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FOLDER-GLUER Update

Sep 1, 2000 12:00 AM


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Now more user-friendly and versatile, the new generation of folder-gluers still demand that you do your homework for the best fit

A commercial printer's decision to invest in folding-gluing equipment is often rooted in the desire to take complete control of the printed product.

"Commercial printers are saying, `If I'm printing enough of this work, why don't I bring its finishing in house, where I can control delivery, quality and keep the profits to myself?" explains Luis Campos, sales and marketing manager at Dick Moll & Sons (Warminster, PA). Campos says commercial printers comprise 35 percent of the bindery equipment manufacturer's clients, and that percentage is increasing every year.

Some commercial printers evolve toward a folder-gluer investment, purchasing finishing equipment in steps until they reach this area of production. "Once you begin to diecut, it makes sense to glue. One thing always leads into the next. A lot of printers are still at the folding and stitching stage - we're at the diecutting and gluing stage," notes Joe Corvino, director of finishing at L.P. Thebault Co. (Parsippany, NJ), a commercial printer that specializes in annual reports. The printer's bindery already contains saddlestitchers, folders, guillotine cutters and diecutters. L.P. Thebault invested in a Dick Moll & Sons' Regal pocket folder-gluer two years ago after examining the volume of finished products it was outsourcing.

Other printers understand the potential of an expanded product line, with the most popular applications being presentation folders, CD sleeves and even some carton work. "We wanted the ability to offer new products in a wider range where there were growth opportunities," explains Jeff Taylor, vice president of manufacturing at Hemlock Printers Ltd., a full-service commercial printer in Burnaby, British Columbia.

Hemlock purchased an F/G 900 XL folder-gluer from Universal Equipment Co. (Terrell, TX) to produce presentation folders, specialty cartons for ad agencies and food packaging, in addition to the company's repertoire of annual reports, brochures and limited-edition art prints.

Whatever the reasons behind a folder-gluer investment, the key to success lies in a combination of factors, notably a machine's versatility, your bindery capabilities, the experience of your finishing operators and how well you communicate with your folder-gluer vendor.

VERSATILITY NEEDED

Deciding on the right folder-gluer model for your business begins with taking a look at the jobs you'd like to produce. Whether you want to delve into presentation folders, collapsible boxes or CD-ROM jackets - or take a crack at them all - there are machines capable of processing one or all in succession. It's important to decide upfront what applications you plan to run on the machine now and in the near future.

That's where versatility comes into play. "Commercial printers typically want features that are flexible so the machine isn't dedicated to one style but can produce a wide variety of products at high production speeds," notes Bob Moynihan, vice president of marketing with Can-Am Packaging Equipment Corp. (Pelham, NH), a supplier of finishing equipment and straight-line folder-gluers.

Corvino notes that L.P. Thebault's clients rarely hand the printer identical pocket folders to produce each time. Rather, the pocket position and folder dimensions vary constantly. The jobs also vary - the printer manufacturers everything from pocket folders to CD-ROM sleeves to videocassette boxes to point-of-purchase displays.

Cliff Litchfield is director of sales at Professional Image Printing and Packaging (Tulsa, OK), which provides short- and long-run printing, assembly, fulfillment and distribution services. He notes that the company may run up to eight different package configurations per shift for a variety of media, food and specialty packages, with new product lines surfacing every day. The printer's Media 100-11 from Bobst Group Inc. (Roseland, NJ), a supplier of high-end folding carton equipment, therefore must be able to respond to changing customer needs, increased sales and shorter runs.

Typically automated, higher-end machines offer the greater product range. Handfed models are less versatile in terms of products they can produce, notes Gregg Herbig, design engineer at Universal Equipment Co., which designs and manufactures handfed and automated folder-gluers.

Herbig adds that some of the more sophisticated products, such as auto-bottom boxes, can only be processed on an automated machine. So even if a printer has low-volume production needs, it may have to invest in a higher-end folder-gluer. For this reason, deciding upfront what product areas you're interested in entering is crucial.

GETTING UP TO SPEED

A handfed folder-gluer can be the ideal starting point for a printer interested in producing fairly simple products, such as presentation folders, in runs of a few thousand to the tens of thousands. It also enables the printer to offer folding-gluing while learning the technology, at a fairly modest price (handfed models start at about $20,000, while the most sophisticated automated machines can cost in the hundreds of thousands).

