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May 1, 1997 12:00 AM

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Markets for printed products are changing. Runs are becoming shorter in many segments, including magazines, commercial products and books. Printers must adopt new binding technologies to cope with ever-increasing demands for shorter runs.

In the publication business, continuing segmentation in special interest magazines and targeting advertising materials to smaller and smaller groups are some of the driving factors. Book publishers, on the other hand, no longer want to fill their warehouses with inventory.

As a result, time and cost pressures have increased. This pressure can only be relieved by utilizing new PC technologies combined with motorized size adjustment on binding equipment. This will result in more efficient set-ups and changeover times.

Recent demos at the Graph Expo show and a special event organized by the Book Technology Group (BTG) showcased new sophisticated PC-controlled equipment that permits complete changeovers in a few minutes.

Graph Expo's attendees had a chance to see live demos of new saddlestitching technology, including Muller Martini's Prima saddlestitcher. At the touch of a button, the PC-controlled Amrys set-up system changed the entire saddlestitcher assembly in only two minutes. This included the saddlestitcher itself, a three-knife trimmer and a compensating stacker. A complete changeover was accomplished from an 8 1+2 x 11-inch format to a 5 1+2 x 8 1+2-inch product. Without any operator intervention, all parts moved into pre-programmed positions.

Similar to magazine production, the demand for printing and binding books in short runs at tighter deadlines requires new technologies. Machinery suppliers to this specialized binding market had two options: increase production speed or concentrate on fast changeovers. They decided that reducing changeover times could result in considerable cost savings.

To introduce the world's book manufacturing experts to these new developments, the Book Technology Group hosted an open house at the new Muller Martini training center in Felben, Switzerland.

BTG is the brainchild of Kurt Richter, a household name among book manufacturers and an expert in this market segment. As president of Profinish (Stratford Automation in the U.S.), he was the driving force to combine the talents of machinery manufacturers such as Muller, Profinish, VBF, Horauf and others in the BTG.

Machinery designers, electronic engineers and software experts of member firms have formed a close working alliance with the aim of integrating individual machines and electronic communication for a particular operation. In this way, an entirely new monitoring system has been developed for central set-up, production data capture and production monitoring.

For the recent open house, BTG set up and displayed a Muller Martini 3690 gathering machine, a Merit three-knife trimmer, a VBF BL 500 book line, a new generation BDM-80 Horauf casemaker and an ABC 130 Gandria rotary board cutter. In addition, Muller Martini displayed its Corona perfect binder, as well as its in-line Inventalink sewing system. The aim was to introduce book manufacturer attendees to new technologies designed to produce efficient short runs with short set-up times and minimal waste. The event also included a tour to three state-of-the-art book manufacturing facilities in northern Italy.

The tour provided a unique opportunity for attendees to see how others in the industry make use of the latest generation equipment. The group visited two major book manufacturing facilities: the LEGO (Legatoria Editoriale G. Olivotto) in Vincenza and the New Interlitho Italia in Verdellino (Bergamo). The next day, the tour continued at the Legatoria del Verbano near the Swiss border. All three facilities allowed visitors to analyze and evaluate their concepts and machinery.

All three firms produce millions of hardcover books, 82 percent of which are exported. Most have sophisticated gathering, in-line sewing concepts in operation. Thread sealing was demonstrated with large Stahl machines, folding a large-format 48-page signature and thread sealing them into two different 24-page signatures. The signatures were sorted into two different stackers.

The Profinish CT-100 casing-in machine bound 100 childrens' books a minute. A Horauf casemaker produced approximately 50 turned-edge loose leaf binders a minute, grinding out the hinges, making covers and lining them on the inside. The latest Muller Martini binders, some equipped with the Twin-Flex system, also were in use.

Additionally, the group was shown saddlestitchers that mounted a reinforcing tape onto the outer signature in-line prior to stitching. Hardcover binding was finished on new VBF book manufacturing lines. Many observers were impressed with how books were pressed and shaped on a new VBF EP 608 building-in machine.

The machines included a Muller Martini 3690 Gatherer, Trendbinder and Merit book trimmer, and the VBF BL 500 hardcover binding line, which includes rounding, backing, lining-up, casing-in, building-in and pressing. One change, from a one-inch-thick 51+2 x 81+2-inch rounded and backed book to a 1+2-inch flatback book with a trim size of 81+2 x 11 inches took only seven minutes and 20 seconds. Another major change took only eight minutes and 40 seconds.

Demos on an off-line Horauf BDM 80 were equally impressive. All set-ups are made from one side only. A major changeover of this sophisticated casemaker took only nine minutes. In addition, the PC-controlled Profinish ABC Gandria 130 board cutter required only a few minutes to completely changeover. The compact, computerized board cutter cut boards in either direction in virtually any format.

However, the highlight of the event was a presentation given by John Pecaric, a vice president at R. R. Donnelley & Sons. The exec echoed publishers' push for on-demand printing and binding. He also presented some interesting statistics regarding the growth of hardcover bindings. He noted that Americans spend more on books than many other mediums, paying an average of $79.22 for books each year, compared to $72.97 for home videos and $56.35 for recorded music.

Pecaric is directing the establishment of Donnelley's new Roanoke, VA book manufacturing facility, and outlined its seamless integration of prepress, printing and binding using the BTG concept. At the facility, signatures will be taken off four Heidelberg Harris M600 presses and then converted to Muller Martini Print Rolls. The hardcover bindery, capable of producing a Donnelley patented Deep-Notch adhesive binding on a Muller Martini Corona Binder, transfers trimmed book blocks to two VBF BL500 hardcover binding lines (100 books per minute). Obviously, fast changeover and response is vital.

Another Donnelley facility produces 150 million books annually, and the average run length is 6,000 books. If the new Roanoke facility is to match these numbers, it must changeover lines once every hour. If changeovers can be done as quickly as those demonstrations by the BTG, considerable cost savings will result.

Without question, 1997 will be the year print finishing optimizes machinery technology and electronic capabilities. This is only the beginning.