for accuracy, or read codes,” suggests Manieri.
Muller Martini’s Presto II Digital produces up to 9,000 copies per hour (cph) with pages up to .375 inches thick, while the Primera Digital produces 14,000 cph, with pages up to .5 inches thick.
A hybrid configuration is available for both models. It allows for handling variable content products from either a pile or a roll, while also processing traditional offset signatures with standard feeders on the same line. The solutions ensure the cover and content match for variable data production.
A barcode printed on every signature and cover contains a product ID that defines the job, a copy ID that ensures the correct sequence of the signatures, and a bundle ID for stacking. “These systems deliver customized products, which are optimally sorted by the various mailing routes on pallets to customers at very high production speeds,” explains Fetherman.
Standard’s Horizon StitchLiner6000 creates books up to 200 pages. It produces up to 6,000 per hour for books up to 24 pages. Integrated with the company’s Hunkeler UW6 unwinder and CS6 rotary cutter, the solution functions inline with continuous-feed inkjet and digital presses or offline when the application calls for feeding pre-cut sheets or stacks from another nearby print engine.
Based on the StitchLiner technology platform, the system offers inline cover feeding and non-stop booklet production on a range of paper stocks at up to 600 feet per minute. It produces variable sheet-count booklets using barcode scanning or mark reading.
The StitchLiner6000 features an icon-based color touch screen control and a fully automated setup, including folder roller gap settings. It is designed for ease of use, allowing the same operators who run the printer to easily manage post-press functions. Precise stepper motors drive the solution’s systems—including end stops, side guides, and stitching heads—to the exact location for the sheet size and finish style selected.
VITS International offers a single- or double-web system that integrates with saddle stitchers from any manufacturer. The Sprint Variable Data Saddle Finishing System (VDSFS) increases throughput by running multiple webs into the stitcher. It allows printers to take one or two preprinted rolls, slit and merge ribbons, cut and deliver, and collate directly onto the saddle.
Depending on the width and number of webs, each cut of the cutting cylinder can deliver a four-, eight-, 12-, or 16-page signature to the stitcher. The system increases the rate of book production, allowing for maximum utilization of the stitching device.
“The Sprint VDSFS is a VITS exclusive, as no other finishing manufacturer delivers multiple webs in register direct to the saddle stitcher. This technology offers printers the ability to increase productivity and open new markets for saddle stitched products,” says Nick Gerovac, director of sales and marketing, VITS International.
Binding for Efficiency
Saddle stitching systems feature speed, automation, and variability to complement the growing high-speed production inkjet market. “Inkjet technologies have breathed new life into a well-established form of finishing. Inkjet web allows for the personalization and variability that marketers covet, and integrating this with a proven format can be powerful,” observes Gerovac. dps