There is a point, however, when an automated machine becomes a necessity. Hagg Press Inc., an Elgin, IL, commercial printer, started out folding and gluing the old-fashioned way. "We've been doing pocket folders for up to 15 years," notes president Kern Hagg. "The first five years, we glued them by hand." In addition to four-color process work, books and marketing literature, the printer produces diecut pocket folders for such corporations as Coca-Cola, Burger King and Hilton Hotels.

About a year ago, Hagg and his partner visited Graph Expo, where they stopped by the booth of Brandtjen & Kluge, Inc. (St. Croix Falls, WI), a supplier of finishing equipment, including handfed and automatic folder-gluers. Impressed by the speed at which an automatic model in the booth was running, Hagg and his partner made some inquiries and decided to purchase the Unifold pocket folder-gluer.

The printer is currently running the machine at 3,500 pieces an hour, and is planning on pushing that throughput up to 5,000 as bindery personnel become more experienced with the equipment.

The company is already experiencing savings. "In the old days, people used to charge seven to 10 cents to manually glue each pocket folder, and with this machine, it costs three to four cents," notes Hagg.

The folder-gluer is so productive that it has bypassed the printer's cylinder diecutter, which Hagg plans to replace soon. "It takes a lot of work to keep the beast busy," he observes. "The goal is to run both machines around the clock."

Diversified Printing Services, Inc. (San Antonio), a trade finishing shop that provides foil stamping, embossing, diecutting and converting services, went automatic two years ago when its customers' demand for pocket folders exceeded Diversified's capabilities.

"Handfeeding 500,000 folders just doesn't work," muses Rick Salinas, plant manager. "We decided it was time to upgrade to an automatic folder-gluer."

Diversified's throughput, prior to upgrading, was 2,000 pieces an hour on the handfed model. "There were a lot of labor costs involved because someone had to feed the machine and then collect," Salinas notes.

After purchasing a Universal FG750 automatic folder-gluer, the company enjoyed a throughput of up to 10,000 pieces an hour, five times the previous volume. Salinas adds, however, that if it had to repeat the folder-gluer investment again, it would still start with the handfed model: "We built up our business with the handfed. It helps you appreciate automation and learn the technology."

MANPOWER

Hagg, for his part, has a definite opinion about the old generation of folder-gluers. "They were designed by Rube Goldberg," he exclaims, referring to the illustrator of impractical machines that performed tasks in highly complex, roundabout ways. "Older machines were just impossible to deal with," he continues. "It took up to two years of training before an operator was productive."

Fortunately, features and options such as computer interfaces and programming software have simplified folder-gluer set up, changeover and operation. Litchfield at Professional Image notes, "New setups can take several hours, but existing configurations can be completely setup in half- an-hour or less. Settings are saved on the folder-gluer's computer to save time on the setup process."

Although modern folder-gluers are easier to operate than models past, they still require an experienced operator for maximum productivity. When deciding whether to purchase a folder-gluer, consider whether you have the personnel to handle the machine, and what their own capabilities are.

"It takes an individual time to understand and set up the machine," says Alan Thompson, product business manager for the folder-gluers division of Bobst Group. "Emphasis has to be on training."

An operator with folding experience, however, should be able to run a folder-gluer with minimal training, which is essentially a folding machine with a glue system. "When we compare it to other equipment we have, ability, consistency and time it took to pick up were pretty minimal," says Hemlock Printers' Taylor. "Within a week we had the majority of operators up to speed."

SHOW-AND-TELL

Because folder-gluers have potential applications ranging greatly in size, construction and purpose, determining the best configuration demands excellent communication with your vendor.

When investigating suppliers, bring samples of jobs you'd like to produce, and share such information as your bindery layout, marketing plans and staffing resources. Since folder-gluers, with the variety of attachments and options available, have so much potential in terms of product and production, it's worthwhile to take an active role in the actual manufacturing of your system.

Hemlock Printers sent one of its bindery operators to Universal's factory in Texas to get hands-on training and ensure that the machine met performance requirements. While there, the bindery operator saw the potential of adding an extra motor and attachments to the base machine. The result was a folder-gluer custom-fit to Hemlock's operations.

