By Amber E. Watson
Transactional documents drive growth in digital print. An important segment of the industry, equipment manufacturers closely monitor the trends and continue to offer improvements in speed and color for these business documents. The latest high-speed inkjet presses are popular for this type of application and finishing must keep up.
Grant Miller, VP, global strategic product management, Pitney Bowes, notes several important components to a robust transactional/TransPromo workflow, which include targeting, document composition and management, printing, inserting, and tracking. “This end-to-end cycle optimizes communications to effectively reach clients.”
To maintain the speed and accuracy required of transactional print, finishing must keep pace in terms of automation and capacity to avoid production bottlenecks. A seamless, automated workflow enables productivity for transactional applications.
The Last Stop
Beyond the speedy output of transactional and TransPromo documents, finishing is an essential component of the workflow. The latest in software solutions help ease sorting requirements on the backend, but a variety of steps are physically required of a print run before it is ready for mailing. In addition to the tasks of unwinding/rewinding, slitting, and inserting, quality control is a critical step, especially as many transactional applications contain sensitive information.
The goal for transactional/TransPromo document producers is to get documents to the inserter as quickly and as easily as possible, with minimum human intervention. “Running roll-to-roll around high-speed digital printers is the ideal way to reach that goal, and now transactional/TransPromo producers can take the next logical step, and replace traditional unwinders and rewinders with zero-speed splicers to maximize valuable time by eliminating downtime previously required for the loading and unloading of rolls,” says Scott Peterson, product marketing manager, Lasermax Roll Systems.
The company exhibited the new Zero Speed Splicer u40 at Print 13. It allows roll changes with virtually no printer downtime, maximizing printer productivity and eliminating paper waste associated with printer stoppages due to roll depletion. The LasermaxRoll Stack 2020 provides a cutting/stacking solution for output, such as that from the Ricoh InfoPrint 5000, while a Rewinder 555 provides an alternate output path.
Dynamic perforation and punching processors, such as Lasermax Roll’s Tecnau TC 1550 PLUS line, are also available to take on the challenge of replicating formerly off-line processes and take full advantage of possible digital economies.
“Auto-tabbing, inserting, and poly-bagging are also popular, and perforation units—both lateral and circumferential—can be added. A servo-driven variable cut cylinder allows for a range of sizes in combination with a chip-out feature and allows finished products to be completed inline,” says Steve Kukla, U.S. sales and support manager, Magnum Digital Solutions.
Delivery stations, such as stackers and conveyors, are also popular in transactional production environments.
Magnum Digital Solutions manufactures finishing equipment operated from rolls or directly interfaced on the backend of a web-fed inkjet or toner-based print engines. These webs typically vary from 20 up to 50 inches in width, depending upon the manufacturer.
Lance Martin, director of sales, MBO America, suggests that the main post-press finishing components include mailing tables, feeders, buckle folders, plow folders, slitters, perforators, pick and place, gluers, labelers, tabbers, and deliveries. “The mailing table is the basis for building a transactional/TransPromo finishing system, and is where product control is achieved,” says Martin.
These tables come in a variety of lengths and widths and are configured in sequence to accommodate very complicated finishing requirements. Once the product is controlled and registered to the mailing table, any number of modular processes can be added in sequence.
If the product is produced using a digital web press, MBO makes unwinders, tension controls, web guides, and sheeters that are capable of preparing the roll of printed material to be fed into the finishing system. Likewise, if the product is produced using a digital cut sheet press, the company’s feeder systems handle sheets to be fed into the finishing system.
MBO manufactures its systems using a modular approach. “This allows us to add components to the system to achieve the correct end result,” says Martin.
Many of Pitney Bowes clients employ what the company calls a White Paper Factory approach to transactional/TransPromo production workflow. Miller says this strategy eliminates the need to inventory pre-printed envelopes and statement forms. “Key benefits for the mailer are print quality, reduced operating consumables expenses, as well as redeployed labor due to the integrated workflow of production print and mail finishing.”
Pitney Bowes’ integrated solutions and services enable high-volume printers and mailers to improve operational performance, offer expanded capabilities across the enterprise, and enhance client communications to drive better business results. By offering integrated printing systems, software, mail inserters, and sorters, the company helps clients create and print important communications including statements and bills from rolls of plain white paper.
Rollem International provides finishing solutions for transactional/TransPromo production through its Mailstream and Jetstream lines.
The Mailstream finishing system runs either inline or near line with digital print engines. It applies multiple finishing processes while maintaining the zip code order of the product. Invoices, statements, or marketing collateral are ready for mail bins, processed and delivered in one uninterrupted step. “For example, the self mailer with return format is used for statements with a built-in return envelope,” explains Susan Corwin, marketing manager, Rollem. “Here, the sheet is trimmed, scored, T-perforated, and three types of glue are applied. The recipient will tear off the envelope and payment stub, insert payment into the return envelope, and seal the re-moistenable glue strip. This is an ideal design for billing applications as it eliminates the need for a separate return envelope.”
Transactional data and promotional messages can be included in this format.
Rollem’s Jetstream solution offers two-directional trimming, slitting, scoring, and perforation capabilities. The Jetstream runs inline with inkjet printers, digital presses, or UV coaters delivering accurate products such as personalized postcards and direct mail pieces.
Standard Finishing Systems provides a variety of pre- and post-press solutions for transactional print applications. For example, plain paper rolls can be processed through nearly any B&W or color print engine via Hunkeler unwind and rewind modules, which are available for tensioned and slack web printers.
The Hunkeler PP6 Punch and Perforating Module provides form length perforation as well as sprocket hole punching and edge perforation, which is often required for post-print processing and inserting of TransPromo print.
The Hunkeler DP6 Dynamic Perforating/Punching Module further expands the processing of the printed piece either inline with the print engine or in a near-line configuration. The DP6 allows for two-up processing of TransPromo products that might include file hole punching and dynamic bi-directional perforation from form-to-form for tear-out coupons and check perforating as well as security punching.
In combination with the Standard Horizon AF-566 Digital Folding Solution and the Hunkeler CS6 rotary cutter and merging options, individual or nested folded pieces are ready for inserting at processing speeds at up to 600 feet per minute (fpm).
Additionally, the Hunkeler/Horizon Roll-to-Fold solution combines Horizon folding technology with Hunkeler unwinding, dynamic perforating, web inspection, and cutting expertise. Featuring the Hunkeler DP6 Dynamic Perforator, WI6 Web Inspection System, CS6-II Rotary Cutter with chip-out, and the Horizon AF-566F Folder, this solution produces complex, variable data direct mail pieces in one pass at 500 fpm with dynamic perforating from sheet to sheet for coupons, reply cards, or convenience checks. The Hunkeler WI6 Web Inspection System captures high-resolution color images off of the full web for inline verification, quality inspection, and integrity analysis of the printed roll.
Transparency is Key
In addition to hardware solutions, vision and control systems must be in place to ensure accuracy and are integral to transactional print and finishing processes. “Barcode readers and inspection marks are an important tool for both tracking and mailing purposes,” notes Magnum Digital’s Kukla.
Many verification/inspection solutions are developed for this space, including the few highlighted here.
Bell and Howell’s JETVision solution enables mailers to read and manage information on printers, finishing equipment, sorters, and manual operations.
Ironsides Technology provides workflow automation and enterprise wide integrity tracking solutions across all production devices and processes. The company offers solutions designed to automatically track, report, and alert on every job—to the per piece level—in real time. This is accomplished with its automated production tracking technology, which integrates into any printing, mailing, or finishing device, regardless of brand or model.
In addition to its hardware offerings for printing and mailing, Kern offers software solutions for the print and mail workflow within its mailFactory automated document factory (ADF) suite. mailFactory eyeV is a piece-level document tracking/validation system, giving mailers the capability of validating every mailpiece as it is processed on the inserting solution.
Ricoh also provides ADF solutions, which are designed to address the print and mail workflow.
Address the Challenges
Certain finishing challenges have emerged as the result of the acceptance of high-speed transactional output on digital equipment.
As digital technologies—and more importantly, digital color—are embraced in TransPromo, commercial, photobook, and publishing applications, Don Dubuque, director of marketing, Standard Finishing Systems, points out that some of the biggest challenges include an expanding range of substrates, varied imaging technologies, and higher speeds through the introduction of inkjet printing. “There is a desire to use offset papers, which are lower in cost, but these are not always optimized for inkjet printing, thus complicating the finishing process. New imaging technologies, and how ink reacts to the paper, need to be taken into consideration from the design process,” he says.
With the growing use of digital color inkjet printers, document producers now have the opportunity to go from raw rolls of paper to fully finished documents ready for distribution with minimum manual intervention. “Offset-printed color ‘shells’ are no longer required,” explains Lasermax Roll Systems’ Peterson. “The challenge is that other finishing happened along with offset color printing—for example, perforations or hole punches might also have been added.”
Another challenge is increased regulations. “These regulations put a premium on getting the right document to the right person only, or getting the document to the right person in the right timeframe,” explains Peterson.
Printed documents must also be more targeted to individual consumers’ needs, which mandate increased personalization for unique individual level communication. “These consumer documents must then be gathered, collated, finished, bound, and mailed correctly and on time against high SLA demands, and audited to prove performance and 100 percent fulfillment,” says Bill Riley, president, Ironsides Technology.
Speed and Accuracy
Digital production adds a new scope to finishing. By allowing the printed product to be tailored to each recipient, printing and finishing equipment must now work in high volumes of one. These challenges are addressed with the high-speed capabilities of today’s digital presses, software, and finishing equipment that help produce, control, and manage the process. dps
Mar2014, DPS Magazine