"If you can take an experienced journeyman and put him with someone on the engineering side, you can get a customized product," notes Taylor. Agrees Litchfield, "Be sure to include your operators in the decision. They will know best what you need."

Cold glue or hot-melt, fugitive or permanent: Determining the best glue for your finishing application can be a tricky business. The first step in simplifying this confusion is to get educated on glue.

There are two main types, cold and hot-melt. Cold glue, which is actually an adhesive used at room temperature, is typically inexpensive and supplied in liquid form. For permanent gluing purposes, it performs best on uncoated stock, since it is designed to penetrate the paper's surface to form a permanent bond. When only a temporary bond is needed, "fugitive" (or, easy-release) cold glue can provide a non-resealable bond, and is most effective on coated, heavily inked or varnished stock. Common applications are self-mailers or inserts that hold credit cards.

Hot-melt glue is supplied in pellet form, and is best used for long runs of product printed on heavy or coated stock. Systems incorporating this glue type tend to be more expensive than cold glue systems because they require a heating unit to keep the adhesive at around 300 degree F. Hot-melt glue also requires a longer setup time than cold glue; however, it also stores longer. It, too, is available in permanent and fugitive formulations.

Both contact (gravity-fed) and non-contact (pressurized) glue heads are available. Contact heads are best for facilities that don't have a compressed air system. Non-contact glue systems require compressed air, but clean up easier.

When purchasing a folder-gluer, be sure to consult the vendor about the most suitable glue system for your applications. Although folder-gluers can be easily upgraded to a hot-melt glue system or downgraded to a cold glue arrangement, you can minimize your costs if you decide on a system type at the time of purchase.

An excellent glue information source can be found at Baumfolder Corp.'s (Sidney, OH) website, www.baumfolder.com. Click on the "Something to Use" button, and you'll be taken to an area that offers, among other things, a gluer guide. Although the guide is geared toward those who are considering converting their folding machines with glue systems, it provides a thorough, illustrated explanation of the different types of glue systems and their preferred applications.

Following is contact information for companies specializing in folder-gluer equipment.

BOBST GROUP, INC. (Roseland, NJ) Offers the economical Media and high-speed Alpina lines of folder-gluers.

Contact the company at (973) 226-8000; e-mail: info.us @bobstgroup.com; or visit www.bobstgroup.com/bobst.

BRANDTJEN & KLUGE, INC. (St. Croix Falls, WI) Provides the FlexFold, Unifold and EZ Feed line of folder-gluers, both handfed and automatic, for a range of applications. Call (800) 826-7320 or visit www.brandtjenandkluge.com.

CAN-AM PACKAGING EQUIPMENT CORP. (Pelham, NH) Produces the Omega line of straight-line, high-speed folder-gluers in four models and a variety of options. Contact the company at (603) 635-1316 or visit www. canampackaging.com.

DICK MOLL & SONS (Warminster, PA) Offers a handfed folder-gluer model, in addition to the Moll Marathon and high-speed Regal Series. Call (800) 223-3922; e-mail: Luis@moll.com; or visit www.moll.com.

MAN ROLAND, CONVERTING GROUP (Westmont, IL) Supplies the Sugano line of folder-gluers for folding carton applications. Contact the company at (630) 920-2000; e-mail: marketing@mru.com; or visit www.manroland.com.

UNIVERSAL EQUIPMENT CO. (Terrell, TX) Manufactures the F/G series and Guardian pocket folder gluers. Contact the company at (800)625-8315; e-mail: foldglue@flash.net; or visit http://home.flash.net/-foldglue/standard.htm.

The CIP3 consortium and the four companies who initiated development work on the Job Definition Format (JDF) - Adobe, Agfa, Heidelberg and MAN Roland - have announced a final agreement on the details of handing over all rights to JDF to CIP3 (see "Job definition format announced," April 2000, p. 11).

NOW IT'S CIP4

According to a statement released by the CIP3 consortium, as a result of this agreement, CIP3 will be renamed "International Cooperation for Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress" (CIP4) and will immediately start negotiations with other standards organizations with the expertise to work on extending JDF into areas such as digital print and e-commerce.

CIP3 developed the Print Production Format (PPF), which was implemented by many of the member companies in systems that are working today in hundreds of printing companies around the world.

WHAT IS JDF?

JDF is a much broader standard. Announced at Seybold Boston earlier this year, it is an object-oriented XML framework for passing information or metadeta about a job and its unique characteristics from one set of processes or systems to another.

The new electronic job ticket specification is open, scalable, web-compatible and built on standards such as CIP3's PPF. It is upward compatible to de facto standards such as PDF and Adobe's PJTF (Portable Job Ticket Format). At its most basic level, JDF will facilitate the exchange of business and management-related information - something that couldn't be done with PJTF or CIP3.

"The printing and publishing industry needs a robust and widely implemented standard supporting e-commerce, automation, computer integrated manufacturing (CIM) and the ability of products from a variety of vendors to work together," said Martin Bailey, senior technical consultant at Harlequin and acting chair of the CIP4 Interim Advisory Board. "JDF is a long way ahead of any alternatives at this point, and we are delighted to see it moving to an open standards body where everybody can contribute to its further development."

"The transfer of the initiative from the four founding companies to an open standard body is a major milestone in the adoption of JDF," added Johan Berlaen, general manager, R&D systems, at Agfa. "I encourage organizations, companies or individuals who want to contribute to JDF to work together with CIP4 so that JDF can be implemented worldwide for the benefit of the whole publishing and printing industry."

GETTING INVOLVED

More information, including a draft specification and details of how to join the JDF discussion mailing list, are available at www.job-definition-format.org. Information on CIP4, including membership details, is available from the organization's website: www.cip3.org. Or, contact Stefan Daun, Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics, +49 6151 155 575; e-mail: Stefan.Daun@igd.fhg.de

Conventional press improvements and new model entries abounded at Drupa. Some of the presses and features that caught this analyst's attention were:

- The prevalence of closed-loop color control.

- Although not usually characterized as a newspaper show, three new newspaper presses could hardly be overlooked: KBA's new Cortina, a keyless, waterless, offset press; MAN Roland's new eight-page RegioMAN shaftless newspaper press configured as four stacked printing units; and the global debut of the Mainstream 80, the gapless blanket press that will spearhead Heidelberg's thrust into the newspaper market.

- The KBA sheetfed, half-size Rapida 74 defending its Guinness Book of World Records 20,000 sph output.

- Mitsubishi's Diamond 300 concept press with CIP3-compatible ink presets, fast changeover and an emphasis on in-novation, resulting in what the firm describes as exceptional quality printing. Prototypes of Mitsubishi's under-development, printing quality control analyzer and PC-display on the firm's remote maintenance service attracted Drupa attention.

- MAN Roland's new 500, a 23 x 29-inch press designed specifically for package printing, available in two- to eight-color versions and shown at Drupa as a six-color press with a coater. At 18,000 sheets per hour, MAN says the press is capable of handling thick paperboard.

- The newly redesigned 29-inch Roland 200, a 13,000 sph, small-footprint press available in two- to four-color versions.

- Drent Graphic Machine's Vision SMR eight-page, narrow-web press with digital drive, capable of one-pass personalization. One configuration of the CIP3-compliant press incorporated a Xeikon Varypress high-speed digital printing unit, diecut unit, plow folder, sheeter and batch stacker.

- Hamada's V-Color 48, a five-color, Toray-plate-using, waterless press featuring keyless inking.

- Heidelberg's new-generation 29-inch Speedmaster 74 in a 10-color configuration with fully automatic perfecting.

- Nilpeter's narrow webs and combination presses that can run flexo, UV flexo and rotary screen.

- KBA's Compacta 818, a 75-inch webwidth, 64-page commercial press geared for fast turnarounds, with a console connected to a sophisticated production management system, and using inline densitometry for quality control.

- Muller Martini's new Concept, a hard cylinder variable-size web press with shaftless drive and inline finishing modules targeted for the direct-mail market.

- Halm Industry's new four-color process perfector, which prints 30,000 envelopes per hour.

- And, the last item in our attention-getter list is Sinapse's PC-based press simulator software training and diagnostic systems, a relatively inexpensive tool to train and upgrade the skills of pressroom personnel. The sheetfed version of the system also got big play at this past June's NAPL/GATF Sheetfed Pressroom Conference with a "shootout" contest matching the skills on side-by-side PCs of experienced pressmen.